Monday, March 4, 2024

Modi — A balance sheet

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With Parliament ending its last session and the 17th Lok Sabha’s life effectively over since Saturday, the nation is set for the season of general elections. Notification to announce the election dates is expected soon. Without doubt, the BJP’s mass support has not dwindled thanks to the cautious manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi held the reins for two terms. The unalloyed fact, though, is that Modi has less to boast of by way of accomplishments. Ten years was what he sought for at the outset, in 2014, to change India for the better. This change, mostly, is evident in the highways sector and the number of airports and ports too rose. The more important railway sector, however, is ailing. Agreed, its budget has risen from 66,000 crore in 2014 to 2.8 lakh crore now – a three-fold increase – but the ground realities remain the same. India still does not have high-speed trains. The maximum speed is 160kmph, while the speed of trains in China is nearly 500kmph, and Bangladesh is working on a speed of 300kmph. Modi’s promised bullet train is still in the works. So much for infra development. Another prominent area is defence. There has been no major headway for India in this sector too, though border defences have been strengthened by way of infra-development. After the much-publicized Rafale deal, what more remains a big question.
The Modi dispensation’s main claims are increase in exports, the abrogation of Special Status for Jammu and Kashmir, its successful implementation without scope for violent upheavals, erection of the new parliament building, the solving of the Babri Majid dispute in Ayodhya, social welfare steps like the Jan Oushadhi that provided medicines at cheap rates or the PM Arogya Yogana insurance, the distribution of cooking gas cylinders to BPL families, the farmer-vendor pension schemes etc. Note that it was the UPA-II that introduced the subsidized foodgrains scheme for BPL families and the rural employment guarantee scheme – stellar steps — which the Modi government carried forward. On the infrastructure front, while national highways development has been impressive, the related funds mismanagement cited by CAG is a serious concern. Appreciably, Modi and his ministers are not seen to be corrupt, unlike in the UPA terms when looting the exchequer was normalised. Modi provided stability to the nation for two terms, as he acted shy and mostly avoided touching hot spots. There is only a marginal boost to the industrial and job creation fronts. On foreign relations, despite the handshakes, the gains are moderate. Overall, there is neither reason for jubilation nor distress about the way Narendra Modi ruled the nation for two terms. It is like a ship sailing away from the storm.

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