The BJP and consequently the NDA government remained the major show in town. The government has now reached the halfway mark
of its tenure and during the year it faced increasing pressure of having under-achieved against its promises. Part of the problem was the rosy promised glow of 'acche din' painted during the 2014 elections. Part of it was poor legislative strategy that had seen the BJP fritter
away its majority in the Lok Sabha during the last two years. However, the second half of the year saw plenty of action. The GST Bill
is now a reality and the government made public its counterstrikes
against Pakistani terror bases in response to the Uri attack
, thus signaling a willingness to talk and walk the line on a muscular foreign policy against Pakistan.
Where that leaves PM Modi's earlier attempts to engage with Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani government remains to be seen. The last quarter of the year was consumed by demonetization
. Even staunch
BJP supporters now agree that the move was poorly
implemented. The PM's justifications shifted, from calling it a strike against black money to the more progressive and aspirational goal of a cashless economy. Make no mistake, demonetization was systemic shock to India's economy. Its impact
of GDP, employment and consumer spending will be borne out by field studies in the coming months. Its political impact though remains uncertain.
Early indicators are that the citizenry, despite the massive inefficiencies in implementation, is willing to give PM Modi the benefit of the doubt
on the basis of good intentions. The validation of the sentiment through the electoral process is still pending though. One thing remained clear though - while the government per se might have suffered criticism, PM Modi displayed enough agility to come out ahead of the damage. His popularity continues to be high, in part due to his skills as a politician and a communicator and in part due to an opposition that yet again failed to build a case against him. The Congress lives in ambivalence
while the AAP punches far above its electoral weight
Two critical events will box the political fortunes of the government in 2017. The UP elections in February and the Gujarat elections at the end of the year. If the BJP performs well, the PM would be seen as having ridden out the notebandi storm and having the country behind him. If not, then the 2019 general election might start looking a little more difficult for the BJP. The PM will most likely get a second term but depending on the allies to make up a shortfall of 60-70 seats in the Lok Sabha suddenly opens up political bargaining shop that the BJP would ideally want to avoid.