In the words of Manish Doshi, Chief Spokesperson of Gujarat Congress, it's not Jan Aashirwad Yatra but 'Namo Aashirwad Yatra'.
As announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the new ministers in the central government have started the ‘Jan Aashirwad Yatra’. The ministers have been touring their states and various constituencies. Be it northeast or Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, the new ministers have started their ‘yatra’ which is largely being seen as an attempt to mitigate the discontent among the public due to the second wave of COVID-19.
During the second wave, the Modi government came under sharp criticism from the opposition parties as well as from the people as they struggled to find hospital beds, medicines and oxygen. This led to discontent among citizens and was reflected in a survey done by India Today Group which claimed that PM Modi’s approval rating fell to 24 per cent from 66 per cent a year ago. Somewhere, the BJP is aware of the issue and thus not only got rid of some ministers who did not meet the party’s expectations but also inducted new faces keeping in mind regional representation and caste equations.
However, the COVID-19 is not the only issue concerning the Modi government. The party faced humiliations in recently held assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. Though it retained Assam but a decreased strength. The Bengal conundrum proved to be the biggest headache for the BJP which had thrown its all might to dethrone the Mamata Banerjee government but did not succeed. Contrastingly, Banerjee emerged as an invincible and sole leader who can take on the BJP single-handedly without any help from Congress. Banerjee then made her national ambition clear and urged all opposition parties to unite against the BJP. A similar effort is also being put by the Congress to unite all opposition parties. Even if the talks of united opposition or a third front do not materialize, the recent series of meetings by the TMC and the Congress must have rung alarm bells within the BJP. The recent Panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh was also a cause of concern for the BJP where it conceded gains to the SP. The UP Panchayat election was being seen as a semi-final to the next year’s assembly elections.
Then there are protests by farmers. The farmers’ protests have continued unabated for around nine months now despite various accusations and attempts to malign the movement. Such is the impact of the protest that BJP leaders are finding it difficult to go out and meet people, if not across the state, then in certain parts of states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The farmers’ unions and the opposition parties together have, to some extent, managed to portray the Modi government as anti-farmers. This has been a cause of concern within the party.
Another issue is inflation. Not only the petrol, diesel and LPG prices but even the cooking oil prices have shot up in the last 6 months. At a time when many families and individuals have lost their livelihood, inflation is breaking their backbone.
In the words of Manish Doshi, Chief Spokesperson of Gujarat Congress, it’s not Jan Aashirwad Yatra but ‘Namo Aashirwad Yatra’ as PM Modi has inducted these ministers into the cabinet. “In Gujarat alone, there was lack of oxygen, black marketing of Remedisivir and lack of hospital beds during the second wave of COVID-19. Where were these ministers at that time? When people needed you, you did not meet them and now you want their aashirwad. This is not ‘Janta ka aashirwad yatra’ but ‘Namo aashirwad yatra’. People are unemployed in Gujarat in huge numbers. They have been waiting for the opening of the government recruitment process for the past many years. People are now asking – ‘Kis baat ka aashirwad, kiska aashirwad’ (blessing for what? whose blessing?)…This yatra is for hiding the government’s failure and diverting people’s attention from raging issues,” said Doshi.
Doshi added that farmers need water but the government has neither vision for this nor a water distribution policy for this. He said that people who suffered deaths in the family due to COVID-19 are also waiting for compensation from the government. “You have to hike fuel prices. You gave people the blessing of inflation and now you want their blessings for power,” said Doshi.
AAP Delhi MLA Gulab Singh said that people are yet to recover from the shock of COVID-19 and they are looking towards the government for help which they are yet to get. “Be it Gujarat or Delhi, the Centre has left people helpless. They lied about oxygen deaths and hid actual death figures. So when people are in such pain and then the ruling party leaders go to them seeking their blessings, people will only curse them. They should immediately stop this yatra and start helping people,” said Singh.
While the opposition has upped its ante against the government, the new ministers will be trying hard to mobilize the party’s cadre with an aim to the upcoming assembly and the Lok Sabha Elections. Notably, seven states will go to the polls next year. These are Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Of these seven states, the BJP are in power in six barring Punjab where its chances are low this time given the farmers’ agitation and break-up with former ally Shiromani Akali Dal.