2 years of Modi Government

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2 years of Modi Government 02.06.2016 19:01

The National Democratic Alliance government under Prime Minister Modi assumed charge on 26 May, 2014. It is a good time to undertake an assessment of how Modi has fared so far. Also, whether the plank on which he was elected and the promises he made have been realized or not?

Most people think that the promise of ‘’achhe din’’ has not been met. The level of energy and enthusiasm that was unleashed by Modi seems to have been all but dissipated. Although it will not be correct to assert that a sense of gloom and despair has enveloped the people, it would be accurate to declare that the level of confidence has come down several notches.

So has Modi failed? This would be a harsh and sweeping judgment. His critics cite the losses in Delhi and Bihar to say that the Modi magic has evaporated. However the recent state election results in which BJP has wrested power in Assam and increased its electoral share elsewhere prove the fallacy of this assertion. Also Modi continues to be the most popular leader in the country with none of the other leaders coming anywhere close to him.

While making a fair and balanced valuation of the performance of Modi government, it needs to be kept in mind that human tendency is to focus on perceived failures and not give adequate credit for achievements. It also needs to be taken in cognizance that expectations from Modi on his assumption of power were sky-high and totally unrealistic. People wanted immediate results whether it was in providing jobs, lowering prices, ameliorating poverty, improving agriculture, promoting business and industry etc.

No leader with the best of intentions and even with majority in both Houses of Parliament could have met these expectations, considering the fractious polity, complexity and magnitude of challenges confronted by the country. It was also unanticipated that the country would be hit by two successive years of severe drought after having enjoyed generous monsoons for the last many years. It goes to the credit of the government that it has been able to handle the situation well without the country having had to experience large scale and wide-spread famine and deaths.

Modi won the 2014 election on the planks of ‘’development’’ and ‘’good governance’’. It will be instructive to see how he has fared on these two fronts.

On the theme of development, although there have been some shortcomings, the government can feel satisfied that it has taken several good decisions in the economic field, results of some of which are already becoming visible and of some others will become evident in the coming days. In this can be included several major initiatives like Make in India, Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga, Skill India, Jan Dhan Yojana, Crop Insurance Programme and several more. It needs to be ensured that all these initiatives are implemented with determination so that their results become evident quickly.

 

It is particularly essential to increase share of manufacturing in the economy so that more jobs are created, to promote cleanliness so that productivity increases and expenditure on health care declines, to provide the right skills so that the challenge of providing one million jobs every month can be met, to increase productivity and well-being of farmers and villagers etc. It is vital to provide suitable training to our youth to reap full dividend of the demographic advantage and to ensure that it does not translate into a demographic disaster.

Although overall inflation has been arrested, prices of food items have soared. This is one of the biggest shortcomings of the government. Another is its failure to provide jobs to the youth of the country. Macro indicators like increasing FDI, large inward remittances, high level of GDP growth of 7.5% don’t mean much unless they are translated into lower prices of essential commodities and more jobs for the young people. International headwinds have been against the country. Our exports have declined continuously for the last 20 months because of contracting international demand.

Government has taken good advantage of the moderating energy prices and simultaneously moved to hike its target of renewable energy to 175 GW over the next 10 years. Significant progress has been registered in the vital areas of railways, roads, power, infrastructure etc..These need to be extended to other crucial sectors like water, agriculture, health care, banking etc. Lack of adequate numbers in Rajya Sabha has hobbled the government’s reform drive as it has not been able to push through crucial measures like GST, labour reforms etc due to political intransigence of its opponents.

In the area of governance, the government has permitted itself to be brought on the back foot by its opponents. Its promise of ‘’sabka saath, sabka vikaas’’ has not been translated into action so far. In several areas like love jihad, ghar wapsi, beef ban etc, the government has allowed the fringe elements in the party to hold centre-stage. This has encouraged the opposition to regroup under the banner of rising intolerance, award wapsi etc and paint the government in an unflattering light, domestically and internationally. The government has not been able to effectively manage the media - print, social or electronic - as a result of which it has had to face several embarrassing moments.

Modi has also been criticized for not speaking out forcefully enough or on time when incidents targeting minority communities have taken place. Mishandling of student agitations in Hyderabad University, JNU and now possibly Jadavpur could cost Modi dearly by depleting his voter support amongst the youth of the country. He needs to ensure that this attrition does not extend beyond a small extreme segment of the student community.

A huge success of the government on the governance front is the fact that there is not a whiff of any huge corruption scandal or scam that has hit the government over the last two years. Revelations of such frauds were a frequent occurrence during the last years of UPA II rule. Modi can be justifiably proud of this achievement.

Formulation and implementation of foreign policy is an area where the Modi government has scored high marks. Some analysts tend to term Modi’s initiatives in this area as a failure by referring to India’s difficult and tense relations with its neighbors like Pakistan, China, Nepal and Maldives. It needs to be recognized that fractious relations with Pakistan and China have existed for a long time. Initiatives by the Modi government have put us in a stronger position although they might not have necessarily helped in improving bilateral relations.

We have sought to diminish the significance of Pakistan in our foreign policy formulation and sought to establish strategic partnerships with countries like USA and Japan to enhance our maneuverability with respect to increasingly assertive behavior of China. Difficult and stressed relations with Nepal and Maldives are due to India being sucked into the vortex of domestic politics of these countries.

Modi’s vision, energy and infectious enthusiasm in strengthening relations with big and medium powers like USA, Germany, Japan, Russia, France, ASEAN, UK, Australia, Korea, Central Asia, and West Asia etc. have been productive as he has sought to make foreign policy a significant element in our domestic economic and social development. Modi has used India’s soft power like yoga, culture, philosophy etc. to good effect. He has actively and effectively reached out to the Indian diaspora to make them active partners in India’s progress and development.

Modi’s achievements have been substantial, although they might not measure up to the impossible hype and hope of ‘’achhe din’’ enunciated two years ago. In the coming year Modi and his colleagues will need to ensure that macro policies adopted so far get implemented efficaciously and their impact is felt by the people in lowering prices of essential commodities, more employment opportunities, better agricultural productivity, adequate water, power supply, women safety etc. On the governance side it will be necessary to rein in the extremist elements that tend to take the focus away from development.

While embarking with renewed determination to accomplish the tasks ahead, Modi and his team can be reasonably satisfied with their accomplishments. The coming year will be of crucial significance in shaping Modi’s report card that he will present to the people in 2019.

Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, President, Institute of Global Studies,

Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia,

Former Secretary/Principal Executive Officer, National Foundation for Communal Harmony, Government of India