Will Modi fail or Sail?
By Vijay Sanghvi
Most politicians and analysts have viewed the year of Narendra Modi regime with the conservative ideological lens for politicians found safety in sticking to traditions and analysts believed it was much easier to evaluate the NaMo regime in its first year. Ideological prejudices played an important role in appreciation or criticism of his functioning without any allowance created for the ground realities of six decades rules that NaMo inherited along with the mandate he won. He had, no doubt, generated high expectations with his promises of change during his blitzkrieg campaign. Newcomers are always confronted with harsh realities and inherent complexities once in the saddle
Even though Narendra Modi was swept to power on the election symbol of Bharatiya Janata Party, it was not a vote for the BJP. Narendra Modi had virtually erased the party identity before he accepted to lead the party at the polls. He allowed inclusion of controversial demands, the identity mark of the party only as last para of the election agenda. Prominence was to programme of economic change. He promised younger generation, unemployed and educated to look to a brighter future under his regime. NaMo won 283 seats but his majority is razor thin. Only 170 members are dyed in the Sangh colours and 113 had joined the BJP when they saw turning tides for their old parties. There is no possibility of rug being pulled from under his feet, but probability can never be ignored. The sword hangs over the head.
For four of six decades the country was ruled with restrictive economy model of development. First Prime Minister J Nehru chose liberal European model for political institutions. He preferred the restrictive Russian model for economic development. In commanding height to public sector he denied a vital role to private sector. Private individuals were denied participatory role in economic activities. It tantamount to say that government would do everything. Citizens needed to merely wait for effects to trickle down. Both the privileged class and the deprived class were made to wait while economy sluggishly moved forward at less than four per cent a year. Nehru did not accord enough attention to agriculture even though nearly three fourth of population lived on it. Modi fears were agriculture economy based society would not modernize at the pace he yearned for. Restrictive nature of policy framework led to corruption used as efficiency factor in moving files to obtain licenses.
Indira Gandhi played her card of moving to the left of centre as her political compulsion was to retain her hold by marginalizing the rightists in her party holding power levers. She also imposed ban of company donations to political parties leading to generation of black wealth. Resources to finance the costly elections were raised through misuse of power and political discretions. It soon generated to usage for personal wealth gains. Yet another distortion was added through the elections was to corrupt voters with promises of cheaper goodies. Manifesto of all were unhealthy competition on this score.
The welfare strategy for social development for four decades was responsible for keeping poor in the same state as it turned them into dependent on government charity. It also led to discontent among the privileged class as bitter feeling grew that they were made to finance the feeding of poor without adding any national assets. The Green Revolution with its benefits flowing to rural expanse and consequent improvement in rural life had unleashed urges for share in political power. Consequently bases for political and economic institutions were weakened to shatter public faith in the Congress. Disaster of coalition politics of 25 years paved the path of Modi with his intense campaign for change of players.
Modi heads the right wing party that generally attends to needs and welfare of the privileged class. However economy cannot move forward unless underprivileged are also empowered to contribute to the national product in proportion to their consumption. Dire need is for change in the mentality of dependence on government. Larger number of students attending schools was major indication of change in values of all class with even poor seeking dignity of life for their next generation.
Modi conveyed a clear message that the deprived would need to fight their circumstance. The government was to be facilitator only but the battle has to be fought and won by them only. Without that urge they would not be able to emerge out of abyss of poverty. The idea was obviously borrowed from the Gandhian concept that self governance was the best government. Another Gandhian concept was to habituate every individual to live with hygienic habits. He accorded priority to toilets over the temple. He promised to deliver a cleansed India to celebrate 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi in 2019
Modi opened doors of the economic institutions for the deprived classes waiting at the door steps of the system for six decades by easing procedures for opening of bank accounts. 150 million were able to open their bank accounts within nine months to become a world record. Even the World Bank was impressed that 150 million families got social security with insurance of Rs one lakh for a bare minimum monthly premium. Self employed in small economic activities were also assured their credit needs. The step is not merely to plug drains of corruption but giving confidence to people at large that they can have their future in their hand. Modi has also indicated that he knows that without rapid industrialization, to accelerate pace of development, Modi would be laden with huge problem of educated unemployed as 12 million of them are added to the job market each year. The agriculture cannot accommodate them nor do they desire to work on farms, traditionally considered to be lowest of jobs. He strived to build the economic diplomacy to lure foreign capital with production units to come to India. His success would depend on his ability to overcome resistance from within the Sangh Parivar and from outside. He showed traits of his tendency to bypass parliament if he cannot overcome resistance.