Narendra Modi's BJP on top as people turn to bite the UPA govt's hand that feeds

Nov 11 2013, 17:56 IST
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Many in this new middle class believe the next step up the income ladder will come when Narendra Modi assumes power. In picture: A tailor (R) waits for customers at his shop at Kasba Bonli town in Rajasthan. (Reuters) Many in this new middle class believe the next step up the income ladder will come when Narendra Modi assumes power. In picture: A tailor (R) waits for customers at his shop at Kasba Bonli town in Rajasthan. (Reuters)
SummaryGujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has emerged on top going into general elections.

in 2009, it gained wide support in cities during a period of fast economic growth to win a second consecutive term in office.

However, the urban goodwill is fast eroding because of corruption and a sense of policy drift, while its base constituency of rural poor is shrinking.

"It's a new phenomenon. It's not something that we have been used to in the past," said Jairam Ramesh, India's rural development minister, of the demographic shift.

"Very often experience shows that beneficiaries of programmes instituted by one party end up voting for the other political party," he said.

MODI'S ALLURE

Beyond the commercial bustle, Kasba Bonli has little to offer to the groups of twenty-somethings who loiter on motorcycles in the dusty market, unable to find work.

Often the first graduates in their families, these young men say they want industries and professional jobs rather than more handouts, and they look to Modi for providing such opportunities, not Congress.

Modi has attracted companies such as Ford Motor Co, Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors to Gujarat, the state he has governed since 2001.

But he is also seen as a polarising figure. Critics of Modi, a Hindu nationalist, say he didn't do enough to stop religious riots on his watch in 2002 that killed at least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, although the allegations have never been proved. Others say that despite fast growth, his state is a laggard on social and poverty indicators.

That's not the impression held by Mateem Khan, a frustrated 22-year-old Muslim resident of Kasba Bonli with a lowly data-entry job at the local office for one of the handout schemes, the only skilled work he could find.

"Look at what he has done for Gujarat, there's hardly any unemployment in the state," said Khan. Kasba Bonli's 18,000 people are about half Muslim and half Hindu.

Four banks, 15 private schools, and one private college have sprouted up in the town since 2008, said Ramkishan Gurjar, head of the village council that governs Kasba Bonli. Motorcycle and tractor showrooms have come up over the past three years.

Many local farmers now clutch mobile phones they use to chat to traders about crop prices. Roads have been built to a dozen surrounding villages, helping bring crops quickly to market and consumer goods flowing the other way.

It's a pattern repeated across the country, with swollen villages becoming small towns, creating a demographic group of relatively better off semi-urban voters that barely existed

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