Shravan Garg CHANGING THE RULES OF THE GAME

Standard

OW DO WE DESCRIBE the story of Narendra Modi’s one year in office as the Prime Minister seeking to address the aspirations of 1.22 billion people? Should we analyse the contributions of the former Gujarat chief minister in improving the lives of millions of Indians or should we try to describe how India will look like when the NDA completes its term of five years? Also, what are the chances of Modi still continuing as the unchallenged leader?

While we may not dwell on the successes or failures of Modi’s rule, one thing is certain: Modi has successfully changed the dynamics of politics that was in play over the past six decades or so. Modi cannot be expected to return to Gujarat now, to indulge in state politics. He has successfully shed his 2002

image. Although he was an RSSpracharak in the past, he would not want to return to the Sangh’s organisational fold.

There was no opposition in Gujarat during the Modi Raj. While the Bharatiya Janata Party was the ruling party in the state, one cannot recall who the state president of the party was during Modi’s regime in Gandhinagar. Pravin Togadia’s VHP was almost non-existent or invisible during Modi’s chief ministership. Modi decided how the Sangh would function in Gujarat. Had Modi decided not to try his luck in Delhi, he would have continued for as long as Jyoti Basu’s unchallenged rule in West Bengal. But neither Modi was Basu nor the B JP CPM.

Narendrabhai is now repeating his Gujarat experiment and experience in a ‘Modified’ and customised manner which could well suit both the health and fears of Delhi. Modi knows well how the nation’s capital behaved when Emergency was imposed in June 1975 by Indira Gandhi. He had also seen how people started crawling when they were asked to merely bend. Mrs Gandhi was both the prime minister and the ‘Congress party’. There was no space for any kind of dissent in the party. She was a firm believer in the country needing a strong Centre. As a re­sult, the Congress did not have any strong chief ministers in the states.

Mrs Gandhi had every other advan­tage except one that Narendra Modi has. While Mrs Gandhi may have been leading a weak party, she was faced with a determined Opposition which ultimately ensured her ouster from power in 1977-

Modi has potential to establish himself as another Mrs Gandhi, Mrs Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir of Israel, but for that the country will have to wait till the Bihar elections are over. This election will decide whether Nitish Kumar can prove to be another Arvind Kejriwal or if Patliputra will give way to Modi to fulfil his global ambitions. The revolt of Jitanram Manjhi against Nitish was not engineered in Patna and must have been part of a grand Amit Shah strategy. If Manjhi succeeds in dividing the vote bank of Nitish and Lalu, nothing will stop Modi from taking over an important state.

Uttar Pradesh would then pose no problems for Modi. Polarisation of voters is already deep rooted in the state. Therefore, there is no reason for Modi to get perturbed by what Arun Shourie or Deepak Parekh may have publicly pronounced about his government’s performance.

In fact, Modi may still be judging the mood of the country, his own party, the Sangh, opposition parties, captains of industry and world leaders in general and
our neighbours in particular, before he actually starts working on his hitherto undisclosed agenda. On would not be surprised if Modi is doing his own assessment of his government’s performance, caring two hoots for people like Rahul Gandhi. The Congress vice-president gave zero out of ten to the prime minister as far as farmers and labourers were concerned and ten out of ten to the government for dolling out benefits to corporates. Con­trary to what Rahul Gandhi has alleged, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh only said that impatience had begun to show among businessmen as nothing had changed in the first nine months of the Modi government.

How does one know whether a government is perform­ing or not. When asked, a senior person close to the ruling party shared his personal thoughts thus: Modiji wants to do hundreds of things but an atmosphere has been created, deliberately or otherwise, of caution, apprehen­sion and fear, among ministers and bureaucrats in Delhi. There are ministers who were in the race for prime min­istership with Modi. While some states are being ruled by the B JP, there are others that are being ruled by parties op­posed to the B JP in general and Modi in particular. There are some B JP chief ministers who were being publicly equated with Modi in terms of competence and projected for the top post. All these factors are not being taken into account while assessing the performance of Modi.

Judging Modi’s performance on the strength of figures would be misleading. The loyalists would generate reams of paper to list out achievements. The detractors, on the other hand, will also play their part as stakes are high for both sides. But one thing is certain, whether one likes it or not, Modi is going to stay. The question is whether he is going to change himself and accommodate others. The result of the Delhi assembly elections had answered this question partly. Bihar will provide the full answer. Modi’s actual performance will start from the day Bihar results will be out. Let us wait and watch.

ONEYEAROFMODI Ashishkumar Chauhan BETTING ON A CLL INDIA

Standard

 

HE ELECTION WHICH BROUGHT Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power year ago was fought in the backdrop of high inflation, unemployment, fiscal and trade deficits as well as allegations of corruption and anger against the administrative and political elites.

Almost all these issues were structural in nature, and hence, were not expect­ed to be solved within a short period of 12 months. Viewed from this angle, the B JP government’s singular achievement has been to bring down the inflation rate from 11.16 per cent in November 2013 to 4.87 per cent in April this year.

True, many experts have attributed the reduction in the inflation rate to external forces such as the fall in prices of crude oil, agricultural commodi-

 

ties and gold worldwide. However, in the past, despite a favourable external scenario, the country had witnessed high inflation.

The government was successful in containing fiscal deficit substantially, despite the huge reduction in revenue on account of the cut in ‘ad valorem’ duty on petroleum products. If one thinks that low and stable inflation rate is a pre-condition for a stable and growing society, then In­dia is coming closer to that objective today. Fiscal, revenue and trade deficits were managed with the highest-ever foreign exchange reserves of $352 billion.

The government is also taking several steps to augment infrastructure. In all his foreign trips, Modi has focused primarily on attracting foreign investment for the manufacturing sector. It is also to the credit of the government that norms for investments in defence, insur­ance and several other sectors have been relaxed to make India more attractive for foreign companies. The defence production strategy, which makes military procurement conditional upon making the equipment in India, will not only create a large number of jobs but also make the country a hub for hi-tech defence manufacturing in the future.

The single-window framework and project management portal is creat­ing an enabling environment for the Prime Minister’s Office to track prog­ress of important projects on a real­time basis. Projects worth more than Rs 6,00,000 crore — in both private and public sectors — are being moni­tored. Mechanisms have been devised to coordinate with states and cities to expedite projects with periodic re­views taking place and hindrances to project implemen­tation removed in real time.

The concept of‘Team India’ — consisting of Prime Min­ister, other ministers and chief ministers of various states — has also been well received. Giving a larger percentage of taxes and other revenues to states are well-intentioned and allows for a more flexible approach to implementation on the ground.

Although initiated by the previous government, the new government has built on the direct transfer scheme based on the unique identification number platform and launched a massive drive to open more than 150 million bank ac­counts with the express aim of bringing a large number of unbanked people into the financial mainstream.

Creating social security schemes such as the accident cover linked to bank accounts, providing micro loans to account holders, launching a pension scheme with
more than 80 million registered users and giving them life insurance have been achievements unparalleled in India’s history. But these were not highlighted much in the ‘middle-class media’. Giving small loans to entrepreneurs through the Mudra (Micro Units Development and Refi­nance Agency) bank is a brilliant initiative. The Swacch Bharat initiative has also been well received and created awareness about much-needed cleanliness in India.

India is the largest consumer of gold, and gold imports account for nearly a third of the current account deficit. The gold monitisation scheme, which was announced in the Union Budget for 2015-16, will help meet India’s gold demand substantially, and will also improve its current account balance.

The prime minister’s vision to create 100 smart cities, with modern infrastructure to support the large-scale urbanisation without compromising the quality of life, is a necessity, if India wants to become a global leader in the next 20 years. The International Finance Centre (IFC) in Gujarat is one such welcome initiative. The setting up of IFC was part of Modi’s vision, which was supported by the Bombay Stock Exchange (the first stock exchange in the world to sign a memorandum of understanding with Gujarat International Finance Tec-City).

Moreover, infrastructure needs to be created for ports, airports, roads, factories, power, mining, etc. This will not only kick-off employment generation instantaneously, but will also create conditions for job creation in the medium to long term, which will help India in achieving its goal of Make in India.

The first year of the Modi government has seen tremen­dous energy and initiatives. Some of them have yielded results and others will do so over a period of time. If the prime minister continues with the same zeal for the next four years of his first term, I am sure India will progress much further and fulfil our dreams of a clean, equal and poverty-free India. ED

The author is managing director and chief executive officer of BSE