A Year Of Deliverance
From day one Modi and his party colleagues knew that the burden of expectations on him was huge and he would have to stand up to far greater level of public scrutiny than his predecessors. As Modi completes one year in office, the yardstick for evaluating and analysing his performance will have to be different than what was there for Manmohan Singh or Atal Bihari Vajpayee, or PV Narshimha Rao, not to mention other predecessors, VP Singh, Chandrashekher, Deve Gowda and IK Gujaral
Waqt Badal Chuka Hai Doston , that is how Prime Minister Narendra Modi described completion of one year in office. He kept on repeating this one-line before a chanting, cheering and whistling Indian Diaspora in Shanghai.
Since this came on May 16, 2015 exactly a year after people of India delivered an emphatic verdict, absolute majority to Narendra Modi led BJP, his speech telecast live domestically became kind of an address to his social constituents, if not the nation. He had reasons to be elated and make self laudatory claims. It was by sheer coincidence or by design that he happened be in China, the mighty neighbour about whose India has always been suspicious. But the kind of reception he got there was indicative of the fact that that this time around India and Indian Prime Minister was being held high in standing.
Modi by now has become a world leader. The world is curious to know more about him and he is curious to know the world. Ironically, something he and party calls an achievement has become single biggest item of taunt from his political rivals and critics. His critics may be harsh on him but Modi challenge lay in making 125 crore Indians feel that the time, as he says, has changed in last one year. A year could be too less a time to change fate of the nation and its people, as big and as diverse as India but then there were many who thought Modi to be one stop solution for the term development as they perceived from their own varied perspective.
A year ago the BJP’s catch phases, Acche din and Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas caught popular fancy and Abki Bar Modi Sarkar became a reality. He achieved something that no other leader and party could achieve for the last 30 yearsâ€”an absolute majority in Lok Sabha on its own.
It was no mean achievement given the fact that BJP is practically a north Indian party. Across the Vindhyas in South, Karnataka is only state where it had an effective organisation presence, in almost whole of eastern India the BJP used to put up only a token fight. But after Indira Gandhi, Modi perhaps was the only name that has reached to most household, without organisational support. Even those who did’t vote for him passionately debated for him. It was one election where Modi, more than 10 years of UPA’s had became an issue. That is not to suggest that a scam tainted UPA’s misadventures didn’t shape public mind. Laced with powerful oratory and an able administrator Gujarat track record was taken to be a development messiah. His rivals stress or even obsessions with painting him as a communalist demon ended up giving him a victim tag and polarising around 40 (BJP and its allies taken together) in his favour.
Modi had broken several conventional beliefs and had dominant section of political analysts wrong. While speaking in Shanghai and several other places, Modi in his characteristic style keep on reminding them of their pre-16 May 2014 observations, who knows Modi outside of Gujarat, what will happen to Indian’s foreign policy if he wins, the world will not accept him as leader. But instead of being scared of him, he became flavour of the day. He was voted decisively to power at a time when it was believed that the days of single party rule was over and post-poll coalition had become new political order.
Thus from day one Modi and his party colleagues knew that the burden of expectations on him was huge and he would have to stand up to far greater level of public scrutiny than his predecessors. As Modi completes one year in office, the yardstick for evaluating and analysing his performance will have to be different than what was there for Manmohan Singh or Atal Bihari Vajpayee, or PV Narshimha Rao, not to mention other predecessors, VP Singh, Chandra-shekher, Deve Gowda and IK Gujaral.
Modi unexpectedly began on a strong diplomatic note, taking everyone by surprise by inviting heads of governments of all neighbouring countries. In his first Independence Day speech from Red Fort he touched heart of millions in the country. For the first time, at least in the recent past a Prime Minister was talking also on social issues, which concerned almost every household, particularly about their outlook towards girls, health hygiene conditions and basic cleanliness. He spoke in a language that was understandable to everyone. Sauchalaya and Swach Bharat became the new mission mode projects.
While doing so, during the last one year Modi, has presented himself not just as the head of the government at the centre, but as a motivational political leader of the government who was constantly seeking to inject self confidence and inner belief among people at large. He would talk about team India and cooperative federalism.
Last fortnight he chose to be in Kolkata to launch his ambitious social security schemes for common men. While sharing dais with West Bengal chief minister and his one time most bitter critic Mamata Banerjee he yet again raised the delivery pitch for himself, she also knows that it’s a legacy issue of past 60 years (limited banking facilities) and it is only I who can deliver. He could make that boastful claim there, because he had successfully implemented his Jan Dhan Yojna and was launching three social security schemes for common men. The argument is Modi on his part never toned down expectations from him, but continuously kept on raising the bar.
Modi is, no doubt seen to be working overtime and energetically doing things but Achhe Din, promised with resounding echo in each of his pre-election public meetings, is not being felt to the ordinary citizens, at least the way they looked at it with their varying perspectives.
He succeeded in transforming the general public mood from despondency and gloom to that of bubbling expectancy. But it cuts both ways. Heightened expectations and aspirations can breed discontent, if a matching delivery is not made at their door steps. Skill India, Digital India, Make in India, etc which have potential to create jobs are all long term projects, No body really knows how well has the skill development ministry (specially created by Modi) started functioning and whether it has been successful in putting its ideas in practice. Digital India concept first needs a greater clarity on net neutrality. For Make in India procedural ease of business, rational tax structure and land acquisition are essential requisites.
On completion of one year in office his colleagues in party and the government are buoyant. The BJP leaders argue that the biggest achievement of this regime is that the government is visible on the ground. The government had been prompt in responding, seen and acting in any emergency. Be it flood in Jammu and Kashmir, earthquake in Nepal, Bihar or crisis in Yemen.
Whether Modi government has been able to come up to expectations in terms of delivery, the BJP leaders get back to talking about legacy issues, of the scams, bottlenecks, potholes and economy in shambles, which the inherited from 10 years of UPA rule at the centre. They then contrast with the good solid foundation, which Vajpayee government had left when the NDA lost power to the UPA in 2004.
Parliament is central to the concept of parliamentary democracy. Modi government has succeeded in making Parliament work overtime and in last one year pass 47 bills but the ordinance on land acquisition has not got mandatory approval from the parliament. The bill is now pending before a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament. Taxation reform legislation GST, a constitutional amendment bill, has been passed by the Lok Sabha but had to be sent to Select Committee in Rajya Sabha.
But then Modi government was expected to handle much better on some of the issues, which generated disquiet among his core support base and controversy among people at large. The government could have avoided sending retrograde taxation (MAT) notices, which many termed as has been termed as tax terrorism. So was rolling out of a lengthy and intrusive annual Income Tax Return Form which all tax payers were obliged to file. An instant outpouring of anger forced the government to clarify and withdraw that form. While the new saral form is awaited, the apprehensions have not died down. Petro prices are once again going up and rupees vis-Ã -vis dollar is being devalued.
The party also has to blame itself for letting the fringe characters within RSS, Sangh Parivar and the BJP hijack the headlines – all for wrong reasons and derail what top leadership later said â€œderail the development agendaâ€ of Modi government. These statements also put a question mark on â€˜Sabka Saath Sabka Ka Vikasâ€™ catch phrase. They have lately been tamed for now but the danger of them sprouting yet again is always there.
Much to the discomfort of Modi government, media after writing Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi off, is showing renewed interest in him. Thankfully for the ruling BJP, Rahul seriously erred and scored a self goal by raising Amethi Food Park issue in Parliament.
Talking about the importance of May 16, 2014 popular mandate, Modi said â€œDukh Bhare din Bite Re Bhaiyaâ€. That was portrayal of belief in him but people at large would like hasten the pace of deliver, so that the next line of same song, â€œsukh bhare din ayo reâ€, could be completed.