The Election Commission sounded the bugle on Sunday, March 10, 2019. They had done their last act of favour to the government. The announcement was received with a huge sigh of relief by the people: there will be no more foundation stones, no more ordinances, and no more desperate ‘launch’ of ill-conceived and under-funded schemes. By one count, the Prime Minister had ‘inaugurated’ or ‘laid the stone for’ 155 schemes since the end of the Parliament session on February 13.
Here is a hilarious example. The Ahmedabad Metro was long in the making, since the work had started on March 14, 2015. It did not show much progress. The government of Gujarat was the object of ridicule. It was decided to ‘complete’ a section and inaugurate the ‘service’. So, 6.5 km of the Metro line were hurriedly completed. On March 4, 2019, the Prime Minister proudly inaugurated the service.
The story does not end there. There are 6.5 km of tracks but only two stations; the other stations are under construction. What’s running now is virtually a joy train — no tickets, no charges, just a free ride!
Say Yes or No
Now, to serious issues. About 90 crore eligible voters will vote to elect a new government. The main issue will be the performance of the Modi government. Some questions are pertinent:
1. Do you feel that you are a free citizen in a free country and are not afraid of being lynched or stripped or beaten up or boycotted or discriminated against because of your religion or caste or language? If you are a female, are you unafraid of being harassed or molested?
2. Are you confident that your conversations or messages will not be snooped upon by the government?
3. Do you think that a large number of jobs were actually created in the last five years? If you are a parent, are you confident that your son/daughter will soon find a job? (According to the CMIE, 312 lakh persons were actively seeking jobs at the end of February 2019.)
4. If you are a farmer, do you think your lot has improved in the last five years? Has your income increased? Are you happy to be a farmer and will you encourage your son/daughter to be a farmer?
5. Do you think demonetisation was a good idea? Do you think you benefited from demonetisation? Do you think the economy of the country benefited from demonetisation?
6. Do you think the GST, with its multiple tax rates and three returns a month, benefited micro, small and medium industries? Do you think it is easy for a small businessperson to comply with the GST law? Do you think businesspersons are happy with the manner in which the GST was implemented?
7. Did the Modi government keep its key election promises — Rs 15 lakh in the bank account of every person, Rs 2 crore jobs a year, bringing back the black money stashed abroad, Rs 40 to an American dollar, ending terrorism especially in Jammu & Kashmir and, more generally, that achche din will come to India?
8. Do you think that the Modi government’s muscular, militaristic, majoritarian approach to Jammu & Kashmir will end violence and bring peace to that state, especially the Kashmir Valley?
Mr Modi & Friends
9. Do you believe that Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fled India without the knowledge of the government?
10. Do you think that the Rafale deal struck by the Modi government was squeaky clean and there was no favour shown to a private company at the cost of HAL? Do you think that nothing requires to be investigated in the Rafale deal — pricing, reduced number of aircraft, waivers granted, delivery schedule, choice of offset partner, etc.
11. Do you think that premier investigating agencies like the CBI, ED, Income Tax etc have been fair and independent? Did the infighting in the CBI enhance the credibility of the agency?
12. Was it correct to give all six airport privatisation contracts (Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mangaluru and Thiruvananthapuram) to one business house from Gujarat? Do you think it was a routine decision?
Frenzy or Wisdom
These questions capture the real issues facing the country. If you, as a citizen, are concerned about the real issues, I request you to answer the questions. You may say yes or you may say no, but you cannot ignore the questions. The last-ditch hope of the Modi government is you will ignore the questions or, at any rate, they will be swept away by the ‘fervour’ of nationalism following the Indian Air Force’s strike on Balakot in Pakistan.
The IAF belongs to the country and made every Indian proud. Pulwama was a failure of the government, Balakot was the success of the IAF, the retaliation by Pakistan the next day was another failure of the government.
Pulwama-Balakot is not an answer to any of the questions listed above. It will not banish fear or bring jobs or relieve farmers’ distress or revive MSMEs or bring back Mallya or Nirav Modi or Choksi or restrain investigative agencies or return peace to the Kashmir Valley.
Mr Narendra Modi’s election speeches are centred on the IAF’s action in Balakot and are intended to whip up a frenzy among the voters. He hopes that Balakot will carry him to victory. I believe the people of India are wiser.