No matter how strong, a wave always crashes against the shore. That’s the nature. That’s how it is. In 2014, India was swept by the unprecedented, robust ‘Modi lehar’. The country saw the BJP coming to power with ‘prachand bahumat’ of 282 seats. Cut to 2018, looks like the saffron wave is crashing against the shore. In what can be called the toughest year for the BJP government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced the stinging attack from Opposition parties. From Rafale deal to the loss in the recent state Assembly elections, detractors are saying the star campaigner of the ruling party is losing his sheen.
As the year comes to an end, here are some of the key issues that Narendra Modi faced, the hurdles he overcame and the milestones he achieved in the toughest phase of his prime ministership:
Hindi heartland loss: It hurts and how
Though the year started with good news from North East, but it ended with heartland loss. In a nerve-wracking see-saw battle, BJP lost Madhya Pradesh. The Congress on December 11 bagged 114 assembly seats and secured the support of seven more MLAs, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and four independent MLAs, to cross the simple majority mark of 116 in the 230- member Madhya Pradesh Assembly. In Chhattisgarh, it was a clean sweep for the Congress with wins in 68 out of the 90 assembly constituencies. Similarly, in Rajasthan, the Congress emerged victorious signalling a newfound energy in the party ranks to stop the BJP juggernaut before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It bagged 99 seats in the 199-member strong Rajasthan Assembly. If these state polls were seen as the semi-final of the 2019, the BJP lost the plot. With four months to go for the crucial, big battle, the party is focusing on devising new strategy.
Rafale controversy: The combat jet deal and the scam sortie
French President Francois Hollande’s sensational claims regarding the multi-billion Rafale combat jet deal sent the shockwave across India. Hollande purportedly said tthat the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal and France did not have a choice. Political commentators claimed that Rafale would be Bofors for Narendra Modi. Congress and its chief Rahul Gandhi have constantly attacked Mdoi government over the alleged corruption in the deal. The opposition has been accusing the government of chosing Reliance Defence over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to benefit the private firm though it did not have any experience in the aerospace sector. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.
Triple Talaq Bill: Victory in Lok Sabha but Rajya Sabha trouble remains
Triple Talaq Bill that criminalises the practice of instant divorce by Muslim men is being hailed as the landmark bill for women equality. The Lok Sabha on December 27 passed the bill with 245 voting in its favour and 11 opposing the legislation. Most opposition parties staged a walkout. The passage of the bill in the Upper House is likely to be a difficult task for the government as it lacks a majority there unlike in the Lok Sabha.
From China’s Wuhan to Russia’s Sochi: The art of informal meetings
When Narendra Modi took over as the 14th Prime Minister in 2014, there were some doubts over his capacity to pursue Indian cause on the global stage. But four years and 55 foreign trips later, the PM has silenced his critics. The Wuhan Summit after last year’s Doklam standoff and the Sochi informal interaction helped the Modi government in resetting the ties with all-powerful neighbours.
Mann ki Baat completed 50 Episodes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's monthly radio broadcast 'Mann ki Baat' completed 50 episodes on November 25. During the broadcast, the PM had flagged several key issues, including education of the girl child, tackling exam stress, curbing pollution and drug menace, in his previous addresses. Through 'Mann Ki Baat', Modi reached out to millions across the country, shared the views and opinions of the citizens and lauded their contribution in nation-building. "On October 3, 2014, we began the journey of 'Mann Ki Baat'. With your blessings, this journey completes 50 episodes tomorrow (Sunday), of sharing joy, positivity and amplifying the power of collective efforts. I hope you will enthusiastically tune in tomorrow for the 50th episode," PM Modi had tweeted.
Inauguration of Sardar Patel’s Statue of Unity
The Prime Minister inaugurated an imposing 182-metre statue of Sardar Patel, touted as the world's tallest, on October 31. Modi said that it will serve as a reminder about his courage to thwart conspiracy to disintegrate India. He used to occasion to slam those criticising the decision to build the monument, questioning whether any crime had been committed by constructing such memorials for national heroes like Patel. The imposing monument, named as the 'Statue of Unity' and built on an islet Sadhu Bet near Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat's Narmada district, is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty in the US. The monument was conceptualised by Modi during his tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister and he had laid the foundation stone for it in 2013.
Bogibeel bridge: Special gift from North East
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 25 inaugurated the country's longest rail-cum-road bridge over Brahmaputra river at Bogibeel near Dibrugarh in Assam. After reaching Dibrugarh in the afternoon from New Delhi, Modi directly flew to Bogibeel in a chopper and inaugurated the 4.94-km-long double-decker bridge from the southern bank of the river.
GST bonanza: Pleasing the masses
In one of the biggest decisions which will directly impact the finances of a common man, the GST Council reduced the rates of 33 items. After the meeting, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy said that "(Many) items have come down from 18% to 12% and 5% as they are common man's consumption goods." He also said that the original demand by the Congress that all goods should come down to 18% and below has been agreed by the Government of India. However, the 34 luxury items will not be part of the current changes. Uttarakhand Finance Minister Prakash Pant said that "22 goods have come down from 28%. Goods like TV, auto parts, computers etc included." In the election year, the Opposition party saw this as another ploy by Modi govt to please the public.
When 10 Chief Ministers and a Prime Minister walked the streets of Delhi for one of India’s tallest leader
On a humid morning of August 17, 10 chief ministers and the Prime Minister walked solemnly for the political stalwart, whose popularity remains unmatched till today. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s funeral procession saw PM Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and BJP chief ministers from several states walking the streets in the heart of the Capital. Though Vajpayee was out of public life for several years, yet BJP will not be able to find anyone of his stature.
Modi and Media: It’s complicated
The Opposition has alleged that the Prime Minister never held a press conference in his tenure since 2014. This year was no different. Though the PM did have a full-page ‘interview’ in leading dailies and some news channels, where he categorically said that ‘lynching is a crime’, there were never any on camera, live direct interaction.