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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 23, May 30, 2015

On Modi Government’s First Anniversary

Sunday 31 May 2015, by SC


The Narendra Modi Government completed one year in office on May 26, that is, last Tuesday. How has the country fared in the last one year?—that is the biggest question in the people’s mind now. As far as the middle class is concerned, there are sharp differences of opinion on the achievements of the Modi dispensation in the year that has gone by. This is clear from The Times of India’s poll on various issues that appeared in the newspaper on May 26. On the front page the second lead gave the TOI’s assessment of the yearlong feats of the ruling dispensation asserting that “our own rating of the Modi Government adds up to 77.5 on 100 or 77.5 per cent which qualifies as ‘Distinction’ and is a laudable achievement” while the TOI-Ipsos poll (published on May 16) “had given the government 66 per cent approval rating, with 19 per cent saying ‘very good’ and another 47 per cent saying ‘somewhat good’“. The publication had then (on May 16) given the headline for the relevant report as “First-year exam: Modi Govt gets First Division, but not Distinction”.

Inside pages of the May 26 issue provide a more balanced picture. One report reads:

One reason why Narendra Modi led his party to victory was that he held out hope for millions of Indians — hope for achche din based on job creation. In his election campaign, Modi vowed jobs as a first step towards prosperity. So, how has this sarkar done on jobs?

Although it’s too early for comprehensive employment data, indicators point towards a lukewarm performance, nowhere near the promised magical transformation.

Another underlines:

The Congress sold UPA’s 2013 land acquisition law, telling farmers their land could no longer be taken away without their consent, as was happening since the British enacted the 1894 Act. And it is panning PM Narendra Modi’s Act underlining that land can again be acquired irrespective of owners’ wishes. Eager to push the legislation stuck in Parliament for over seven months, Modi’s challenge lies in allaying fears that the 2015 law sets India back to 1894. And, that has made the political management of the controversial law a hot-button issue.

A third points out:

PM Modi has made repeated pleas to partymen, from Ministers to MPs, to exercise restraint on communal remarks. His intervention came late. While it has resulted in the prominent hotheads going quiet, the divisive rhetoric and the now-suspended campaign of re-conversion, beef ban in BJP-ruled States and alleged attacks on churches have given rise to disquiet among Muslims and Christians. Occasional riots have disturbed peace across States.

And the public mood is brought out in the Times Now poll (also carried in the same issue of the TOI). As many as 52.9 per cent gave an emphatic ‘no’ to the question “Has the government delivered on black money?” To the query “Has the government delivered on inflation?” 53.7 per cent of the respondents said it had failed to do so.

A year ago, on May 16, it was written in these columns in a ‘Political Notebook’ (“Modi Wins Massive Anti-Congress Mandate”) by B.D.G.:

According to well-informed observers, a large part of Modi’s success in north India (in Bihar and UP in particular) was attributable to consolidation of Hindu votes due to communal polarisation, in which Modi’s accomplice, Amit Shah, as the party’s election manager in UP, played a pivotal role. No wonder minorities, mainly the Muslims, are feeling apprehensive after the results have come out. And the secular democrats are also deeply concerned.

The sense of apprehension among the minorities and the deep concern among the secular democrats have been enhanced substantially in the last one year. The attacks on churches and desecration of mosques in different parts of north India have only heightened these feelings among those wedded to the concept of a secular India.

As for The Times of India, it represents the views of corporate India and dominant sections of the middle class besides those in the ‘rich’ category. If Modi does not get categoric support even from these people, its policies should be deemed to have failed. It was striking that the publication, while reporting on the rally Modi held in Mathura to observe the first anniversary of his coming to power, gave the heading: “PM Kicks Off 2nd year with Strong Message to ‘Dalals, Damaads and Sons’”. This signified that the PM was now shifting focus from governance to politics. That is also evident in the report of his frontal attack on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul today.

These are sufficient indications of the fact that the PM and his cohorts have lately become aware that the public mood towards Modi has changed and his honeymoon with the electorate was over.

In this context much significance is being attached to the observations of the Economist of London on the Modi Government’s one-year performance. The publication is in on way opposed to Modi’s neo-liberal policies—on the contrary it fully backs them. In its view, Modi is ‘India’s one-man band’ who ‘has concentrated more power in his own hands than any Prime Minister in recent memory’; and it unhesitatingly points out that his ‘progress has been frustratingly slow’ that can in no way be attributed to ‘a lack of opportunity’. The Economist also avers that Modi’s record has been ‘underwhelming’.

It would be foolhardy for Modi and his associates in the government and party (BJP) to ignore these opinions coming from such a prestigious London publication.

It is time the PM, instead of continually donning the electoral battle-gear, got down to concentrate on the real business of governance for ensuring the upliftment of the bulk of the people, especially those below the poverty line, and without undermining social cohesion that the Sangh Parivar activists are out to destroy. BJP President Amit Shah’s latest soundbytes in this regard perhaps mirror some change in thinking.

Yet, given their history, one wonders if Modi and/or Shah can truly rein in the Hindutva hotheads and whether they are genuinely interested in doing so. Their past records do not inspire any confidence. And they have hardly shown any decisive move on this score in the past year. Rather, as Julio Ribeiro, Mumbai’s former top cop, has noted in a signed article, the Modi Government’s priority seems to be “fixing Greenpeace and Teesta Setalvad” to settle old scores.

This betrays a sectarian outlook unbecoming of a national leader the PM claims to be.

May 28 S.C.