New Delhi: Elections 2019 has seen a shift in the narrative with the Pulwama attack and the subsequent air strikes in Balakot, Pakistan, overshadowing issues related to development, jobs and farm crisis.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance, which swept the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, is banking on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the work done by the current government to win Elections 2019.
To counter BJP, opposition parties, led by the Congress, have been stressing on the government’s poor record in creating jobs and the widespread agrarian distress in the elections even as the Balakot air strikes continue to be a key issue.
“BJP has always maintained that there would be no compromise on issues related to national security and terrorism. It was a conscious decision to carry out surgical strikes and now air strikes after security personnel were killed in Pulwama. People were angry after the Pulwama attack, and there was a demand to act against terrorists and Pakistan. It’s a major shift in the government’s policy to act against terrorism and Pakistan," said a senior BJP leader who is part of the manifesto committee of the party.
In the 2014 elections, the key narrative of the party was development. Senior BJP leaders say that it is time for the BJP to present its report card to the people. In its five-year tenure, the Narendra Modi government has focused on programmes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, universal health and housing for all, among other initiatives.
Following the terrorist attack on a paramilitary convoy in Pulwama, India bombed Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM’s) biggest training camp in Pakistan. A suicide bomber had rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into a Central Reserve Police Force bus in Kashmir’s Pulwama district killing 40 personnel.
That event once again put national security on the forefront.
Also read: Nationalism, jobs crisis emerging as biggest poll planks for Elections 2019
Political parties across the board have backed the security forces.
“While national security is currently in the forefront, people will pay attention to a range of topics that affect their lives. In the run-up to elections, the top five issues affecting the nation are jobs, economic slowdown, crisis in agriculture, national security and the tense violence-laden atmosphere in the country. Growth has slowed and no jobs are being created. These issues are of grave concern and they will matter in this election," said Rajeev Gowda, a senior Congress leader.
Analysts say that while state issues were key earlier, the narrative has shifted since the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strikes.
“Just before the attack on Pulwama, a diversity of federal issues was coming to the fore. Those issues were to be seen in their most expanded form in the Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan assembly elections last year. Those issues were that of farmers, long-term neglect of agriculture specially since there were disruptions in the economy with demonetisation, followed by GST (goods and services tax). The other issue was the big promise from last election (to create) jobs," said Manisha Priyam, a Delhi-based political analyst.
She said post Pulwama, there seems to be a national consensus that Pakistan needs to taught a lesson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seen to be performing well on that front.
“The question before the election will be that whether federal domestic issues count or will Pulwama be the key factor. The BJP has gone ahead stitching alliances even after the attack which means that local issues matter," she added.
Gyan Varma contributed to this story.