India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in 2014 on the slogan: this time it’s Modi’s government. Yet the ruling party’s defeat in three key state elections this week signals that all will not be smooth sailing when the citizenry heads to the polls to vote in a new political set-up in less than six months.The loss of the traditional strongholds of the northern states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh represents the biggest blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure. The fallout being a boost to the opposition that is already manoeuvring to form an alliance. A prominent feature of the Modi regime has been the dangerous embrace of communal politics. The fallout from which has been increased attacks on Dalits and other minority groups. As well as the lackadaisical approach to cow vigilantism that has resulted in the killing of dozens; mostly Muslims. To moves towards building a Hindu temple at the contested religious site of Ayodhya. Including pledges to settle this matter by way of presidential ordinance. Thereby circumventing the Supreme Court (SC) and due process.Yet pundits are keen to stress that recent set-backs at the ballot-box should not be confused with a rejection of Hindu nationalism. But, rather, as a verdict on Modi’s failure to pursue the development agenda that he had promised some four years ago. For the latter stands accused, at best, of being indifferent to the plight of the rural poor; and, at worst, of plunging this group into further misery. Particularly at risk are farmers. Those in Madhya Pradesh complain of suffering from product saturation since 2014 in terms of global markets. While pointing to little or no state support on the subsidy front. And then there is the question of youth unemployment, lack of economic growth and rising inequality. All of which have been exacerbated by misplaced policies such as the banning of high denomination currency notes — Rs500 and Rs1,000 — back in 2016. This was touted as an important measure to crack down on the circulation of illicit and counterfeit cash; thereby choking funds that finance criminal activities and terrorism. In reality, however, this move rendered 86 percent of all currency worthless outside the banking framework. The ensuing fallout was the loss of at least 1.5 million jobs and some 150 million people going without pay for weeks. This is to say nothing of the 100 or so reported deaths linked directly to this ill-advised policy; including cases of suicide and doctors refusing to accept outdated currency even in the face of medical emergencies.It is therefore now up to the joint opposition to come up with a mandate that supports the country’s most vulnerable; with a view to strengthening social safety networks across the board. Presently, all eyes are on the Congress which is set to form governments in all the three aforementioned states lost by the BJP. Indeed, recent developments have promised a reversal in political fortunes for Rahul Ghandi’s party. But if the latter is to build on this — it must mean putting India’s poor first. As is only befitting of the world’s largest democracy. * Published in Daily Times, December 14th 2018.