Feeling good? Feeling terrible!

´India shining´ and ´feel good factor´ are the slogans of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), as they prepare for the Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian parliament) elections in April-May 2004. 'India shining' had been coined following the recent upswing in the economy which registered 8.5 growth rates in last quarter of 2003. BJP´s success in three out of the four state assembly elections (Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh) too drummed up this 'feel good factor'. The party says that it is going to the people on issues like development, a stable coalition government and the leadership of Prime Minister AB Vajpayee. The question, however, is whether these poll planks would be able to generate a pro-incumbency wave in favour of the BJP-led NDA.

The main opposition party, the Congress, has stepped up its attack on the BJP´s publicity blitz by launching the 'India Cheated' campaign. The party accuses the BJP of trying to 'cover up its glaring failures' and believes that BJP's 'feel good balloon' would be punctured at the Lok Sabha polls. To re-enforce their case, the Congress is highlighting the first time negative employment growth that the country has seen during the NDA years with unemployment crossing the ten million mark. The Congress also debunks claims of high GDP growth rates, maintaining that during the NDA's five-year rule, the growth rate was just five percent, and it was only in the last quarter of 2003 that it read 8.5 percent. The Congress is confident that the BJP reached its peak in 1999 and that the anti-incumbency factor is strong this time around to unseat them from power.

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Himal Southasian