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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 01:35 GMT
India's ruling party may rue poll slogan
Sir Mark Tully
By Mark Tully
Former BBC India correspondent

India Shining advertisement
The BJP says education has improved

Election slogans can have unfortunate consequences. In 1971 Indira Gandhi promised to eradicate poverty but soon after her victory the opposition mocked her saying poverty was on the increase.

The Janata Dal won an election in 1989 with the slogan "Rajiv Gandhi is a thief", but its credibility was undermined when it failed to prove the former prime minister had taken money in the Bofors arms deal.

This time round the slogan, "India Shining", could blow up in the face of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its coalition partners before the election.

The "feel-good factor" they have detected may prove an illusion.

Circumstances have come together to create a new image of India abroad.

It is now not just the information technology industry which is a runaway success.

India is poised to become a world leader in biotechnology too.

21st century player

Several older industries, including automobiles and pharmaceuticals are now competitors in the global market.

There is little or nothing in these promises for the landless labourers

The challenge from Indian back office processing and call centres is ringing alarm bells in America and Britain.

The stock market, once slow to settle deals and slack in regulating them, is bulging with foreign funds.

International bankers are talking of India as one of the potential big players in the 21st century.

Many international economists also see a shining India.

They point to the healthy balance of payments and the rapid growth rate which they claim is at last reducing poverty.

India shining advertisement campaign
Much will be made by the BJP of India's rising prosperity
There are clouds on the horizon, particularly the budget deficit which, if the debts of the central and the state governments are aggregated, adds up to 10% of GDP.

But then there are some economists who maintain that borrowing money - provided it is well spent - is no bad thing.

But economists, investors, industrialists, foreign or indeed Indian, do not win elections, so what about the voters, will they feel good, is their India shining?

The answer, as so often in India, must be the curate's egg.

It is good in parts.

The news is good for those members of the middle class who are finding jobs in IT, call centres, and back office processing.

But few economists believe the official claim that eight million jobs are being created each year.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry does not believe that prospects for job creation are healthy.

Monsoon memories

Pampered government employees feel positive because their pensions have just been increased.

Last year's good monsoon and the fast rate of growth mean there is more money around which is good for India's army of small shopkeepers.

The plentiful monsoon should also mean that the countryside, where the majority of the voters live, feels good, but Indian farmers have long memories.

India shining advertisement
Is the feel-good factor an illusion?
They recall that 10 times in the last 50 years good monsoons have produced short-lived economic booms, and none has brought lasting benefits to them.

They acknowledge that over the years their production has increased but they still do not get remunerative prices - in two of India's most progressive states, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, a number of farmers have committed suicide over the last five years because they have not been able to repay their debts.

Among what the cynical Indian press calls the government's "election sops", farmers have now been promised an income insurance scheme but they will believe that when it happens, having seen earlier election commitments melt away when the going gets hot.

They may also wonder where the prime minister is going to find the millions of rupees he has promised to spend on his Second Green Revolution.

There is little or nothing in these promises for the landless labourers.

So while the cities may feel India is shining, those in the countryside might well ask the BJP campaigners, "what is there to feel good about?"

Even in the cities, the millions who have migrated to slums because there was no work for them in the countryside will need a lot of persuading if they are to believe things will be better by the next election.

The leader of the main opposition Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, has already launched an attack on the government's claims.

During her recent "meet the people" campaign in rural Uttar Pradesh - the state which returns the largest number of MPs - large numbers of voters turned out to hear her claim the government had done nothing for women, youths and farmers.

If she can arouse her sleepy Congress party she might make a mockery of the feel-good campaign and take the shine off the BJP's India.

Here is a selection of readers views about this column.

Rome was not built in a day,and India can't be built in 4 and1/2 years.We can't expect a government to make a developing country to a developed country within such a short period.At least the majority of the people who are reading this article from India are part of the 'Shining India'.
Akash, India

I totally disagree with this shining nonsense and refuse to see things with a glass half full point of view. As long as there is poverty and misery amongst the majority of the population, India will never shine. The tragedy of this India Shining campaign is that it is only about urban India and only that too only about the minuscle population from urban India that has education and opportunity. 70% of India lives in rural areas, and I dont seen any shine there. As long as you have a 6 year old child with a 6 month old baby in his/her arm begging at a traffic light before someone in an AC car with rolled up and oblivious of the plight for the beggars, India will NEVER shine. Its a shame that we buy into government propaganda before elections and totally overlook the reality.
Shantanu, India/USA

India is a big country with more than billions of people. there has been tremendous growth of Infrastructure in Road, communication, medical science etc which can help a common man to live a better life.Indians have seen both the regime of congress and BJP. they have to choose from the two and Bjp has the edge.
Kumar, Germany

The BJP has focussed it's campaign on postive issue and has used a sense of 'optimism' and 'confidence' towards the future. This is very important for youth in a developing country. The Congress by focussing in a pessimistic manner is not getting the attention of the youth who form a major block in the electorate.
Malolan Cadambi, USA (ex-pat Indian)

India has always had the potential to be a global power. It is now getting the results after harnessing all its potential. It is due to this reason Pakistan will never even think of going to war with India, as it now realizes India is a super power in all aspects: IT, Nuclear Technology, Industry, Economically as India's forecast of GDP growth is 8%, while Pakistan's is a mere 5%, and soon as we shall see, even in Cricket, India will thrash Pakistan. As a Pakistani, I feel India is way far ahead, and it shall take us another 15 years to catch up- at a minimum.
Muhammad Khan, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I believe BJP hasnt made a difference as far the economy is concerned.Congress(especially P.V.Narasimha rao) is responsible for the onset for economic reforms and the boom in economy . We do not have a choice as far as voting a party that gives stability(BJP) where as congress is never to going to win this election as long as sonia gandhi is projected as a leader.I wouldnt want to be ruled by a foreigner.Is the country so bare that congress couldnt find an able leader who is born in india?
srikanth, indian

I think the slogan is perfect fit for India. It doesn't surprise me at all that foreign reporters such as Mark Tully would have us belive that everyhting is not so rosey in India. What current Govt. has done for India has never been done in past 50 years, so lets Join in the cheers of this accomplishment and encourgare them to do more
Mike Patel, USA

Mr. Vajpayee has been able to bridge gaps and bring India and Pakistan closer to a lasting peace agreement. He has been the key factor in the success of NDP. His facilitation skills have brought India from following fixed dogmas in the past to the negotiating table with countries like China, Israel without injuring its relationships with its traditional allies. My worry is if this legacy can be sustained by his successors. He has been able to restrain other fanatics in the BJP and bring about reconciliation. India is progressing in high tech. Challenges in India are immense but the NDP govt is putting enabling mechanisms for steady growth. I would definitely vote for him if I was an Indian voter.
Sukhdev, Canada

Is Gujrat masacare a SHINNING example of SHINNING India? Can over 2 million ssleeping on the footpaths in only one city i.e. calcutta, be taken as the SHINE of India? Should the increasing number of suiciding farmers in rural India be taken as a proof of SHINNING India? I wonder how cansuch a country even imagine or dream of SHINNING..? India is SHINNING ... but only if we redefine the very term SHINNING ... !!
Mohammed Ahmed Shaikh, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E

India is definitely shining - we the people know that. The developments happening in the past three years are amazing and such pace I feel has not happened anywhere in the world even during the time of industrial revolution. The super national highways are so good to ride. The housing revolution has brought the rents down and own housing affordable for many. Hey, whatever you guys say - we are a developed nation. I've lived in the US and several other countries, the agony and misery the majority of people go through in these so-called developed countries made my eyes open to how lucky I am to be born as an Indian.
Binu Jose, India

"Feel-good factor", as BJP/Government is advertising, is good for the people of the nation. One cannot say that this is purely because of BJP. It is because of many factors including international economy and good monsoon season. One should be concerned that these ads costs tens of millions of rupees which the BJP is trying to use for political advantages. After all, it's people's money!
Sravan Kumar BVVS, Chennai, India

BJP helped India to improve economy which wasn't done by Congress parties before. I wish BJP be re-elected again. Frankly said there aren't any political parties without corruption. BJP is better than rest of the parties.
Ramprasad, India/Germany

India is really shining.
Madhu, India

Sir, To an extent Tully's comments are correct. Poor villagers in Indian villages have not got any 'sheen' as proclaimed by the BJP plank. But in the field of telecommunications, India has made a quantom leap in recent years. BPO issue does not basically affect India alone, but all countries doing this business have been hit. Because unemployment is a perennial problem and it has its impetus in countries like the UK and US.
Rajesh V.R., India (Kerala)

Hailing from a farming community in India, I can safely say that my sources and community in India are not voting for the 'India shining' campaign. In fact most say they will vote for BJP simply for the reason that it has done much to remove corruption in the civil service and administration. Rightly or wrongly, many are apprehensive at the thought of having a foreigner rule India once more and a return to it's colonial past. All indication is that India is shining under the BJP.
Govind Shiyani, UK

Unfortunately, the electorate in India is very susceptible to these slogans/promises. They fall for it more often than not. This time also there is a very good chance that BJP is successful in fooling the people of India. Regime change is more than neccessary in India. If the incumbent government is successful in pulling this one out, India will suffer in years to come.
Aditya Kumar, India

I have great respect for Mark Tully's insights into India. Even in this article all indicators he has used give a positive picture. This is a macro economic picture in a large coutry like India. One thing Mark Tully has not noted. In this election nobody is talking about temples or mosques. Politicians are talking about economic issues. That is very positive electioneering. The opposition leader is siiting on one of the most fragmented parties and does not have anything to offer to the voters.
Harish.M, India

I agree with your views. But one should not forget that the Congress party has ruled for more than 40 years. This BJP government has achieved so much in 4 1/2 years that you can not even think of comparing it with any of the previous rules. Also the BJP is riding on the TINA factor (there is no alternative). It is almost certain that the NDA will come back to power and let us hope that during next 5 years they also make the rural/poverty sticken India feel good. There is nothing wrong in hoping, I believe! PS: I am one who is employed in the booming IT sector and really feeling good!
abhijit, india

India's progress in the various socio-economic sectors are commendable. But to me, it's the people of India who have worked hard for it even if was for their own benifit and progress. Contribution to the growth on the part of political leaders is very negligible. They are busy visiting other countries, mud slinging at the opposition parties and trying to cover up their own goof-ups. So all this leaves them little time for proper governance. "People Shining" would be a better slogan. Vande Matharam!
Anjali Ranganathan, India

The poor Under BJP wold always remain poor because BJP is a religous political party. It spread and highlights religon and religous difference to accumilate support for it self. The policy of divide and rule. The real issues such as poverty over miltiray expenditure and mass buracarcy in the country along with corruption is never mentioned. So there is little or no hope for the poor in India. The Achivements that are highlighted are indidvdual achivements in selective area which does not represent the biggest democracy in the world as a whole. This is generalisation which would still cost the poor to become more poor and the rich more rich. They do not propse to bridge a gap between poor and rich.
Aftab Ali, India

There is no doubt about 8% GDP growth. Though Indian economy has shown some resilience, its dependence on monsoon is beyond doubt. But on the political front, except the NDA what options do we have???? Last paragraph in the article has a BIG IF.
raghvendra tewari, india

For every shiny silver lining, you can trust the opponents of the BJP to see a cloud in front. Cities will always prosper first. Money then trickles down. I visit India every year, and there is no question of continuous improvement in the quality of life.
Arun Patel, US

We have seen enough of the Congress Party for the last 50+ years and we have found out how much progress we made during those years. I strongly feel that the BJP should be voted to power and that too with a strong majority. Their performance in the last 4 1/2 years has been very good and they deserve a second chance.

India is shining (thanks to the last 4 1/2 years of the Vajpayee Government) and will continue to shine more brightly if Mr Vajpayee is re-elected as PM. Jai Hind!!!!!!
Bharatiya, India

Let us try to see the filled part of the glass rather than the empty part.. This is a good beginning and let us take it forward.
Shiva, India/USA

May be about 4-5% pf people who line in "India" may have something to feel good about. However for the majority of population who lives in "Bharat" the good feeling seems to be virtual.
Neeraj, India

Well, at least BJP is doing something that Congress never did in 47 years they were in the driving seat. India, at least now, has improved highways, economy, consumer market and a hope that life is finally improving for 'comman man'. The only thing the Congress party acheived is their own welfare.
Abhijit, India

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