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Is Modi back to square one?

Is Modi back to square one?
One year in power and India still remains the same ‘on-ground’. At least the newspaper headlines and various opinion columns seem to be suggesting this fact. After all, power generation continues to remain erratic and expensive and trains are still running late. India is a land of embedded ironies. Pillars of flourishing businesses have seemingly been erected on the foundation of deprivation and misery. It is also this very foundation on which the political ambitions (and castles- real ones) have been created. All politicians worth their salt, including the very flamboyant Narendra Modi have played on the ubiquitous emotion of destitution and the promise of a better future. The difference, in this case, was the sheer scale of his political campaign.

Expectations in the field of governance are often a one-way street. When a voter cast his/her vote last year, they expected change. Perhaps this is a good psychological explanation for why we   keep falling prey to the ‘get rich quick’ Ponzi /chit fund schemes because they promise instant results. Promise and Expectations are two pretty cousins of Hope, who aren’t always on good terms with each other. The problem is, Modi, in his enthusiastic bid to court all three, promised too much to too many, raised expectations to meteoric levels and doled out large packets of hope. 

This is clearly weighing on him now. For the public at large, his schemes are moving at the same pace as the Indian Railways. He is also often accused of being oblivious to ground realities, preferring to spend most of his time abroad and even doing a rejig on many UPA schemes by simply changing their names, thereby implying that he is, in effect, not working at all.  This writer is also one of those restless souls whose patience with the Modi Sarkar is melting faster than the arctic ice. This writer is deeply concerned about India’s progress, the health of our economy, the state of our defense forces, our standing in the world and the long-term prospects for the citizens of this country. In short, every citizen in India wants change ‘on the ground’. But then, Rome was not built in a day, nor was China.

There is a lot of hyperbole surrounding China these days. Experts pop up on television screens comparing the Chinese growth model to India’s. They all agree that China is ahead of India at least by a decade, if not more, in terms of development. In the same breath, they all expect Modi to bridge that gap within a year. To be fair to him, that is an expectation bordering on fantasy. One man did not change China, and certainly not in a year. In 1978, much before the fall of Soviet Union and the death of Marxist socialism, when Deng Xiaoping made the pivot towards free market economics, there were many skeptics. The naysayers lingered for over a decade, over the course China was taking under his leadership. 

There were the expected initial setbacks too, like rampant corruption, backfiring of policies, massive investments into infrastructure projects that required equally massive foreign loans, denationalisation of almost all government-run companies, converting them into major institutions and major banking reforms. Through sheer grit and political will, Deng managed to railroad his way through the hostile terrains. As Hank Paulson, the Former US Treasury secretary and former honcho of Goldman Sachs notes in his book, ‘Dealing with China’, Deng’s reformist policies were pursued by his successors long after he retired from active politics. Men like Zhu <g data-gr-id="90">Rhongji</g>, Li Peng, Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Wang <g data-gr-id="91">Quishan</g>, Xi Jin Ping and Li Keqiang, once workers and leaders later, have all been the forebearers of this leadership continuum, which catapulted China into the behemoth that it is today.

There are two types of effective leaders in this world- the Architects and the Gardeners. The architect has a blueprint for the smallest detail. Then there is the gardener, who has a simple vision of how his garden will look like, but he relies more on the quality of the seed that he sows and the soil that he digs. He then waits for the result (the plant) to take its own shape. Is Modi a gardener or an architect? Only time will tell. One is inclined to believe that he is a bit of both. There are the Macros, like the foreign policy, military up-gradation, economy and fiscal policies where he appears to have a solid blueprint and is going about them with a steely resolve. There is, after all, no historical example of a nation that ignored the above three factors and still managed to emerge as a world power. 

In many ways, India’s problems, self-induced mostly, have been rooted in these very aspects. As an architect of a long-term vision, Modi seems to be playing his cards on priority with a view at reinvigorating our nation’s once famous economic prowess and projecting our strength militarily and diplomatically. It will probably take a decade to see these efforts fructify and effectively trickle down to the common man. There are various sectors at home where he claims to have brought in change for the good. Then, there are the micro factors, like the Land Bill, One rank One Pension scheme, FDI reforms, majority-minority and ghar wapasi, among others, where he appears to be the ‘gardener’, silently watching, preaching patience. While his silence on the issue is, to use a clichéd term, deafening, the voter’s patience seems to be running out faster than oil reserves in Rajasthan.
India eagerly looks forward to seeing how he addresses local issues by the third year of his term, before arriving at any conclusions. My only submission is, let’s give the man a chance to lay out his vision and execute his plans. At the risk of sounding utterly simplistic, I can only advise patience to our fellow citizens. Judge him, we must, but not on a year’s performance and certainly not because the TV channels expect us to do so.
Mayank Kanungo

Mayank Kanungo

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