Modi Sarkaar, An year down the line
16th May 2014, was supposed to be a red-letter day in Indian democracy. A day when “We the People “, had made a conscious choice. A choice where India was supposed to have moved beyond usual political pessimism towards an environment of hope. Right from the month of October 2013, when Narendra Modi was chosen as BJP's PM candidate, the party machinery had played on the hope card. Much like Barrack Obama, who used the term, "YES WE CAN " to great effect, Modi too created the slogan of " ACHE DIN ". An year down the line, A legitimate question to raise is, have ache din already come? Are we on course towards them?
The answers to the two questions really hold the story of Modi sarkaar in the last one year. Yes there has been a lot of sloganeering! Look at the list, " SWATCH BHARAT ABHIYAN ", " JAN DHAN YOJANA ", " MAKE IN INDIA ", and the list goes on! But have these campaigns really turned things around on the ground? In Prime Minister's own constituency of Varanasi, where I come from, beyond the cleaning of Assi Ghaat, the temple town is still in crying need of a massive infrastructural overhaul. Go to government offices in the states! You may find an altogether different story. After the first few weeks of photo ops of ministers using the broom, it seems the vigour is gone from that campaign. The JAN DHAN YOJANA, is a fascinating concept on paper. But already many financial experts are questioning the financial viability of such a scheme. MAKE IN INDIA is a great idea in the long run, but for the time being it only seems to be generating a lot of interest in a few big Indian corporates wishing to enter defense-manufacturing sector in the country.
Supporters of Prime Minister may argue that politics isn't a one-day match. It’s most certainly not T20. But then it can’t also be played like a test match where the ultimate conclusion could be a tame draw. That’s not why Mr Modi and company got 282 seats. The statisticians argue that India's GDP is growing at 7.4%. Amongst the fastest in the world. Yet, you speak to industrialists who matter and you sense a certain degree of unease. A sense of being unsure. Why would that be if we have a PM who is being pilloried in parliament of being a leader for crony capitalists? The issue at hand here is that Modi the Prime Minister is asking to be judged very differently from Modi the hard campaigner of 2014. In those heady days of campaigning for the throne in 2014, he gave the impression that he was in control of the situation. That he had a solution for all the ills affecting the country. Yet in 2015, he has been unable to control the rabble-rousers within his party. He asks to be judged purely on economic parameters. But the middle classes are still waiting for those elusive tax cuts or lower EMIs on home loans. Its almost as if the PM has identified a few low hanging fruits and he wants the country to remember him for delivering on those low hanging fruits. But that's not why he was given the staggering mandate. It was meant for him to bring in a sea change in the way politicians conducted business. Lets go back to the test of " slogan creation" during the campaign, " MORE CROP PER DROP", " 5 T FORMULA ", " MINIMUM GOVERNMENT MAXIMUM GOVERNANCE "! Look at the action. Land bill is far from a settled issue and the party has suffered a huge perceptional hit. In Non BJP ruled states, the matter has already snowballed into a major crisis. On the question of smaller government, the number of MoS may be lesser in this government, but the expenditure on the government itself isn't reducing drastically.
Yet the Prime Minister's own popularity ratings do still remain high. While the Delhi debacle did certainly go a long way in raising questions against the Modi wave, its not as if Prime Minister Modi's personal image has suffered. The difference appears to be that in the campaigning mode, Modi sold himself as a finance whizkid. But since becoming the emperor, he has become more of a foreign minister. It must be underlined here that the Indian population today is restless and impatient. The youngsters don't want to see a political model based on rhetoric. They want to make it absolutely clear that the model is based on political action. The final word is yet to be spoken on how the PM is being viewed on this front.
The Prime Minister's performance must also be judged on the axiom of the opposition's performance. While 2014 was almost like a one way show with the BJP dominating, the second half of the budget session in 2015 did give us an inkling of what could be in store for the remainder of this government. The fact that the Delhi debacle didn't really lead to any serious introspection indicates that the party has chosen to look at it as an aberration. While it did win the states of Mahrasthra, Jharkhand, Haryana, it did lose successive by-polls in states where it fancied itself. There hasn’t really been a stock taking exercise yet within the party on the mistakes that it may be making. The comforting cushion being that the opposition isn’t getting its act together. But it can ill afford to remain content with an opposition which is still operating in fits and spurts. There is little doubt that Mr Modi is the tallest politician and perhaps the most powerful leader of our times. But he must use the mandate to create an entirely new eco system, moving well and truly beyond the shackles that a burgeoning bureaucracy had imposed upon India.
(( This article appeared first in The pioneer ))