Modi’s plans fail to dazzle

The Modi magic still lingers, perhaps more as theatre

When Krishna is the charioteer, Arjuna’s arrows cut through the darkness and sheer clarity is produced. This is the saving grace in an environment in which unquestioning adulation of rulers supplants fidelity to the basic laws of journalism, especially on Indian television.

The international price of crude has been falling significantly — and consistently — since June this year but the price of vegetables, even the poor man’s onions, has hardly relented. The universal perception of high inflation persists.

Five months have gone by since the election, but no policy has been introduced to boost small and medium industry which provides the most industry sector employment.

The Narendra Modi government is seen as strongly pro-big business. So, big business lives on hope, and that’s the reason media segments enjoying its backing continue to manufacture consent for the government. But no clear-cut forward movement is discernible even for big industry. The government’s stability is not in doubt, but its economics brains trust floats on doubtful premises, if it exists at all.

In the rural sector, the poorest are under severe attack from the government, boosting the perception this is a rich man’s government. MGNREGA was devised as an anti-poverty scheme by the United Progressive Alliance and it costs the exchequer less than 0.5 per cent of the GDP. It benefited up to 100 lakh of our poorest citizens. But intimations of its demise look imminent. The labour-earning and employment component of the programme is being shrunk. This will help contractors gain, especially those in cahoots with the government. This will also negatively impact rural consumer spending, and through it the economy. Spending by the rural poor who earned MGNREGA wages had rescued the Indian economy in 2007 and 2008 when the world was in an economic crisis.

In the face of such doubtful evidence of the “achche din” or “happy times” that Mr Modi promised six months ago, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah informs us that coalitions belonged to an era of lesser leaders, while majority governments are produced when a “great leader” arrives on the scene. He is, no doubt, thinking of his own master, the Prime Minister, never mind if in the process he is traducing the legacy of Atal Behari Vajpayee, an earlier BJP Prime Minister held in some esteem in the country.

But Maharashtra could not deliver a BJP majority in spite of the mess left behind by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime, although the “great leader” had long made his entry. The BJP president was a political fixer and practitioner of the black arts for Mr Modi in Gujarat, a state where he still faces trial for pursuing unsavoury causes. Under his organisational guidance, his party lost a dozen key Assembly seats in the crucial recent byelections in Uttar Pradesh, although communal violence had thoughtfully been introduced into the mix before the polling.

The Modi magic still lingers, perhaps more as theatre than by touching lives on the ground. But its mere existence strikes fear in his party and among his colleagues. Mr Shah is a clear beneficiary here, but he seems the exception on whom the PM relies.

Otherwise, South Block is tenanted by a lady rendered timid by circumstances. North Block is in the hands of wary and resentful old-timers. For the rest, caution is the watchword and depleting political anxiety replaces all else. “Adhinayakvad” is indeed the current flavour.

Of the national security adviser, not much is known except that he hasn’t received minister’s rank (unlike his predecessors), and hence the Chinese won’t treat him as an interlocutor of suitably high status on border delineation affairs, preventing talks from being re-started.

If economic policies are not yet quite enabling, and the political culture is enmeshed in the fog of mistrust and sycophancy, foreign affairs and security have received one setback after another, and seem to be in a state of disarray.

Next Story