Narendra Modi government 2.0 must focus on fixing economy

Delhi Nov 19, 2019, 04.14 PM(IST) Written By: Gautam Mukherjee

PM Narendra Modi paying homage at Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi,at Rajghat,on occasion of 73rd Independence Day. Photograph:( Others )

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Not only is it imperative to improve performance for the sake of the hopeful masses looking for jobs and livelihood, but also to keep up with our raised international diplomacy.  

When a regime changes, all who have benefited from the old order are suddenly deprived of their influence. They are left with little besides their litany of complaints and criticism.  

Still, it is understandable, for those not nimble enough to change stripe, that contemplation of an interminable stretch, out of the limelight, is akin to the Roman Catholic state of purgatory. It is a suspension, in suffering, stuck indefinitely between Heaven and Hell. Except, that the old order admits to none of its sins. 

 Instead, it adopts a stance of indignation when a procession of their number, including the all-powerful who thought themselves beyond the law, are prosecuted for corruption. It was corruption, almost institutionalised, that was a major reason for the UPA’s humiliating rout at the hustings, not once, but twice in a row.  

When Narendra Modi, a provincial but clean Chief Minister, with no first-hand foreknowledge of the Centre, won a majority in the Lok Sabha after 30 years, in 2014, the old guard was astounded. There were those in the capital who thought it was a massive overreaction on the part of the electorate to his spectacular oratory. Modi’s popularity would surely wane by mid-term, they said, as it had in the case of the ill-fated Rajiv Gandhi administration. And he would be shown the door at the end of his one and only five-year term. It was a flash in the pan. All one had to do was be patient and disdainful.   

It was axiomatic to such people that no “communal” government, with a nebulous grip on the economy and governance, and clumsy law-making, could possibly last more than a single term. Even the avuncular, get-along Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s saffron government from a decade ago, lasted only about six years.  

Demonetisation in Modi 1.0, they cried, and do so still, as each anniversary of the November 8, 2016 announcement approaches, was a disaster. It destroyed livelihoods of the MSME sector and the labouring classes. Then, GST bamboozled the shopkeeper. And the shortfall in its collections month after month point to both a slowing economy and its flawed architecture. Not for nothing was it kept in abeyance by the Congress for long years.  

So, a second Modi term in 2019, despite spurious accusations of corruption in the 36 fighter Rafale purchase, in a forced re-enactment of the Bofors scenario that brough Rajiv Gandhi down, was most galling. And that too with an increased majority. What can the electorate be thinking? Do they not see the mismatch between performance and promise?  

And now, six months into Modi 2.0, two daunting but long-promised Hindutva aspirations have been fulfilled. The first is the dramatic abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 less than three months into the second term - by simply voiding them both of all content. It was a spectacular bit of legal interpretation and execution. 

This, and the resultant main-streaming of J&K via the creation of two new Union Territories - one of Buddhist majority Ladakh, and the other by combining Jammu & Kashmir. There is a new awakening of hope and ambition in both these territories. There has been very little by way of fall out. Pakistan has been reduced to near tears for the lack of support it garnered internationally. And domestically, there has been a broad acceptance of the move. Of course, most of the prospective trouble-makers were safely locked up, out of harm’s way.  

The other major achievement within 6 months of this term, is the unanimous and positive Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. This will lead to the construction of the cherished temple soon, after a very long interregnum. Ayodhya itself is set to be transformed as well. 

Other possibilities, to set right the distortions in secularism, is the promulgation of the Uniform Civil Code and the implementation of the National Register of Citizens nationally. Repossession of Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK could also come about through a fortuitous quirk of fate within this very term.  

Even on the basis of its present successes, the NDA, increasingly becoming synonymous with the BJP till new allies come along, should be re-elected in 2024.  

The only fly in the ointment is the Modi government’s handling of the economy. Not only is it imperative to improve performance for the sake of the hopeful masses looking for jobs and livelihood, but also to keep up with our raised international diplomacy.  

To be taken seriously abroad, we have to spend money by way of aid, grants and ventures. Money which we patently do not have at present. Nor can we properly finance our own necessary development and welfare programmes domestically. Holding to the fiscal discipline we have set for ourselves is proving extremely difficult at a 5.5 per cent GDP growth rate when we need 10 per cent.  

In today’s world, to raise one’s political profile, particularly in competition with China, without the assurance of a robust economy, simply cannot be sustained. The government will have to take many bold and reformist steps and quickly.  

If there is anything that will upset the applecart politically from mid-term in 2021, it is a floundering economy. The cyclical and global position notwithstanding, Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet have no room for excuses or bluster in this regard. The economy is the keystone, and its neglect could bring the whole house down. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)