Mainstream, VOL LII No 37, September 6, 2014
First Hundred Days of Modi Government
Saturday 6 September 2014
The most striking feature of the first hundred days of the Modi Government that stands out in sharp relief is that the main plank of his election campaign—development—has taken a back seat while the RSS agenda, which Modi never highlighted in his campaign, is getting top priority partly of the government but mainly of his party, the BJP. The dissolution of the Planning Commission exposes Modi’s avowed commitment to development. The other big promise that he made was to bring back the black money stashed away in foreign banks within a hundred days of his governance. He has done precious little to deliver in this regard. In fact the economic policies of his government are a continuation of those of the UPA-II, with a discernible emphasis on directing the economy for the benefit of the private sector, both indigenous and foreign.
What Modi had not talked about at all during his poll campaign was his attitude to the philosophy and programme of the RSS though there were indications even then. Putting Amit Shah in charge of the poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh was one. And Shah did what he was appointed to do: to polarise the UP electorate sharply on communal lines during the elections in UP. Communal riots were organised at various places like Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, etc. The return was rich—the BJP won 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP. Modi rewarded Shah by anointing him the party President.
Simultaneously, a virulent anti-Muslim propaganda was let loose, spearheaded by people like Sangeet Som and Yogi Adityanath. This group spread malicious rumours against Home Minister Rajnath Singh that he and his son had been called by Modi and were given a dressing down because of some alleged wrong-doing by the Minister’s son. (Actually Rajnath sought to adopt a Vajpayee-like moderate approach in UP while Amit Shah, with Modi’s full support, backed Yogi Adityanath’s hate campaign against Muslims.) A hurt Rajnath threatened to quit politics if the charge about his son was proved. Taken aback, both Modi and Amit Shah issued quick contradictions to appease Rajnath. The Union Home Minister has survived for the present but the communal propaganda is getting shriller by the day.
Both Muslims and Christians are being targeted. The Muslims have already become panicky and are feeling alienated. A sharp polarisation on communal lines may not help the BJP and RSS because such a polarisation will be opposed by 69 per cent of the electorate which did not vote for Modi.
Modi also promised to rein in the run-away food price inflation within a hundred days of being sworn in as the PM. Nothing has happened so far and there is no indication of his government being able to bring down food prices or contain inflation in general within the foreseeable future. In fact, the corporate-driven growth initiated by the Manmohan Singh Government is continuing. As a result the priority on environment protection is being de-emphasised. Environmental clearance is no longer mandatory for a number of projects. Development, not in the interest of the people but in the interest of the industrialists and corporate sector, is the motto of the present government.
The only noticeable change of the new government is in the field of foreign policy. There is a conscious effort to forge better relations with our neighbours. Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar, followed by Modi’s visit to Nepal (where he assured the Nepalese leadership that India would not play the big brother) and now to Japan and the scheduled trip to Mayanmar are welcome. If India and Japan can set up a security architecture to offset Beijing’s growing military strength and its unilateral claims on foreign lands and seas, it will assure the smaller countries of South and South-East Asia.
In the case of Pakistan also, Modi wanted to break the deadlock by agreeing to hold Foreign Secretary-level talks in Islamabad but the recent developments in Pakistan, considerably weakening the position of Nawaz Sharif, and the intransigence of his government, presumably under pressure of the Army, put paid to that possibility. The rising border violations and inviting secessionist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir for talks with the Pakistan High Commissioner in Delhi were provocations aimed at scuttling the talks. (However, Modi’s knee-jerk reaction of calling off the FS-level talks played into the hands of the hawks in Islamabad.) It once again proved that it is not the elected government but the Army that calls the shots. If Nawaz Sharif has succeeded in riding out the storm it is precisely because of his close personal equation with the Army chief Raheel Sharif which only confirms the primacy of the Army in Pak politics.
The Congress was voted out of power because of its neo-liberal policies destroying the economy and spawning an umpteen number of financial scams. If Modi pursues the same policies, the economic situation is not likely to be much better. The marginal rise in GDP growth in the first quarter of the fiscal (April-June) does not prove the success of the Modi Government. As has been rightly pointed out by Congress spokespersons, the credit cannot go to the Modi Government because it took office only on May 26 and in so short a time his economic policy could not have had any impact on the GDP. Rather, the slight improvement is due to measures taken by the previous UPA Government.
The by-election results in four States did not show a sweeping BJP victory. By-elections to thirtythree Assembly and three Lok Sabha seats are going to be held on the 13th of this month. The Assembly elections to the four States will indicate the mood of the people about the Modi Government. The poll results will bring out the changes, if any, in the attitude of the electorate towards the Modi dispensation.
September 4 B.D.G.