Balance sheet of huge credits, minor debits
A Surya Prakash
Ever since the advent of the coalition era in Indian national politics in 1989, there was a general lament across the land that the ship of state had become rudderless and unstable and that, as a result, the country was devoid of a sense of purpose and was losing focus. This feeling permeated all walks of life and was seen in every aspect of governance. Nowhere was this drift and confusion more apparent than in India’s dealings with the rest of the world. This led the international community to believe that, far from being a leader, India was leaderless.
This lament ended on May 26, 2014, when the people voted the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance to power and gave the Bharatiya Janata party, which is at the core of this alliance, a clear majority in the lower House of Parliament. Barring diehard Modi-haters, most of those who have watched this Prime Minister at work over the last 12 months, will agree that the nation has found an individual who is not only leading from the front but is also inspiring and motivating millions of his countrymen who are eager to participate in the adventure of building India on modern lines.
It could well be argued that the proverbial gap between electoral promises and delivery is showing up or that the NDA Government has failed to measure up to the heightened expectations that it had aroused in the run-up to the Lok Sabha poll last year.
But, nobody can deny that the feeling of hopelessness is a thing of the past and that Mr Modi has successfully filled the leadership vacuum that everyone worried about. I would regard this – the emergence of a national leader and the restoration of hope – to be one of the most significant outcomes of the tectonic political change that the people ushered in a year ago.
There are other achievements as well flowing from this central idea. This has been a tumultuous first year during which the NDA Government has pushed the frontiers of governance to hitherto uncharted territories. The year has seen the launch of a series of national programmes to tackle many age-old problems ; more focussed and target-driven work in the area of infrastructure development; and a never-before-seen approach to crisis and disaster-management which entailed direct supervision by Union Ministers. The icing on the cake of course is that there is no whiff of corruption.
Mr Modi’s foray into foreign affairs began on day one when he invited the leaders of all the Saarc countries to his swearing-in ceremony. Since then, it has been a virtual blitzkrieg encompassing official visits and meetings with global leaders, from US President Barack Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin to Chinese President Xi Jinping and many others. Such is his keenness to improve India’s international relations that he has visited 19 nations during his very first year in office.
Many of the Union Ministers too have taken to the new governance paradigm. One of the best examples of this is offered by the Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. For long years, the Indian diaspora and citizens travelling abroad had complained about the insensitivity of Indian embassies and diplomats. This is now a thing of the past. Today, we have a situation wherein the External Affairs Minister responds to distress tweets from Indians from across the world (sometimes at 2am), alerts the nearest embassy and monitors each case until the job is done.
Another area that was a matter of great concern when the NDA Government stepped in was the economy. Because of a series of scams and collapse of governance, foreign investors had begun to lose faith in the India story. Mr Modi knows more than anyone else that the success or failure of his Government will depend on whether or not the nation’s GDP growth rate heads northwards in the immediate future. Hence the effort to improve the investment climate. Current estimates suggest that the GDP growth rate could touch none per cent per annum, surpassing that of China in the near future. Also, the country’s foreign exchange reserves are at a robust $350 billion.
Equally significant is the fact that Prime Minister Modi has given a corruption-free Government in his first year – an extraordinary achievement given the fact that we were inundated by scams in the recent past. Apart from all this, the Prime Minister has initiated genuine steps to improve relations between the Union Government and the States and to usher in true federalism. He has promptly accepted the 14th Finance Commission’s radical recommendation that the States’ share in the Union taxes be raised from 32 per cent to 42 per cent. He is also closely tracking infrastructure development, including coal and electricity production, railways and highways, as they hold the key to higher growth rates. The Government has also achieved a miracle of sorts in Parliament as well, with the Lok Sabha working for 117 per cent of the time, and the Rajya Sabha for 101 per cent.
Thus far, Mr Modi has baffled both his supporters and critics by the way he has run his Government. His critics are confused because he has not adopted a reckless approach of dismantling everything done by his predecessor. But, where change is visible, one can see change in both style and substance. The most significant change is the steady manner in which Mr Modi has begun dismantling the slow, confused and non-focussed Nehruvian approach to governance, national security and foreign policy.