Has Narendra Modi Become A Fading Star?
The lack-lustre performance of the government is causing a great concern to those who had anticipated a bright future for the country after the coronation of Narendra Modi as the new Prime Minister of India. Consequently, his dare-devil or development-savvy image has taken a severe beating. Last year he was dubbed the Rising Sun of the East or Crescent Moon of the West or the twinkling star of the sky. Now his position represents a fading star
The performance of Shri Narendra Modi as the new Prime Minister of India was judged twice in the past when he completed a span of 100 and 200 days of his incumbency. But the people at large ignored his average report card because a period of 100 or 200 days was considered too short to judge the performance of a Prime Minister. Now the PM will be completing the first year of his five-year term on May 26, 2015. One year is a sufficient period to correctly asses his performance and competency.
Dr Manmohan Singh had become the whipping boy for his very poor performance as PM during his second term because of naked corruption in the ministries, sloth, hubris, poor governance, crass negligence of infrastructure development and passage of two retrograde Bills, i.e. Food Security Act and Land Acquisition Amendment Act. BJP acquiesced to the passage of these two Bills for fear of political reprisals as these were introduced at the fag end of the last session of the Parliament.
In such a dismal scenario, Shri Narendra Modi strode on the political horizon like a colossus in September 2013. He had already acquired the image of a radical game-changer during his incumbency as Chief Minister of Gujarat for three terms, though the state could claim credit to occupy number one position in India only in respect of ensuring 24 hours supplies of water and electricity. All other important parameters of governance like sanitation or public health in Gujarat were below par. But he conducted his election campaign on professional lines by engaging top-class image-building agencies and spending party funds very lavishly. The pitch of his election campaign was development, development and development. People desperately wanted a change and saw in Narendra Modi a Phoenix-like hero, who could bring economic prosperity on an accelerated scale. Accordingly, they voted for him (and not for BJP) overwhelmingly. Consequently, BJP got absolute majority for the first time by begging 282 seats and NDA got 334. Narendra Modi took the oath of the office of the Prime Minister on 26/5/2014 with great fanfare and showbiz.
Soon after, the people in general and youth in particular started looking towards Narendra Modi with bated breath to initiate his radical development agenda that would provide employment opportunities to the vast army of aspirational, transactional, desperate and unforgiving youths and revive the economy to its pristine level of 10 per cent of GDP growth. But nothing of this kind happened during the first one year of his rule. The first and foremost job of a good Prime Minister is always to delineate the road map for economic development and present it before the nation as a confidence-building measure. The PM did not discharge this essential duty at all. He did not call even a single meeting of State Chief Ministers to ascertain their views on reviving the economy of the states and the country and fix the targets. To make matters worse, he scrapped the Planning Commission (considering it to be a relic of Nehruvian philosophy) and replaced it with an effete organisation, called NITI Ayog. Nobody knows till now what this Ayog is doing and what is its mandate.
However the PM limited his development agenda to the following ten decisions to bring the achhe din:
1)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Launching the half-baked Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: It was a wonderful programme. Had it been designed and implemented on professional lines, it would have changed the sanitary face of India and upgraded the human development index. But now nobody talks of this programme anymore and it is almost dumped in the dustbin of history.
2)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Launching Ganga Cleaning Project: This programme is being taken up very seriously because of the directions of the Supreme Court.
3)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Scaled up the targets of developing renewable energy to 1.75 lakh MW by 2022 (Solar =1.0 lakh MW, Wind = 0.6 lakh MW, Biomass=0.1.MW and Micro hydel=0.05 lakh MW). This programme can definitely bring an investment of Rs. 15.0 lakh crore during next six years and desert areas of many states would get a big economic boost.
4)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Mr Piyush Goyal, the Minister for Power and Coal, has set the target of mining 1.0 billion tonnes of coal per year by 2019. How he will be able to achieve this difficult target has not been explained so far.
5)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Financial Budget was a bit reformist. But the basic problem of NPAs and rising debts on states remained untouched. The Railway budget promised for doubling and electrifying Railway tracks by 2019 costing Rs. 170 lakh crore. But the honourable Minister has not spelt out the methodology to arrange this huge sum of money so far. Presently, Indian Railways (IR) is struggling and surviving below the poverty line and the Minister did not show the guts to increase the fares to bring it above the line.
6)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The PM visited USA and Japan to attract foreign investment last year. Recently, he went to France, Germany and Canada for the same purpose. Nothing has materialised so far. Foreign investors do not come for the asking or by sending them invitation cards. They will come only if well-designed industrial estates are developed near the port cities and the parameter of â€œEase of doing business in Indiaâ€™â€™ is improved simultaneously. Unfortunately, nothing has been done so far in respect of these two essential parameters. However, the PM has floated a new idea of â€œMake in Indiaâ€ asking the exporting countries to set up their manufacturing units in India particularly in the field of Defence Production. Airbus industry of France has promised to invest $2 billion. The PM is very passionate about the success of this programme and let us hope that he succeeds in his mission. It will be a big leap forward to change the economic scenario in the manufacturing sector.
7)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The PM piloted a Bill to amend the existing Land Acquisition Act 2013 to facilitate the acquisition of land for infrastructure projects by removing the provision for seeking consents from per cent farmers. It was a bold move but the PM could not address the objections of the Opposition parties in the parliamentary debate in an articulated manner and the Bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha. Consequently, the amendment was implemented through the Ordinance route and the same has now been challenged in the Supreme Court. This in articulation created lot of misgivings in the minds of farmers and the Opposition parties have launched a strong disinformation campaign against the Bill. In fact, the moribund Congress party has got a fresh lease of life only because of this reason. Now the Modi government is touted as pro-capitalist and anti-farmers. This perception will take a long time to go away.
8)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The PM had floated a novel project of development of one village by each MP in his constituency. This programme too has flopped miserably because of non-availability of funds and lack of interest, exhibited by the respective MPs.
9)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The auctioning of coal blocks and spectrum (credit for this goes to CAG, Supreme Court and the man who filed the PIL) will fetch lakhs of crore rupees. The auction amount of coal blocks will mostly go to states where coal blocks are located. The amount is sufficient enough to pay the debt of those states and close the gap of fiscal deficit.
10)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Financial Budget provides for setting up five ultra modern power plants (UMPP) of 4000 MW each. UMPPs allotted a decade earlier (except one of TATAâ€™s) have not been commissioned so far.
This 10-point programme of the PM failed to enthuse and inspire confidence in the public for want of a ballistic or big-bang or a radical development agenda, which could generate enough employment opportunities for the youths. The promise of achhe din is still haunting the voters. The main grouse of the people is that not even one big ticket project has been initiated so far and the Prime Minister only talks too much. On the other hand, the PM also failed to captain the team of State Chief Ministers who are still running the states in a feudalistic and confiscatory manner and treating the states as their personal fiefs. People are now fed up with the ways the emoluments of the MLAs and Ministers are being enhanced and the way CMs are using the state funds and resources in a profligate manner. Finally, the ire of the people against the Modi government burst out in the Assembly election of Delhi in February 2015, where BJP got only three seats out of a total of 70. It was the most shameful defeat for a ruling party barely nine months after coming to power at the Centre.
Now the media is criticising the PM more for his silence on insidious remarks or diatribes of BJP leaders like Giriraj Singh from time to time than palpable failure on infrastructure front. Lethargy in taking up big ticket infrastructure projects is more pernicious than the saffronisation issue. Accordingly, people in general and youth in particular have started believing that the PM is behaving like a novice or a naive politician who does not know what to do and the bureaucracy is not advising him properly. The two recent budgets, i.e. Railways and Finance budgets lacked clarity and promise for 10 per cent growth in GDP and eradication of poverty. A critical analysis of one-year incumbency shows that PM is relying only on one thumb rule for economic development of the country, i.e. attracting foreign investment through the Make-In-India programme so that the country does not have to import large categories of machinery and equipment. This effort no doubt is praiseworthy but it alone cannot revolutionise the national economy or be a panacea of all the economic problems plaguing the country. In fact, what really saved the situation for the government is the crashing of crude oil prices to $45 per barrel, which in turn cut down the inflation and the RBI further cut down the interest rates. This favourable tail wind brought the much-needed relief in the national economy. It reduced the import bill of crude oil by half and eased the position of forex and reduced the gap in Current Account Deficit. Otherwise, the economic scenario would have been extremely depressing. Notwiths-tanding this fact, recession stays as it is. The export earnings are dwindling. This lack-lustre performance of the government is causing a great concern to those who had anticipated a bright future for the country after the coronation of Narendra Modi as the new Prime Minister of India. Consequently, his dare-devil or development-savvy image has taken a severe beating. Last year he was dubbed the Rising Sun of the East or Crescent Moon of the West or the twinkling star of the sky. Now his position represents a fading star.
Only time will tell (the next year is the most crucial year) whether he will take the wake-up call from the media reports and rework his strategy or not. The hard fact of the matter is that economic problems facing the country are so vast and deep rooted that only a person of the vision and ilk of Den Xiaoping or Margaret Thatcher or Le Kuan Yew or Sardar Patel can take the country out of the mess. Till now Mr. Narendra Modi has not been following the footsteps of any one of them. Mere pious speeches or rhetorics or coining development slogans and governance acronyms will not work now. People will be enthused only with the launching of big ticket infrastructure projects like the six-lane express-way from NOIDA to Balia initiated by Mayawati government or Delhi Metro Project. Now the common catcall is â€œIf elections are held today, the country will become BJP Mukt Bharat.â€ It does not require much of brain storming to find the way out. Timely implementation of following ten-point programme can catapult the country into the comity of developed nations.
1)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Drastic control of population 2. Improving standards in educational institutions (both private and government) 3. Solar and sanitary revolution in the country 4. Development of Indian Railways as new engine of growth 5. Improving the service delivery of existing infrastructure and get rid of loss-making undertakings (both public and private sectors). 6. Developing infrastructure projects (expressways, hydro-power plants, etc) on an aggressive scale and development of 50 new townships to act as sub-capitals in bigger states and also to decongest the bigger cities of India 7. Extend irrigation facilities in whole of Central India 8. Launching dairy development and horticulture projects in seven NE states 9. Improving exports of iron ore and other minerals 10. Developing modern industrial parks along coastal areas and aggressive development of oil and gas resources in Rajasthan.
There is no other short-cut to achieve the target of 10 per cent growth in GDP and eradicate poverty except to implement the aforesaid 10-point programme. The only moto of the government should be, â€œTo beat China in the economic race by 2025â€. Once the progress starts on an even keel, a feel-good-factor or a buoyant mood will be developed in whole of the country and the country will start progressing by leaps and bounds. The fast development process will drive away the communal clouds automatically as well.
By Ram Niwas Malik