On this day, two years back, Narendra Modi took the oath of Prime Minister's office for the second time, marking the start of the Modi Government 2.0. In 2019’s general elections, the BJP- led NDA swept to victory with a thumping majority, winning more than 350 seats.
During the first year in office in its second term, the Modi government focused on fulfilling its ideological commitments. The government passed the bill criminalising the practise of ‘triple talaq’ among Muslims; amended the Citizenship Act; revoked Article 370 which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir state and started the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on the back of the Supreme Court’s verdict in its favour. The other big decision was to strengthen the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) which gave teeth to agencies to designate an individual as a terrorist and impound his properties.
However, in 2020, when the Modi government completed one year of its second term on May 30, this is when things took a turn. The country was facing the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the centre announced a long national lockdown. The fallout of this unprecedented lockdown resulted in emptying the cities and dreadful images of migrants workers walking back home.
The major catastrophe, however, came this year with the arrival of the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic. The Prime Minister was found basking in his glory after having declared premature victory over the virus. The plights of the migrant workers, sliding economy, heavy job losses, COVID-19 mismanagement, poor vaccine policy and horrors of the second wave that unfolded in the country for almost two months has dented the image of the Modi led-government.
Lets have a look at some of the key decisions and how things unfolded during these two years:
Modi Government 2.0 – First Year
The triple talaq bill, which was a bone of contention between the opposition and Modi government during its first term, was passed by the parliament as soon as the Modi government 2.0 took charge. According to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) law, instant triple talaq became a criminal offence. The law provides for a jail term of three years for the Muslim man who commits the crime. The law also makes triple talaq a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
While BJP hailed the passage of the triple talaq bill as a step that will help correct a historic wrong done to Muslim women, the opposition criticised the passage of the bill as hasty and another scheme of the Modi government to put Muslim men behind bars.
The second term of the Modi government also marked the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and conversion of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The revocation of Article 370 was hailed as the landmark decision by Narendra Modi.
However, right after passing the bill, Jammu and Kashmir saw snapping of communication links and arrests of mainstream politicians. The BJP said that the decision was something that no other government had the courage to do, while the opposition seems divided on this issue.
The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from three neighbouring Muslim majority countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh) on the ground of religious persecution, was another key ideological plank that the saffron party fulfilled in the first year of its second term. The new law triggered widespread protests across the country. The opposition parties argued that the NRC in conjunction with the CAA is discriminatory. However, this did not stop the Modi government from passing the bill.
Ram Mandir verdict
Before the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Mandir issue, the construction of Ram mandir featured in every election manifesto of BJP for decades. However, post the Supreme Court's verdict in November 2019, in favour of building the temple at the site, BJP saw the verdict as a huge vindication for the saffron party and the Modi government considered it as another fulfilment of BJP’s core promise under Modi’s leadership.
Later, the BJP also capitalised on the Apex Court verdict with the ground-breaking ceremony by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for temple construction at Ayodhya and claimed an ideological victory over its rivals.
Modi Government 2.0 – Second Year
The first wave of Coronavirus
At the end of May last year when the Modi government completed its first year in office in the second term, the first wave of Coronavirus pandemic was wreaking havoc in the country. Modi government decided to put the country under the strictest and biggest lockdowns in the world.
While the nationwide lockdown was important to save lives, the way it was rolled out — with apparently little guidance for India's poor - was heavily criticised from all quarters. Although the government managed to reduce the number of cases in India, the horrendous images of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers desperately trying to return home battling hunger and fatigue compounded with joblessness across the country were seen as a failure on government's part.
After a brief lull and fall of COVID-19 cases in the country, the Modi government brought in three farm laws in September last year, intended to change the way India's farmers do business. The passage of farm bills by parliament sparked one of India's biggest protests which are still going on the border of Delhi.
Opposition parties accused the government of flouting parliamentary procedure bypassing the bills hurriedly and not listening to their demand of sending the bills to a parliamentary committee for further deliberations, while farmers termed the anti-farmer and likened them to a death warrant. However this is dieter Modi Government from taking back the laws, even calling the reforms a "watershed moment" for Indian agriculture,
Even after 6 months of protests, the centre shows no sign to revise its stance even as farmers seems equally determined to keep the ongoing protests going in midst of a deadly second wave of Coronavirus.
The Second Wave of Pandemic
After declaring premature triumph over the pandemic, the Modi government was caught off guard by the intense second COVID-19 wave that caused apocalyptic scenes all over the country. The health infrastructure collapsed and death counts increased with the passing day as the government was called out for its callous approach.
Modi's pandemic management came under sharp criticism at home and abroad. The government was criticised by opposition parties and critics for holding mass election rallies in West Bengal and its reckless decision to permit the mega Kumbh Mela.
At the same time, the Modi government’s vaccine policy also came under sharp attack from the opposition. The ‘Vaccine Maitri’ diplomacy was seen as Centre’s misplaced priorities.
As the Modi government completes two years in the office of their second term and three more years to still go, there is still time for the saffron party to rectify their mistakes in the handling of COVID-19. The pandemic has destroyed lives and livelihoods of millions, and so many more are likely to be affected in the weeks to come. Modi government should put its entire focus at the task at hand and lead India out of this misery.
As far as verdict on Modi government is concerned, the state of Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls next year, will show how people view the Modi government 2.0.