Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Uninspiring season


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Election season is time for political stocktaking. Questions are increasingly asked – has India recorded any major feat under the 10 years of the Modi rule? Modi’s two terms in power were, generally speaking, neither disastrous nor inspiring. India’s achievements were ‘modest’ in these years while the political and economic stability was remarkable in a nation seen as a ‘noisy democracy’. By his leadership aura, Modi silenced his detractors across the political spectrum. Yet, the positives thereof could not be effectively transformed into a leap forward for the nation on the economic or other fronts. This was unlike what China did in the first 10 years of this century and is still carrying forward with a new vigour after the Covid 19 disaster. On the doorsteps of the parliament polls, Modi as also the nation must ponder why.
Human resource of nearly 1.5 billion was the principal strength on which China built its might. India has as much of a population, yet tapping their energies required the eminent presence of good leadership. There was need to refine the systems. What the 10 years of Modi dispensation can claim, principally, was the rolling out of market reforms; the introduction of a unified market taxation system, which is helping the nation’s coffers swell. This money has been put mainly into the infra development sector. This is appreciable if not for the apprehension that huge chunks of cuts went into the BJP kitty from this funding. Hints were evident from a CAG report. Overall, the industrial sector failed to grow in substantive ways due largely to the play of bureaucratic and political corruption via the licence raj. This undercut the cause of job creations. If courts were expected to deliver justice in legal matters across the spectrum, it remains in a hopeless state for most part and only very important cases are being attended to in the normal course. Cases drag on for decades. Justice delayed means justice denied. Modi slept over such matters. He showed a lack of nerve to change the decadent and corrupt systems, evident also in the near-total ineffectiveness of the central investigation agencies like ED and CBI, other than in fixing Modi’s political rivals like Arvind Kerjiwal. Their officials too are making hay.
When neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka are in an economic mess, the Indian economy is doing relatively better and exports went up, thanks to the favourable monsoons helping the farm sector perform impressively. The government’s contribution in this is nominal. Modi’s farm reforms were abandoned midway for fear that powerful sections of farmers in the North would undercut BJP’s electoral prospects. Overall, under Modi, things have not turned from bad to worse, but there also has not been a quantum jump in the ease of living of the Indian population with inflation touching the ceiling. Whether the electorate will weigh the pros and cons of the Modi rule with pragmatism is another matter.


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