Since it was last year on 23 May that Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his party to a second successive term in the government winning highest number of Lok Sabha seats for the BJP, it becomes imperative to have a close look at the achievements and failures of the government carrying his brand and deep imprint.
Though technically his six years in office would be complete on 25 May because he was sworn in on 26 May by the then President Pranab Mukherjee but since electoral results of the Lok Sabha elections were announced on 16 May in 2014 and 23 May in 2019 it is the right time to clinically scrutinize the style of governance that has sought to transform India not only into a global economy of five trillion US dollars by 2025 but a world leader.
There cannot be two opinions that any country that aspires to be a world leader has to have a strong and growing economy and that is why Modi government’s target of US$ five trillion was vocally loud but whether achievable was highly doubtful particularly after a disastrous demonetization that slowed the economic growth by at least two percent if not more.
After massive setback of demonetization to the country’ economy, the Modi government rushed to usher in Goods and Services Tax (GST) in a hurry without preparing the ground and putting in place required mechanisms that unsettled the business in a way that the government had to bring in scores of changes. The bad implementation of a good measure like the GST further slowed down the economic growth.
In his firm conviction that being the supreme leader of his party who is a min vote catcher, nothing should be done without his clearance, Modi has created a supra monitoring and implementing behemoth in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) concentrating powers which has hit at the basic roots of federalism. Problem is that while the powerful PMO can monitor and supervise policy implementation and execution of decisions at a macro level, it is impossible to have results at the micro level because implementation ultimately is done by states and its agencies.
Two successive missteps created such a turbulence in the country’s economy that unemployment began to grow touching a record level of 41 years with joblessness more pronounced in rural sector that confirmed a growing crisis in the agricultural sector. As a result, demand began to shrink and supply to grow.
Being the followers of an economic ideology that stoutly opposes creation of demand by empowering the common man as the conservative political establishment world over hates giving doles since such disbursal make people lazy and work shirkers, the Modi government gave more relief to big industry and business. These policies led to furthering lowering of the economic growth.
While the GDP was falling, Modi personally was nursing so many fancy dreams. As the Gujarat chief minister, he had built the tallest statue of Sardar Patel. Building and constructing big and fanciful projects are his weakness so that his name could be associated with these projects. Many leaders of his kind including kings and emperors have pursued this path and Modi too being a supreme leader in whom people have reposed faith is following the same path.
Following the same line of thinking of making the national capital more modern, Modi decided to launch the remaking of New Delhi-by redeveloping central vista that is going to have a new parliament complex, a residence for the prime minister, new buildings for ministries and a new grand secretariat demolishing about 100 years old structures created by the British without even a discussion in either parliament or through a public debate. The new central vista project is going to cost the national exchequer Rs 20,000 crore and above. It is not important to leaders like him whether such a project is needed at present or not or whether there are other important priorities of a nation that is aspiring to make its people happy and strong.
On the contrary, the Modi government has been asking the people to make sacrifices by stealing their savings. All along its tenure of six years, the government has appropriated not only the RBI reserves of 1.76 lakh crores but has also benefited from deposits of common citizens including senior citizens on whose savings interest rates have been brought down from 8.5 percent to 5 percent and lower.
The Modi government is not only recklessly indulging in extravagant projects like redevelopment of central vista but also buying two Boeing 777 wide bodied aircraft that have been specially designed and customized to ensure the safety and security and are going to cost Rs 8458 crores to the national exchequer.
The US State Department on 6 February last year had cleared the Government of India to purchase two Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures Self-Protection Suites (SPS)for a pair of Boeing-made 777 aircraft. The systems, which come with an estimated Rs 190 million that is roughly Rs 1357 crores, are normally used for “head of the state”,
In simple words, the Modi government was spending more than it was earning as revenues began to shrink as economic growth slowed down reducing the tax collection and even while this was happening came the corona virus that hit the national economy hard shattering into shambles.
Modi had won people’s confidence by selling big dreams like bullet rains, smart cities, new life styles and many more fanciful projects and then he sat on the highest executive chair traveling across the world making more bigger promises, in six years, the country stands on a ruined economy decade away from reaching the target of having a US$ 5 trillion economy and millions struggling to make both ends meet.
(Dr Satish Misra is an author, researcher and senior journalist. Views expressed are personal)