42 months have gone since we elected Modi to lead the country. Modi rode an unprecedented wave, not seen in past few decades, to become the PM with a majority of his own. After decades of coalitions, this was a welcome change.
Vote to Modi was a result of multiple factors, to mention a few;
- Lacklustre MMS as PM who was perceived to be nothing more than a glorified rubber stamp of 10 Janpath
- Series of Mega scams & large-scale loot & corruption as every Minister ran their portfolios as their personal fiefdom.
- UPA was perceived by many as unabashedly and openly pursuing Minority (read Muslim) appeasement at the cost of Majority (read Hindus)
- India under MMS was perceived to have become (even more) softer state when it came to Foreign Policy, especially w.r.t. to our neighbors who were seen to be bullying us every now & then and we were constantly on backfoot & reactive
- Aspirations of millions who perceived Modi as a strong-willed, development-oriented, unapologetic Hindu, who would find solutions to the issues that have plagued us for decades
Modi ran a very successful campaign where he pitched himself as a one-man army to take us out of the decayed & stench filled political system that was a gift to us as part of the Nehruvian doctrine. His messaging was smart & while he appealed to the masses with his development plank (the famed Gujarat model) he made enough references (overtly & covertly) to fire up the imaginations of the millions of Hindus who have a belief (right or wrong) that the Indian state has been unfair to them as the state has been perceived to favour minorities at the cost of Hindus.
Modi raised issues that were dear to the hearts of many and to name a few; Jobs, eradicate corruption, nail the guilty & put them behind bars, sort out the menace of illegal Bangladeshis, get justice for Kashmiri Pandits, restore the pride and position of India in Global arena, take a tough stand with Pakistan, fight terror with an iron fist and so on….
All this combined with an exceptional oratory & connect Modi developed with the common man, a well-managed & orchestrated election campaign and very importantly a split opposition who had no visible face that could challenge Modi resulted in a political environment that saw BJP getting a majority of its own in LS. Not to mention the idea of Chai Pe Charcha which was a gifted by on one less than the MSA.
Basically, the country elected Modi, a person who touted his 56” chest over a timid MMS, with an expectation that a person with a humble origin like Modi would finally manage to replace the Government of the Lutyens, by the Lutyens, and for the Lutyens by Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Over past 3 and a half years, the Modi Sarkar has done exceptional work in many areas and it needs to be lauded for these. The Jan Dhan, Antodya, Ujjwala, Saubhagya, PM Awas Yojna, PM Suraksha Bima, PM Jiwan Jyoti Bima to name a few. Similarly, a lot of efforts have been put into important social and economic initiatives like Beti Bachao; Beti Padhao, Swacha Bharat, Skill India, Make In India to name a few with varying degree of success.
There has been a renewed vigor in our Foreign relations and a marked effort to carve out a niche for India outside the famed Nehruvian concept of Non-Alignment (which was, in fact, being a foot soldier of the then USSR). FP is one area which is difficult to comment, especially for a rank outsider, as the visible part of diplomacy & FP are like the tip of an iceberg and the actual power games along with the hard bargains happen mostly backstage without any pomp and show.
All this along with the goodwill & connect Modi still enjoys with the voters and the rigor & passion with which Amit Shah manages the BJP poll machine has resulted in a near saffron march across the country. All you need to do is look at the political map before May 2014 and today to see this saffron sweep. This is a remarkable achievement and was unimaginable even after the spectacular LS win of 2014. No one & I mean no one (maybe not even Modi & Shah) would have expected BJP to expand so quickly and comprehensively across the nation.
So, after all of the above where do I see failings of the Modi Sarkar?
It is human nature, to judge by failures and unmet expectations rather than what has been achieved, and I am no different. Just to give a context, we judge Nehru more for his monumental failures & the good work he has done is incidental to this discussion. As PM of the country, it is expected that they will do good work, that is what we have elected them for. So, when they fail, especially in areas that are critical (at least from my perspective) they need to be called out.
So where do I think things did not work as per expectations (will stick to mine as I do not have any reason to claim I represent others)?
In my view, Modi initially tried to do a lot to bring about a significant change in the system & the way of governance set by generations of ruling classes. Let us call this the ecosystem, the ecosystem has co-opted (over decades) politicians (of all ideologies and across party lines), bureaucrats, difficult to comment on judiciary (as little idea + never know when could you border contempt), media, industrialist, Intelligentsia et al. where each saves the back of others and enjoys the perks of power (which invariably means money).
I remember vividly how Modi wanted to reduce the number of ministries by integrating them to synergize the efforts and reduce the Government. Remember ‘Less Government, More Governance’? What happened to that? Probably died a natural death, as political realities of monkey balancing the cabinet took precedence and the ecosystem just would not digest such a drastic change so retaliated in its own way. Modi 0, Ecosystem 1.
I vividly remember the passion with which Modi pushed for each elected representative to take care of 5 villages each. It is a no-brainer, why would any LS member have any objections or issues with such an initiative? I think it was pushed by the PM for a few months and then it died, again a natural death, as even members of the ruling party probably did not bother to do the groundwork. The PM was expected to monitor but is it practical or really required? If the PM needs to monitor that the elected MPs work for their own constituencies, we really have reached a nadir in our polity and public life. Modi 0, Ecosystem 1.
Then came the fiasco of the Ordinance to relax the Land Acquisition Bill. The less said about it the better. This I think is where the goose was cooked for reformist Modi, the entire ecosystem got an opportunity (to give credit where it is due, recognized it as the most potent weapon Modi had gifted them early in his term) to regroup and retaliate & show Modi his true place in the larger scheme of things. As things stand today, this is one legislation that is the biggest challenge in launching any big-ticket infrastructure plans for growth and will remain the bottleneck now for a long time. Short-term political gains (even BJP is to blame as they helped pass this draconian law, amongst many others) beats the larger national long-term interest. Modi 0, Ecosystem 1.
Another fatal nail in the coffin of the reformist Modi (whatever was left out after the land Ordinance loss) was driven by the Supreme Court which ruled NJAC as unconstitutional. It was a classic showdown between the legislature and the Judiciary and in the end Legislature chose to give up its primacy on a platter to Judiciary, that too without a whimper. This subjugation has had multiple ripple effects on the way judiciary is now more boldly & with impunity encroaching upon the areas of both Legislature and Executive. The reverberations of this overreach will keep reminding us of how unaccountable & opaque one of the pillars of our Democracy is. Modi 0, Ecosystem 1.
Then is the entire Pakistan saga of mixed signals of what our stand on this Terrorist state, which is a constant thorn in our foot, is? A lot of hardball has been played along with a show of ample indicators to return to negotiating table without any tangible gains curbing the menace of terror as an official policy to bleed us by thousand cuts. The fact is this is too complex and difficult a situation for any one person or government to manage. The ecosystem with its Aman Ki Aasha tamasha is always there to snide any hard-line efforts and then we have the other group which is always there to snide any possible softer approach. I think it is still a tied match as of now and do not see any real breakthrough in near future. Modi 0, Ecosystem 0.
Kashmir, the paradise on earth turned into a throne that is bleeding us day in and day out still poses the same challenges as it did always. The inability of the Modi Sarkar to act upon any of the basic issues that are the cause of the Kashmir problem, despite being in Gov in both the state and the center is now apparent. That said, I think it will be very unfair on Modi, or for that matter of fact any government, to expect that Kashmir can be sorted out easily & without a major shakeup and pain. We as people of India must ask ourselves, are we ready for the kind of surgery along with ruthless politics and strong-arm tactics that are a must to curb the insurgency? We are not even ready to accept the basic nature of the beast and the reasons why Kashmir, to be specific it is just a few districts in the valley, is not willing to be part of our country. We are so delusional that we articulate multiple reasons (valid & invalid) and ignore the elephant in the room, that issue is in areas which have a brute Muslim majority. Modi 0, Ecosystem 0.
I am no expert on the economy and the indicators that show the health of our current state. Modi has been very lucky due to the crude oil price levels and I am not sure how would the economy played out if this was not the case. Overall, no doubt that there is an effort to push for greater transparency, better tax compliance and increase the tax base. Modi 0, Ecosystem 0.
Finally, the First of the two biggest falling of the Modi Sarkar; Near zero control on narrative. The way the Ecosystem has been able to manage the narrative from Suit Boot Ki Sarkar, Dadri, Churches under attack, Minorities feel unsafe, SC/ST/OBCs not getting representation/justice to the award wapasi is a long list of failure of Modi & his team to control and set the narrative. The famed communication machinery that worked wonders in 2014 to capture the fancy of the nation suddenly seemed to have vanished into thin air. The way I see it before 2014 Modi was setting the agenda and the narrative & others were reacting to it and after May 2014 the shoe is on the other foot. Modi 0, Ecosystem 1.
The second biggest falling of the Modi Sarkar, and I have a feeling that this will hurt them the most in near future is the inaction on bringing to book the culprits of the monumental scams under the UPA. The reasons are just inexplicable, from 2G to Jija ji to CWG to…. you name any, not even one conviction has happened. The issue is not that there have been no convictions, the issue is; visibly, no interest of Modi Sarkar in even doing a pretense of trying to bring guilty to the book. For reasons best known to Modi & his team they have chosen to give out a perception that they have no interest to chase the guilty and punish them. They are happy to tom-tom that their government has not done any scam, great!! But then, as I said is it a normal expectation from any sincere and honest government, why do we need to parade this? Now, I wait to see how Modi will play this out in 2019 when the public may not be so enthusiastic to lap up to the claims of Modi that he will put corrupt behind the bars. Modi 0, Ecosystem 1.
This ends my take on the failings of the Modi Sarkar, have I covered every possible facet of governance or my expectations? No, probably will keep these for the next time I decide to sit and rant.
Note: I have deliberately not mentioned Demonetisation and GST for reasons best known to me 😊