Steep climb for prime minister

In the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Narendra Modi faces the tough challenge of trying to make up for the unmet promises of 2014 even as people show impatience and uneasiness about the unfolding scenario

Despite the comfortable majority of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be faltering in terms of implementation of policies, especially on the on the economic, front, that would have helped him in keeping some of the promises he had made in the run- up to the 2014 general election. There were real problems and challenges, and it would not have been possible for the prime minister to have overcome all of them. There was the crisis of the non-performing assets (NPAs) of the public sector banks (PSBs), and there was the erratic monsoon. The world economy had not picked up. But like a political leader who would not allow the high of his 2014 poll victory to be dampened, he chose to focus on atmospherics afforded by the visits of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He took all of them to Gujarat, his home state. He seemed to be the master there, conjuring up the positive vibrations for the visitors as well as for fellow-Gujaratis. His idea to shift the focus from Delhi was good, but he would have had greater success if he had taken the foreign dignitaries to other parts of the country as well. But governance is more than atmospherics. It seems that even on his home ground of Gujarat, the Prime Minister had failed to impress the people, especially the women, as Rashme Sehgal points out in one of our incisive reports this month. It has been repeatedly shown that when womenfolk are disgruntled, they do not easily show it, but do it. And why not? The child rape figures in Uttar Pradesh have doubled in one year: 10,000 to 20,000! The Ujjwala scheme, much- touted programme of giving ‘free’ LPG connection to poor women has started costing them more than the price of a cylinder in the market. And the whole hullabaloo about district after district becoming open defecation free, as Sandeep Pandey shows, is far from true: most toilets do not have water supply, and lakhs of them are bereft of doors, so it is unusable by the ladies.

The gaps between promises and non-implementation are one too many. Our Senior Editor, Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr, tears into the first of Modi’s loud claims: minimum government, maximum governance. Taking big is Modi’s forte, trying to impress voters with dazzling large schemes his passion. And as Rao shows succinctly, this leads to maximum government. And governance?

On the economic front, Alam Srinivas points out, once again, how the double whammy of demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax has practically road-rolled the three vital sectors of the economy: agriculture, construction and small enterprises. On electoral reforms, Modi promised decrimanlisation and disengaging money from power. It did not work. So he came up with a surrealistic slogan of ‘one-nation-one-vote’, in which the entire nation will vote for all its legislatures, Central and state level, on a single day. This, when the Election Commission cannot hold elections for a single state on a single day. Instead, Modi has remained silent on the Bill on Right to Recall, placed by his own party member Varun Gandhi, in the Lok Sabha. As senior commentator Virag Gupta says, there could be flaws in Gandhi’s version, but to stonewall the entire idea is beyond comprehension.

So, there we are: the sight of a country on a bumpy path, and a PM who is not too sure of how to go about it!