Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Assessing Modi

Updated: June 5, 2015 8:28 pm

The Modi government has completed one year in office. Has the Prime Minister lived up to expectations? Well, if you go through the social media, elite clubs in Delhi and go by the comments of leading intellectuals and commentators, then Modi has been a huge disappointment. But then the fact remains that all these ladies and gentlemen never voted for Modi. They had never imagined that Modi would ever become the Prime Minister of India. Their vociferous disapproval of Modi in office is, in fact, in tune with their strident campaigns against Modi when he was competing for the office. That is why I will take their disappointment with a pinch of salt.

On the other hand, if one goes by the opinion polls on the subject by some leading media houses, the picture seems to be little mixed. While Livemint survey gives Modi 74 per cent popularity after one year in office, India Today gives only 56 per cent. In between, Times of India gives Modi 77.5 per cent of popular support among those surveyed, IBN TV gives 72 per cent and Anand Bazar Patrika channel 61 per cent. Therefore if we take the average of all these polls, then Modi passes with the First Division, without, of course, a distinction.

As I have invariably argued, in the last general elections, people voted for Modi, not necessarily for the BJP. They voted for Modi because here is a leader who talked of growth and development and who did not glorify poverty. As distinct from the BJP, Modi’s economic outlook was totally different from the Nehruvian outlook that has been the dominating thought so far in an independent India. Modi promised to be the harbinger of real changes in the Indian polity and economy. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi had delivered on the front of economic reforms that India desperately needed—slashing red tape, cutting the licensing raj and minimising the role of the government in managing the economy. Now as the Prime Minister, he was expected to accelerate India’s economic growth process that is already benefitting from globalisation and the technology- revolution. And ensuring strong economic growth means that India must have not only a stable polity with safe and secure borders but also the capacity to play major regional and global roles. In other words, those who had voted for Modi wanted that the Prime Minister should work in a manner that will force the rest of the world to acknowledge that India is one of the defining countries in the 21st century.

Since Modi assumed office on May 26, 2014, the global leaders have taken India a little more seriously. At least, Modi has been able to create an optimistic atmosphere that the world can do business with India, something that one could not say during last years of a taciturn Manmohan Singh government, paralysed as it was with pulls and pressures, often in conflict, from within the Congress party. It is not that major trends in Modi’s foreign policy were fundamentally different from that of Manmohan Singh. However, unlike his predecessor, Modi has better highlighted to his advantage two important factors that have great significance for India’s foreign policy goals. Though Manmohan Singh had factored these two in their policies, Modi has been much better in articulating them. He has highlighted well how as a committed statusquoist country like India has no territorial ambitions and how India is “transforming” to emerge as one of the world’s leading economies with a vast “young” working force (demographic dividend), a responsible nuclear weapon power with demonstrated scientific and technological competence, and a stable democracy. Secondly, Modi has emerged as the darling of about 25 million-strong dynamic overseas Indians and “People of Indian Origin” who have distinguished themselves abroad, particularly in the leading industrialised and militarily powerful countries, on the wide canvas of human endeavour.

Of course, it can be questioned as to what have been the concrete results. Investments from abroad have not been impressive. Territorial disputes and geopolitical rivalries with Pakistan and China remain as ominous as ever. But then as any student of international relations knows, foreign policy goals are long-term goals and that there cannot be instantaneous results. That is why I will like to judge Modi on his economic and administrative measures over the last one year.

Modi and his ministers are right when they say that the most important gift that they have provided to the nation after working for one year is that they have provided a scam-free administration. This is not a mean achievement, considering the number of scams and corrupt deals that the Manmohan Singh government was allegedly linked with. However, Modi has not lived up to his reputation as a bold reformer. In fact, listening to him the other day at the huge public rally in Mathura, I wondered whether I was listening to a Congress Prime Minister. Throughout his speech, Modi emphasised how his government was committed to the poor of the country and how he has brought out various welfare schemes. Of course, in a country of poor, no Prime Minister can afford to annoy the poor. But then Modi had promised that he would create a situation where people do not remain poor. Modi had talked about empowering the poor, rather than  sticking to the Nehruvian framework that talks of distributing only freebies to the poor in the form of one subsidy or the other, rather than attacking the very base which makes people poor.

Modi is right whenever he says that genuine reforms will only eradicate poverty in the country. But his first year in office has not seen many such bold reforms. Of course, one of the reasons for this is that he does not command a legislative majority in the Upper House of the Parliament; the opposition parties here have combined well under the leadership of the Congress party, which is hell bent on stalling everything that Modi wants in the field of reforms. It is true that Modi has managed some important legislations by breaking the opposition unity in the Upper House, but on some crucial legislations pertaining to land acquisition (so vital for industrialisation) and uniform indirect taxes all over the country, he has failed.

However, my problem with Modi is his poor pace in bringing about some vital administrative reforms that do not require immediate legislative support or approval. There have been no major administrative reforms such as Police reforms and out-of-the box measures in the education and health sectors. If Modi really wants that the manufacturing sector should produce about one-third of the country’s GDP (at the moment it is less than 18 per cent) as that will provide our youth employment and the nation wealth, then he should focuss in the beginning more on the country’s research and education than on the foreign investors. We really do not have enough employable youth. We do not have adequate manpower to absorb the foreign technology and handle transfer of technology. We may have huge manpower with formal degrees, but what about their talents?

In fact, rather than producing useless college or university degrees that our present education policy leads to, we should make vocational education compulsory for two years after the 10th standard. It is after the compulsory vocational education for two years that students should be allowed in universities for higher studies. This, in turn, will have two desirable results. One, we will have employable skilled personnel who may choose to be small-scale entrepreneurs themselves or join the small and medium scale industries, the real source of a nation’s wealth in the ultimate analysis. It will popularise the concept of “dignity of labour” in the country. Two, because of this education policy, those who intend to pursue higher studies will add to the quality of the higher education of the country because they will be better taught with better infrastructure (because of their smaller number). Let it be noted that under the present policy of higher education which produces degrees rather than talents, India has got the notorious distinction of not having a single university which is in the first 200 of global rankings. No wonder why those who are really good migrate to foreign universities.

However, all said and done, Modi has got a mandate for five years. Only one year has gone by. One hopes that an astute politician that he is, Modi will take the necessary steps not only to fulfill his poll promises but also to deal with the perception (and ultimately politics is based on perceptions) that he is rapidly losing sheen. As I have argued before, the main maker of the perception about him is “the Delhi establishment”, which includes Delhi bureaucracy, Delhi intelligentsia and Delhi media. Deeply committed to Nehruvianism, the Delhi establishment is yet to reconcile with what it virtually thinks to be a hostile takeover by Modi, a rank outsider. Its hostility towards Modi is going to increase in the days to come, particularly when Modi is not able to deliver his promises. In fact, as regards the media, anti-Modi elements, ironically, are becoming stringer and stronger with each passing day, belying their earlier fears of a Fascist Modi. They continue to dominate even today the media controlled or funded by the government.

In sum, Modi has not done enough to live up to the hopes he had given to the Indians last year. He still talks too much. It is time to work, rather hard.

prakashnanda@udayindia.in

The Modi government has completed one year in office. Has the Prime Minister lived up to expectations? Well, if you go through the social media, elite clubs in Delhi and go by the comments of leading intellectuals and commentators, then Modi has been a huge disappointment. But then the fact remains that all these ladies and gentlemen never voted for Modi. They had never imagined that Modi would ever become the Prime Minister of India. Their vociferous disapproval of Modi in office is, in fact, in tune with their strident campaigns against Modi when he was competing for the office. That is why I will take their disappointment with a pinch of salt.

On the other hand, if one goes by the opinion polls on the subject by some leading media houses, the picture seems to be little mixed. While Livemint survey gives Modi 74 per cent popularity after one year in office, India Today gives only 56 per cent. In between, Times of India gives Modi 77.5 per cent of popular support among those surveyed, IBN TV gives 72 per cent and Anand Bazar Patrika channel 61 per cent. Therefore if we take the average of all these polls, then Modi passes with the First Division, without, of course, a distinction.

As I have invariably argued, in the last general elections, people voted for Modi, not necessarily for the BJP. They voted for Modi because here is a leader who talked of growth and development and who did not glorify poverty. As distinct from the BJP, Modi’s economic outlook was totally different from the Nehruvian outlook that has been the dominating thought so far in an independent India. Modi promised to be the harbinger of real changes in the Indian polity and economy. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi had delivered on the front of economic reforms that India desperately needed—slashing red tape, cutting the licensing raj and minimising the role of the government in managing the economy. Now as the Prime Minister, he was expected to accelerate India’s economic growth process that is already benefitting from globalisation and the technology- revolution. And ensuring strong economic growth means that India must have not only a stable polity with safe and secure borders but also the capacity to play major regional and global roles. In other words, those who had voted for Modi wanted that the Prime Minister should work in a manner that will force the rest of the world to acknowledge that India is one of the defining countries in the 21st century.

Since Modi assumed office on May 26, 2014, the global leaders have taken India a little more seriously. At least, Modi has been able to create an optimistic atmosphere that the world can do business with India, something that one could not say during last years of a taciturn Manmohan Singh government, paralysed as it was with pulls and pressures, often in conflict, from within the Congress party. It is not that major trends in Modi’s foreign policy were fundamentally different from that of Manmohan Singh. However, unlike his predecessor, Modi has better highlighted to his advantage two important factors that have great significance for India’s foreign policy goals. Though Manmohan Singh had factored these two in their policies, Modi has been much better in articulating them. He has highlighted well how as a committed statusquoist country like India has no territorial ambitions and how India is “transforming” to emerge as one of the world’s leading economies with a vast “young” working force (demographic dividend), a responsible nuclear weapon power with demonstrated scientific and technological competence, and a stable democracy. Secondly, Modi has emerged as the darling of about 25 million-strong dynamic overseas Indians and “People of Indian Origin” who have distinguished themselves abroad, particularly in the leading industrialised and militarily powerful countries, on the wide canvas of human endeavour.

Of course, it can be questioned as to what have been the concrete results. Investments from abroad have not been impressive. Territorial disputes and geopolitical rivalries with Pakistan and China remain as ominous as ever. But then as any student of international relations knows, foreign policy goals are long-term goals and that there cannot be instantaneous results. That is why I will like to judge Modi on his economic and administrative measures over the last one year.

Modi and his ministers are right when they say that the most important gift that they have provided to the nation after working for one year is that they have provided a scam-free administration. This is not a mean achievement, considering the number of scams and corrupt deals that the Manmohan Singh government was allegedly linked with. However, Modi has not lived up to his reputation as a bold reformer. In fact, listening to him the other day at the huge public rally in Mathura, I wondered whether I was listening to a Congress Prime Minister. Throughout his speech, Modi emphasised how his government was committed to the poor of the country and how he has brought out various welfare schemes. Of course, in a country of poor, no Prime Minister can afford to annoy the poor. But then Modi had promised that he would create a situation where people do not remain poor. Modi had talked about empowering the poor, rather than  sticking to the Nehruvian framework that talks of distributing only freebies to the poor in the form of one subsidy or the other, rather than attacking the very base which makes people poor.

Modi is right whenever he says that genuine reforms will only eradicate poverty in the country. But his first year in office has not seen many such bold reforms. Of course, one of the reasons for this is that he does not command a legislative majority in the Upper House of the Parliament; the opposition parties here have combined well under the leadership of the Congress party, which is hell bent on stalling everything that Modi wants in the field of reforms. It is true that Modi has managed some important legislations by breaking the opposition unity in the Upper House, but on some crucial legislations pertaining to land acquisition (so vital for industrialisation) and uniform indirect taxes all over the country, he has failed.

However, my problem with Modi is his poor pace in bringing about some vital administrative reforms that do not require immediate legislative support or approval. There have been no major administrative reforms such as Police reforms and out-of-the box measures in the education and health sectors. If Modi really wants that the manufacturing sector should produce about one-third of the country’s GDP (at the moment it is less than 18 per cent) as that will provide our youth employment and the nation wealth, then he should focuss in the beginning more on the country’s research and education than on the foreign investors. We really do not have enough employable youth. We do not have adequate manpower to absorb the foreign technology and handle transfer of technology. We may have huge manpower with formal degrees, but what about their talents?

In fact, rather than producing useless college or university degrees that our present education policy leads to, we should make vocational education compulsory for two years after the 10th standard. It is after the compulsory vocational education for two years that students should be allowed in universities for higher studies. This, in turn, will have two desirable results. One, we will have employable skilled personnel who may choose to be small-scale entrepreneurs themselves or join the small and medium scale industries, the real source of a nation’s wealth in the ultimate analysis. It will popularise the concept of “dignity of labour” in the country. Two, because of this education policy, those who intend to pursue higher studies will add to the quality of the higher education of the country because they will be better taught with better infrastructure (because of their smaller number). Let it be noted that under the present policy of higher education which produces degrees rather than talents, India has got the notorious distinction of not having a single university which is in the first 200 of global rankings. No wonder why those who are really good migrate to foreign universities.

However, all said and done, Modi has got a mandate for five years. Only one year has gone by. One hopes that an astute politician that he is, Modi will take the necessary steps not only to fulfill his poll promises but also to deal with the perception (and ultimately politics is based on perceptions) that he is rapidly losing sheen. As I have argued before, the main maker of the perception about him is “the Delhi establishment”, which includes Delhi bureaucracy, Delhi intelligentsia and Delhi media. Deeply committed to Nehruvianism, the Delhi establishment is yet to reconcile with what it virtually thinks to be a hostile takeover by Modi, a rank outsider. Its hostility towards Modi is going to increase in the days to come, particularly when Modi is not able to deliver his promises. In fact, as regards the media, anti-Modi elements, ironically, are becoming stringer and stronger with each passing day, belying their earlier fears of a Fascist Modi. They continue to dominate even today the media controlled or funded by the government.

In sum, Modi has not done enough to live up to the hopes he had given to the Indians last year. He still talks too much. It is time to work, rather hard.

By Prakash Nanda

prakashnanda@udayindia.in

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