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How much has NDA changed from Vajpayee to Modi?

NDA ‘KAMAL’ Se ‘KAMAL’ Tak

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Explore the evolution of India’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) from the era of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the current leadership of Narendra Modi.

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The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has undergone significant changes from the era of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the leadership of Narendra Modi. These changes encompass a wide range of factors, including political ideology, governance style, policy initiatives, and the coalition’s composition. In this post, we will explore the evolution of the NDA from the Vajpayee era to the Modi era, highlighting key developments and shifts.

Leadership and Ideology of NDA:

Vajpayee Era: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the charismatic and moderate face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led the NDA during his tenure as Prime Minister from 1998 to 2004. His leadership style was marked by consensus-building and inclusivity. Vajpayee was known for his emphasis on “Coalition Dharma,” which sought to accommodate diverse allies in the NDA, including parties with differing ideologies.

Modi Era: Narendra Modi assumed office as Prime Minister in 2014. His leadership style is marked by a strong centralization of power within the BJP and a more assertive approach. Modi is often associated with the “Gujarat Model” of development, emphasizing economic growth and infrastructure development. His leadership has been more polarizing, with a focus on a Hindutva-based nationalism and a pro-Hindu agenda, which differs significantly from Vajpayee’s more secular and inclusive stance.

Economic Policies of NDA:

Vajpayee Era: During Vajpayee’s tenure, there was a focus on economic reforms and liberalization. The government undertook several initiatives including the privatization of state-owned enterprises and opening up key sectors to foreign investment. The NDA government also implemented the ambitious National Highways Development Project (NHDP), which aimed to improve the country’s road infrastructure.

Modi Era: The Modi government has continued with economic liberalization but with a greater emphasis on ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ initiatives. The Goods and Services Tax (GST), a significant tax reform, was introduced during Modi’s tenure. The NDA government has also launched schemes such as ‘Startup India’ and ‘Skill India’ to boost entrepreneurship and skill development.

Foreign Policy of NDA:

Vajpayee Era: Vajpayee’s foreign policy was marked by an attempt to improve relations with Pakistan, exemplified by the historic Lahore Declaration. He also focused on strengthening ties with the United States. The NDA government conducted nuclear tests in 1998, which marked a significant shift in India’s foreign policy.

Modi Era: Modi’s foreign policy has been marked by a more assertive stance on the global stage. The ‘Act East’ policy has sought to strengthen India’s ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and there has been a renewed focus on the ‘Neighborhood First’ policy. The ‘Make in India’ initiative has also sought to boost India’s manufacturing and export capabilities.

Social and Cultural Policies of NDA:

Vajpayee Era: Vajpayee’s government was seen as more moderate on social and cultural issues. While the BJP is a proponent of Hindutva, during his tenure, efforts to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda were relatively muted. Vajpayee’s social development agenda focused on improving education, health, rural infrastructure, and women empowerment. He launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to universalize elementary education, increased spending on health care, expanded rural connectivity through roads and telecom, and introduced schemes for women such as Swashakti and Swayamsidha.

Modi Era: Under Modi’s leadership, there has been a more assertive push for Hindutva-based policies, including the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. These actions have generated polarizing debates around religious and cultural identity. Modi’s social development agenda has emphasized on financial inclusion, sanitation, health insurance, skill development, and digital literacy. He launched the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana to provide bank accounts to every household, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to eliminate open defecation, the Ayushman Bharat to provide health coverage to poor families, the Skill India Mission to train youth for employment, and the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan to make rural citizens digitally literate.

Coalition Dynamics of NDA:

Vajpayee Era: Vajpayee’s NDA was a broad-based coalition of 24 parties that represented various regions, ideologies, and communities of India. He was known for his consensus-building skills and accommodative approach towards his allies. He gave important portfolios to his partners such as Defence (George Fernandes), Home (L.K. Advani), Finance (Yashwant Sinha), External Affairs (Jaswant Singh), Railways (Mamata Banerjee), Agriculture (Ajit Singh), etc. Vajpayee was known for managing a diverse coalition effectively. He maintained a delicate balance between the BJP and its allies, which included regional parties with distinct ideologies. His ability to build consensus was a hallmark of his leadership.

Modi Era: While the NDA has continued to function as a coalition, the BJP, under Modi’s leadership, has become more dominant within the alliance. Modi’s NDA is a more centralized coalition of 15 parties that is dominated by the BJP. He is known for his decisive leadership and assertive attitude towards his allies. He has retained key portfolios for himself or his trusted colleagues such as Defence (Rajnath Singh), Home (Amit Shah), Finance (Nirmala Sitharaman), External Affairs (S. Jaishankar), Railways (Piyush Goyal), Agriculture (Narendra Singh Tomar), etc. The BJP’s electoral successes have allowed it to negotiate from a position of strength, often sidelining some of its smaller allies.

Electoral Performance:

Vajpayee Era: The NDA under Vajpayee’s leadership performed well in the 1998 and 1999 general elections, winning a significant number of seats. However, it faced a defeat in the 2004 elections.

Modi Era: The NDA, led by Narendra Modi, achieved a landslide victory in the 2014 and 2019 elections, securing a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. This remarkable electoral success consolidated the BJP’s position as the dominant political force in India.

Public Image:

Vajpayee era: Vajpayee’s public image was that of a statesman, poet, and orator, who was respected across the political spectrum for his moderation, tolerance, and vision. He was admired for his eloquence, wit, and humour, and his speeches often moved the masses and the parliament. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, in 2015.

Modi Era: Modi’s public image is that of a strongman, nationalist, and reformer, who is revered by his supporters for his charisma, courage, and conviction. He is known for his effective communication, social media presence, and mass mobilization, and his rallies often draw huge crowds and enthusiasm. He was ranked among the world’s most influential people by Time magazine in 2020.

In conclusion, the NDA has transformed significantly from the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Narendra Modi. These changes encompass political ideology, governance style, economic policies, foreign policy, and social and cultural issues. While Vajpayee’s era was characterized by moderation and consensus-building, Modi’s leadership has been marked by a more assertive and polarizing approach. The NDA’s electoral performance has also evolved, with the BJP emerging as the dominant force in Indian politics. These changes reflect the broader shifts in Indian politics and society over the years.

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