North-bound from Mumbai, the train took me through Kalyan in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). This was followed by Igatpuri, Nashik, Manmad and Bhusaval in Maharashtra.
Vidya, a young IT professional from Mumbai, was travelling to the Northeast for a vacation with her family.
When asked if the Modi-led BJP government should get another five-year term, she promptly replied: “Yes, yes. Modi should definitely come back. He has done a lot of good work. But, a lot more has to be done.”
“His work has not been seen by people,” she said, adding that, “We have seen what the Congress did in 10 years.”
This sentiment resonated with a group of youngsters, boys and girls, who were also travelling from Mumbai to the Northeast for a vacation. All of them, engineers by profession and less than 30 years of age, were now working with private companies.
In what seemed like herd mentality, all of the eight said they were satisfied with what the BJP government had done so far. They credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s air strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)’s terror camp in Balakot, Pakistan in February and said it represented a “New India”.
However, they said the government had failed to create employment opportunities for the youth. They also had high expectation from the government regarding quality of education and women’s safety.
They felt the education curriculum was outdated and lacked practical teaching. “We graduated and got jobs. But, then we realised we did not have enough practical experience. This should not happen,” said one of the girls.
A common concern for all of those hailing from Mumbai was the state of infrastructure. They were upset with the local administration over the stampede at Elphinstone Road Railway station in 2017 and the foot-over-bridge (FOB) collapse in early March. “They try to fix the problems after things go wrong. Things like these cannot happen in the first place.”
By then, I had reached closer to Nashik — a town in northwest Maharashtra known for its grapes and now famous for its vineyard.
Naveen Kaushal, a Mumbai-based garments dealer, said he was impacted by demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). “The market is suffering because of demonetisation and GST. There is a liquidity crunch in the market," he said.
“It does not matter to us if BJP or Congress wins. They are all the same, just power hungry," he added. “The middle class will suffer the most."
Asked about his opinion about a possible coalition government emerging at the Centre following the election, Kaushal said, “The way the government will function will definitely be different. Modi ji will have to listen to coalition partners. His free hand will end. But this is good for us.”
An old chikki vendor, possibly in his 70s, was listening to our conversation. He promptly interjected: “It doesn’t matter who wins the election. Tell me how we are going to benefit. We don’t get anything.”
Kaushal’s colleague, who hails from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh acknowledged that some of the government’s policies had impacted their business. But he quickly said his hometown had undergone a “transformation” in the last two years under the BJP government.