Modi’s 2 years show mixed results
There are many assessments – some flattering and some not so flattering - about Prime Minister Narendra Modi completing two years in office next week. While his supporters admire him, his critics and the opposition bash him for not fulfilling his poll promises. His voters are waiting patiently for the “achche din” he had promised during the campaign, but the problem confronting the Prime Minister is how to deliver his promises. Nobody knows this better than Modi himself that the election rhetoric cannot be delivered in five years.
There are many who feel that Modi must do some midway course correction, as the third year of his term will be crucial. He has already missed the opportunity of pushing hard decisions when the honeymoon period lasted. Modi is known for his energy and his drive. There are complex problems as there is a judiciary; there is Parliament, the belligerent opposition, natural calamities, a stubborn bureaucracy, and a vibrant media. All these need to be tackled.
It is not as if the Modi government has not done anything. In the first two years, he has come up with 46 innovative schemes like Make In India, Skill India, Swatch Bharat, Stand up India, insurance schemes, Ujjwala scheme, Jan Dhan Yojana, Crop insurance scheme to name a few. Many of them have been launched successfully but some lack proper implementation. This is where the committed bureaucracy, legislators, and Parliamentarians matter. That is why Modi has asked the BJP Members of Parliament to spend at least seven nights in a month in their respective constituency to propagate the government’s development initiatives.
The problem also arises because of the emergence of an aspirational class of voters who want a good life. With a 65 percent youth population, this was Modi’s strength during the 2014 polls when he promised good governance and development. However, the mismatch is the impatience of the voter in relation to the pace of development. If things don’t improve by next year, the disenchantment will begin to set in.
The daunting task before the Modi government is to revive the economy along with building a strong rapport with the distressed farming community and the creation of jobs for the youth. The Wall Street Journal noted on February 24, 2016 “For now, Mr. Modi appears to believe he can run India the same way he ran Gujarat. He has centralised authority in a powerful Secretariat and prefers working directly with bureaucrats rather than delegating to his cabinet colleagues. He often runs through checklists of stalled infrastructure and industrial projects himself.” On the plus side, the economy seems to be looking up with a 7.5 percent growth prediction for the next two years. Modi’s Gujarat experience, such as his willingness to woo investors and efforts to make doing business easier, yielded some dividends. Despite a global downturn, foreign direct investment rose 24 percent to $42 billion in 2015. On the job front much more needs to be done.
Secondly, Modi has raised too much hope both within the country and outside. Despite knowing that it is not possible to change the system overnight, but the babus are not fully in step with him.
Thirdly, Team Modi needs to be more pragmatic. While the surveys about Modi government’s two years’ performance give more marks to the Prime Minister, the Team Modi has not got a very good rating. Modi runs the government through his powerful Prime Minister’s office but the ministers should be encouraged to take the initiative. Two years are enough for him to assess them and weed out dead wood.
Fourthly, Modi is facing a problem with the non-BJP governments. Chief Ministers like Arvind Kejriwal and old-timers like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar do not miss any opportunity to criticise the Prime Minister. While Modi had been talking of cooperative federalism this confrontational attitude does not auger well for both sides.
Fifthly, real or imaginary, the BJP needs to correct the impression that the development agenda has been ignored. On the social side, minorities feel insecure. Politically, Modi has got some boost with BJP defeating the Congress in Assam and improving the position in West Bengal and Kerala in the latest Assembly elections. Trust needs to be built that the BJP is listening to its coalition partners and taking their concerns into account. In Parliament, Modi will continue to face hurdles in getting crucial Bills passed in the Upper House. A conciliatory tone could perhaps yield results. On the foreign policy front, he has done well by raising the profile of India and reaching the head table but his Pakistan and Nepal policies need some improvement. The Prime Minister appears to be making amends, as he was quoted recently saying that the government is like running a marathon and not a sprint. Since three more years are left, let us hope that he will do his mid-course correction sooner than later.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)