By Vijay Sanghvi
Sketching contemporary events in historical perspective always stirs a hornet’s nest-inviting strong reactions and powerful refutations. Self-interests tend to disbelieve historical interpretations of events because of their vested interest or stubborn disbelief.
The middle class is increasingly getting dissatisfied with the present regime that has failed to deliver the rapid economic growth that it promised to give them. But that’s a different story. The elite classes have always been the primary beneficiaries of any economic development anywhere in the world. They were confident that Prime Minister Narender Modi would protect their interest instead of allowing the bandwagon of different new entrants in the market.
India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru adopted the Soviet model of economic development. It helped the public sector institutions to reach commanding heights and at the same time diminished the participation of private individuals except those who could manipulate the system. In a way, all his social welfare schemes virtually ended up throwing crumbs at some sections of the public – deprived or Dalits. Nehru had no idea about the poverty around him. It became apparent in 1963 when due to controversy over the Third Five Year Plan in the parliament, the government was compelled to define poverty line. But even this did no change the direction of the economic development and made the common man struggle for existence. The successive regimes followed the same model while trying to woo the so-called vote-banks.
For close to six decades a third of India’s population wallowed in poverty. The political leaders made it a point to mislead them. When things became appalling, pieces of free bread were thrown at them instead of the motivation to work and earn their bread. The whole political system was focussed on management of scarcity instead of creating surplus resources through rapid activation of more Indians. Those who were dependent on the government developed a herd mentality while the economically better off acted independently.
Even the Green revolution enriched the big farmers. About 12 percent of people controlling 80 agro products market and surpluses gave the impression that all the farmers in the farm sector gained from it. Plethora of restrictive legislations gave birth to corruption. The situation further deteriorated when people were denied their fundamental rights unless some palms were greased.
In 1992, Rao regime partially opened doors to enable a small section of the lower class to participate in economic activities. It helped some people move up on a higher rung of the social ladder with the support and backing of financial institutions. The growth rate tripled. The stranglehold of bureaucratic controls was loosened. A success of few Indians in other systems gave inspiration to many to follow their footsteps.
The Man Mohan Singh era relapsed into old conservative politics in the second tranche to push the economy to an unending slump for three years. As Sharad Pawar pointed out in his book ‘At my Terms’ the National Advisory Council had overtaken the structure to impose decisions that slowed down the economic growth. Considerable resources were diverted to creating vote banks. The charity was again the chief instrument for the elimination of poverty but making poor more dependent on crumbs than work and fight. Narendra Modi inherited the economy suffering from paralysis of decisions at the top level.
A debate will continue in present times over intentions of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his initiatives for correcting the deformities. However, he decisively chalked out a new path of inspiring everyone to fight their circumstance and end the era of free services. Everyone need to pay for the services received was his motto.
He chose to initiate ideas of long gestation nature, but his targets were clear. He deliberately chose the deprived and the Dalit to be the targets for improvement. They were denied not only socio-economic justice but also facilities to improve their abilities. The education system was devised not to assist them to rise above the secondary grades. He touched upon the sensitive issue of lack of skills that education did not impart. Without skills, they have no hopes of better life. He ignited lights of hope in their hearts by pointing out the enormous potential for them outside India as most aged countries have demanded skilled young hands to operate their machines as their citizens are unable to perform the task due to advanced age.
He introduced social and health security for them through his innovative schemes of opening bank accounts to ensure accident insurance. Never before, any regime thought of unorganized sector for the social security coverage. In 18 months, he offered microscopic except words of allurement to invite foreign capital to the middle class that craved for more benefits having voted for him. In the end, most families realized that not only they had nothing was given but their existence in the economic institutions was becoming intolerable. Their easy access to powers that are was not only closed on the pretext of ridding corruption from the system, but it also allowed overcrowding of more sharers of benefits.
This was a strange phenomenon as the middle class was the traditional vote bank of the party he heads in the government. He put them in a quandary from where they can not complain too much. His agenda, for the Lok Sabha election and also, later on, did not gel with the traditional class living on firm belief of the cultural supremacy of the class for ages. Was he deliberately ignoring them to replace them as his vote bank was the question in several minds but none ready to publicly air. The traditional thinking in the party was caught up between two twists. His agenda has achieved a miracle of a clear majority for the party under him. It came after two unsuccessful efforts to win over the masses. The Dalit and the deprived stayed out of its ambit and the minorities never even attempted to come closer. His agenda renders the old formula irrelevant.
The dilemma was reflected in the unseasonal eruption of incidents of communal tensions that ensured the defeat of his formula in the Bihar battle. The educated young among the deprived and the Dalit may have looked up to him with new hope but were terrified of losing what they had gained so far by voting the upper class to power. NaMo suffered more from internal confusion than from his opponents on the other side. NaMo had to bid for time to get the courage to challenge his internal detractors. Thus, the year 2016 became a decisive factor in his career.
His opponents would not accept that he has outsmarted them all. He laid the foundations for the end of the upper-class domination of Indian Affairs to pave a way for other classes to take over as was predicted by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia in 1966. If you cannot defeat them join them and lick them was the strategy apparent in his achievement.