By Vijay Darda | 25-05-2015
A year is almost like an eternity in politics. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is completing a year in office. But this does not sound like such a long time and it appears that things are still tentative. There has been an articulation of ideas and there is also the temptation to draw a conclusion that he continues to be in an election mode – long on promises and short on delivery. But let us resist this temptation.
This is going to be a week when we shall be hearing a lot many voices on Modi sarkar’s performance. As I add my own bit to these I have to point out that no one refers to it as a BJP or NDA government and the default nomenclature completely identifies it with Modi’s persona. So logically all the bouquets and brickbats fall at his doorstep.
Interestingly more telling than the criticism of the opposition and his rivals has been the attitude of his friends and supporters. He came to power last year riding high on the hopes of the business class, the middle class and the bulk of the non-Congress voices. For his rivals, the Gujarat model always had an element of doubt but for his supporters this was a proven commodity. Now we get to hear voices that Gujarat is not India and something that worked in Gandhinagar need not succeed in Lutyen’s Delhi. In fact it is the disappointment of the friends that weighs more heavily on the Modi sarkar than the criticism of the opposition.
The gap between promise and performance is being highlighted in media surveys, and the one published by our own Lokmat group also underscores the reality that the dream of ‘Acche Din’ that was the core theme of the Modi campaign has remained unrealised. There have been no steps that would encourage the farmers to believe that there is now a government in place that cares for them. The same holds true for the salaried middle class that had pinned high hopes on the Modi sarkar. More worrying for the social fabric of the nation is the perception that the Modi sarkar is firmly under the control of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh that has always followed a different agenda. Its ministers pay regular visits to the Sangh offices and take their instructions from these functionaries. All this erodes the people’s confidence in the government.
For a country of India’s size, complexities, diversity and challenges, it is not likely that we shall ever reach a position where we have conquered all our devils. It has to be an ongoing process of necessity and this makes it imperative that we always move in the right direction with firm steps. The prime task of the prime minister is to ensure that this direction is not lost. The details of the micro management can be left to the others. Though Modi is known to be very meticulous about the knitty gritty of every situation. In fact when the time comes after four years now, this is the parameter on which he will be judged.
In this respect, the year can be summed up thus – good but could be better. The basis of this assessment is that simply there have been almost no glitches. Yes, the tall talk and bragging could have been made more prime ministerial but the fact that we have not suffered any major catastrophe is by itself something to cheer. Such is the global atmosphere of gloom. Other countries aren’t really shining, and we too have to muddle through our daily lives.
There is the well-founded charge that Modi is simply recycling the old UPA ideas. His right wing critics almost blame him for being a Congress like socialist. The one single reason is that having described MNREGA as the biggest shame, his government continues to pump in more money into it. Well for those with such inclinations, the only message is that you are welcome to the real world of governing India. The situational constraints do not permit radical course correction. It is good political rhetoric to blame everything on ‘60 years of no governance’ as it does help you win an election but that is the only distance you can travel on this speech making. Governance has its own imperatives. It is not expected that Modi would concede this, but the fact that he acts likewise gives him good marks for his pragmatism. Imagine the disastrous consequences if his actions were to match his pre-election rhetoric on Pakistan and China.
The problems of poverty, Pakistan and China did no arise overnight, and nor can these be resolved with any quick fix. But no politician would ever get elected to any high office without making the promise that he has a magic solution for everything. The people also know that the magic wand does not exist. Their only hope is that the magician at least delivers a fraction of his promise. Hence there was no public outrage when Amit Shah used the expression political jumla in he context of black money. No one in his right senses would vote for a party merely because it promises to deposit Rs 15 lakhs in his bank account. Modi’s party got only 31 per cent of the popular vote share and this is evidence enough that at least 7 out ten Indian voters were not deluded by this promise.
The nation would perhaps be served better if the bitterness on evidence in the Parliament is taken out. The responsibility for this rests squarely on the prime minister, and the initiative for this has to come from him. Then if the opposition does not respond, it would be a different story. Taking the ordinance route and holding out every legislation as a fait accompli is hardly the way to achieve this goal. Nor can it be anybody’s argument that just because the government has a brute majority in the Lok Sabha it can ride rough shod over the Rajya Sabha. Experienced and wiser minds in the government know better than following this approach.
Though we do not have such ideological constructs operating in our polity, the BJP represents the right of the centre in the political spectrum and the Congress is on the left. These positions may not survive strict academic scrutiny, but for the facility of argument can serve as dividing parameters. But the moot point is serving the national interest beyond such divides. In this respect, Modi sarkar has to deliver for India’s sake. The politics of it all will play out as per its own logic and dynamics, but the prime minister of India has no option but to succeed for the people’s sake. His articulation of the Indian aspirations and dreams has to be flawless and his delivery on that promise immaculate. There is no room for any ambiguities on this count. With a few exceptions and within the limits of their personalities, all prime ministers have been at this job.
Before I conclude…
I deeply mourn the passing away of the 68-year-old KEM nurse Aruna Shanbaug. The struggle of her life has lessons for us, and we can ignore these only at our peril. The sisters at KEM took care of her for 42 years, and fought against the ‘right to die’. But that heroic struggle does not take away from us the responsibility of ensuring ‘dignity in death’ for every citizen. The onus rests on the society to make very life meaningful. There are no simplistic solutions, no straightforward answers. Yet the questions have to be addressed and the issues resolved.