When Will Good Times Come

article

The sense of disappointment is evident as Narendra Modi completes two years in office. His development programme has been undermined by the opposition; the government has overstepped on many issues and had to backtrack. Diplomacy has been the one area where Modi continues to shine. BY R. C. RAJAMANI

The honeymoon has been long over for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To be fair, he did not enjoy the conventional ‘honeymoon’ period of the first six months during which the Opposition normally refrains from aiming its slings and arrows at the new incumbent.

The popular support of the voters with which he won the 2014 elections and took office on May 26 that year, was matched by a hate campaign from day one by his political opponents, who believed the former Gujarat chief minister had ‘no right’ to occupy the chair of the nation’s topmost executive. To their prejudiced minds and hateful hearts, the logic of Modi winning a democratic mandate to govern India for five years is of no relevance!

Be that as it may. Now, Modi is completing his second year. What does his progress card look like?

Modi’s performance on the economic front has not been anything to crow about. His government has failed to control prices of essential commodities like food and vegetables. The common man continues to groan under the price burden.

The most charitable answer would be that Modi has just scraped through, scoring the minimum 4 out of 10. Three more years remain in his five-year governance course. What has gone in his favour is not his performance but the three years he still has to prove himself, the points he scored in a few areas like diplomacy and communications, and his general image as the prime minister with real and visible authority. His leadership qualities and his ability to inspire the youth are other positives in his favour.

But overall, there is more promise of what is to come than performance on the ground. People’s patience is perceptibly thinning out. As an intelligent observer, Modi must be aware of it. To Modi’s inveterate detractors, the second year has been a disaster. But to impartial critics, it has been a year of disappointment.

Modi has been severely shackled in parliament because of his lack of majority support in the Rajya Sabha. This is a fact that cannot be altered anytime soon as the government’s strength is dependent on the number of MLAs it gets from states.

Modi’s Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Start Up India, Stand Up India and other such promise-ridden schemes are still in gestation period and will take time to fructify. These are schemes on paper and to the Opposition only “empty slogans.”

2016 has not been too good for the Modi government. It has suffered image erosion that does not augur well for BJP in the ongoing assembly elections.

Since and after the budget 2016-17, the government has taken a few unpopular economic measures that have provoked widespread anger. It has tinkered with the operation of the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF). It made a change in the EPF rule that barred workers from accessing employers’ contribution till they turned 58.

This saw the entire opposition in parliament up in arms, calling it ‘anti-people.’ The worst manifestation of public anger was witnessed in Bengaluru where workers turned violent and destroyed property. No doubt, the government had the wisdom to withdraw the proposal and did so ultimately. But the damage has been done.

The ham handed way in which the government acted in this matter, has exposed the lack of thinking and planning it apparently suffers from.

It is plain that there is no merit whatsoever in the proposal in the first place. Employees will need to withdraw from EPF anytime on account of a medical emergency or a plan to build a house or a marriage in the family. EPF withdrawals are a sure resort to meeting such contingencies.

Where has gone the much touted ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ promise of the government? The salaried employees do have the right of choice on how they use their PF money.

However, on diplomacy, Modi may have scored 7 or 8 out of 10. Through his many visits abroad in the last two years, Modi has indeed enriched India’s profile on the global stage. Praiseworthy in particular are his efforts to actively engage the Indian Diaspora around the world.

When one talks of diplomacy, one cannot fail to see the importance of forging good relations with the United States of America, a democracy like India with similar perceptions on key global economic and strategic issues.

Well aware of this, Modi advisedly brought India closer to the US. He and President Obama have had three bilateral meetings so far. The fourth is at hand. The bilateral meetings, apart from reflecting the ‘chemistry’ between the two leaders, have more importantly beefed up ties between the two countries.

Such cordial and strong bonds will see their efficacy in area such as the general strategic cooperation and, particularly in the war against terrorism, which is a menace common to India and US. The bonds will also help achieve common economic goals and a forward movement in the collaboration on climate change.

It is noteworthy that former foreign minister Natwar Singh has also handsomely complimented Modi’s diplomacy. In an interview to this magazine earlier, Singh particularly mentioned Modi’s impromptu visit Lahore to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. His touching the feet of Sharif’s nonagenarian mother touched many hearts in Pakistan, according to Singh. But later events such as the Pathankot attack and increasing incidence of cross border firing have belied the promise of warming bilateral relations. Modi cannot be blamed for this. Whatever he did was in good faith.

Modi’s performance on the economic front has not been anything to crow about. His government has failed to control prices of essential commodities like food and vegetables. The common man continues to groan under the price burden.

What is eluding the country even after two years of Modi government, is the fulfillment of his promise of ‘Development for All.’ Economic growth has not lived up to his optimistic forecast and has been downsized more than once.

The battle against black money looks too feeble to bring results anytime soon. The problem has been compounded by the NPAs or bad loans in public sector banks and the subsequent flight of liquor baron Vijay Mallya from the country. He owes more than Rs.9000 crore to public sector banks as loan repayment. The way the Modi government has handled the issue has not gone down well with the public, much less the opposition parties.

Much has been made of the IMF praise that India is a “shining star” in a gloomy global economy.

No doubt, the RBI governor sought to bring some sobriety to the heady sense prevalent in some quarters over the state of the country’s economy. In an evocative comparison, Dr. Raghuram Rajan has likened the Indian economy to the “one-eyed king in a country of the blind”.

Expectedly Rajan has been slammed for the expression. But the truth is he was only sounding a note of caution on the “euphoria” over India being the world’s fastest-growing economy. He has apologized for his “one eyed king” remark but not budged from his stand, saying his job as RBI chief is to be “pragmatic”.

“I want to apologize to a section of the population, the visually impaired, who might be hurt by my statement. My intent in saying ‘One-eyed King in the land of blind’ was to say that our outperformance is in the midst of global weakness,” Rajan clarified later.

His original remarks were - “I think we have still to get to a place where we feel satisfied. We have this saying - ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’. We’re a little bit that way.”

The Indian economy is bound to grow, no matter what the current situation is. Reforms-related legislation blocked by an opposition majority in the Rajya Sabha, will be finally enacted in the coming months. Here hopes are pinned on NDA’s better performance in the elections in Assam and other four states whose results are to be out on May 19

“India is the fastest-growing large economy in the world. But as a central banker, I cannot get euphoric with India’s economic growth rate as it is at the cusp of substantial pick-up in growth. I see scope to grow faster given capacity utilization and agricultural output.”

The Indian economy is bound to grow, no matter what the current situation is. Reforms-related legislation blocked by an opposition majority in the Rajya Sabha, will be finally enacted in the coming months. Here hopes are pinned on NDA’s better performance in the elections in Assam and other four states whose results are to be out on May 19.

Apart from waiting for a majority in the Upper House, Modi must reach out to the opposition, particularly the Congress, to enlist their cooperation in passing legislation. After all there are no major differences over GST and a few other Bills. It may be a case of bruised ego that is preventing the Congress from falling in line. Modi can make the difference if he is willing to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi to seek her cooperation. He may be accompanied by BJP president Amit Shah. Such a meeting will not only boost her ego but will also be seen as proper protocol wise. Would Modi be willing?

However, Modi’s real bugbear comes from his domestic engagement where he not only faces an unreasonably hostile opposition but also the tantrums of the Sangh Parivar who have mastered the art of ‘self-goal.”

The saffron brigade has become a huge embarrassment to Modi. It constitutes a hurdle in Modi’s mission of realizing ‘sabka vikas’ (Development for All)

The threat by the fringe elements in the Parivar to maim those who refuse to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai, is a potential danger to civilized India. Obnoxious is their claim that such people do not have the right to stay in India and must migrate to Pakistan. These fringe elements have prevented many a Pakistani artist, including gazhal king Ghulam Ali, from performing in India.

Other confrontations and controversies over beef eating and “anti-nationalism” have further vitiated the national environment.

Modi has been silent on all these incidents. As a BJP leader he may have his reasons for silence but as prime minister he must speak out lest he be accused of complicity. Modi must keep these elements at bay, otherwise, these misguided saffronites could cost him dearly in the 2019 elections. Modi may continue his silence at his own peril.

Summary

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scraped through in his second year, reflecting the multiple challenges he has faced
  • The opposition has been unfair to him from day one and has used every opportunity to undermine and dash his domestic programme
  • Diplomacy is the one area where Modi has scored significant successes, building ties with the US, restructuring strategic balances
  • The BJP’s saffron elements could undermine social cohesion so vital to Modi’s overall development programme
  • Taming-the--lion-in-his-lair

    Taming the lion in his lair

    There are six degrees of separation between any two individuals. Or, so the thinking goes. In economic parlance, there are also six degrees of separa...

    The-Only-Man-in-Her-Cabinet

    The Only ‘Man’ in Her Cabinet

    She had a short but very tumultuous life. Had she been alive, the country would be celebrating her birth centenary on November 19 this year. Indira G...

    She-had-found-inner-peace

    “She had found inner peace”

    T o write about Indira Gandhi in a short article is virtually impossible. My correspondence with her, published by Penguin entitled ‘Kashmir and...

    Superbly-bold-highly-charming

    Superbly bold, highly charming!

    Indira Gandhi would have found a place in history as one of the greatest Prime Ministers but for her declaring Emergency in June 1975, and for allowi...

     
    The-Bounce-Back

    The Bounce Back

    I am in politics for the past 65 years and have been in the Congress since the beginning. I was a minister in Bihar and at that time Yashpal ...

    the-making-of-babas

    The Making of Babas

    Baba-turned black sheep Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan has done his best to erode public faith in spiritual leaders: he is convicted of rape, charged w...

    Baba-Neta-Parivar

    The Baba-Neta Parivar

    Couple of images will be etched in public memory forever. Like top BJP leaders including then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minist...

    Big-Baba-Business--

    Big Baba Business

    Cash and property. These were the two basic commercial foundations of a Godman’s spiritual and religious empire. Cash came from fame and trust – b...

    magzine-cover
    ads