Political analysts may seek to initiate discussion on comparatives, often between the government and the opposition, the prime minister and a leader who can match up to him (Pratap Bhanu Mehta, ‘BJP and the AAPosition’, IE, January 14). The mandate of the Lok Sabha elections was hardly helpful to their efforts on this count. After several decades, the people not only voted a government in, but almost completely voted out the opposition.
Nor did the national elections mark a halt to the BJP juggernaut riding on the crest of Narendra Modi’s popularity. Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand followed and in Jammu and Kashmir, the party polled the maximum popular votes.
In the meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi got down to the brass tacks of putting things in order. The mandate of the people was to transform India and how millions of Indians live. There is no dearth of challenges to overcome.
The government of India is a permanent entity and the liability inherited by a new government is the baggage of omissions and commissions of past governments in office. These include a compromised and scam-ridden institutional structure, an underperforming economy, lethargic processes and institutional functioning, among others. All are the inheritances of a decade of Congress-UPA governance or rather, the lack of it.
Modi’s government has approached these challenges head on. While the strengthening of an institutional foundation is not an attractive effort to market, it is still an essential undertaking to complete. No sustainable “achhe din”can be delivered without this task being properly accomplished. A lot is in progress, but work in progress is rarely celebrated.
Within six months, a pervasive mood of despair and dismay has been replaced by one of optimism, positivity and hope. This step ahead is the result of the government’s commitment towards reform and action.
A successful financial inclusion programme (Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana) resulting in over 100 million bank accounts being opened with accident and life insurance benefits, meaningful movement on GST and banking reform, efforts towards the ease of doing business and the “Make in India” initiative, a slew of ordinances on critical areas, including coal and land acquisition, to overcome a disrupted Parliament session, are among the government’s important initiatives. Inflation is down significantly and economic green shoots are visible. No one can deny the PM his due for leading from the front and working from dawn to midnight.
Importantly, none of these reforms is the result of an IMF dictate, as in 1991. The recent rate cut by the RBI is an inflection point in the path to economic recovery. The economic cycle has turned and recovery is underway. Investor confidence is growing, also as a result of the PM’s bold diplomatic initiatives that have secured massive investment commitments from various countries.
Despite all this, for some political analysts, the excitement is more in identifying the political counterpoint who might match Modi’s popularity and credibility. The Congress is unable to offer anything beyond its hesitant young vice president, who appears to function on an event-to-event basis. He is known more for his absence from the political scene than from his presence in it. Other political parties appear either marginalised or fighting their own local battles.
Given the lack of a viable option, some appear keen to crown even those who aren’t known for their inclination to perform. With campaigning for the Delhi elections underway, the theatrics of Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP seem to have enthused a section of commentators to directly pitch him against Modi.
Ironically, this comparative hypothesis was tested and rejected by the electorate a mere eight months ago during the Lok Sabha elections. One wonders whether Modi’s real opposition are political parties or those who fervently seek to find his opponent on the drawing board.
While one disputes this comparative put forth by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in his article, he does hit the nail on the head in the opening sentence: “In politics, it is easy to become a victim of traps laid by our own convictions.” Perhaps Mehta inadvertently presented the shoe to the wrong foot.
With a mission seemingly limited to column-centimetre of media coverage and sound bytes rather than actual achievement, Kejriwal and his party might be more in need of a serious introspection on Mehta’s sage comment. Beyond a flurry of allegations, we have hardly seen anything more from them.
Further, desperate for media coverage, the AAP has not even been consistent in sticking to its allegations and so-called core issues.
Does one hear anything about gas prices and past allegations of favours doled out at national cost? What about the Jan Lokpal Bill, the issue on which Kejriwal sought to self-eject himself from office and, more importantly, the responsibility of delivering? The list of such issues is endless.
In reality, there exists a massive chasm between what Kejriwal promises and can actually deliver. The AAP and Kejriwal appear to judge success based on media coverage, and not delivering on promises.
Meanwhile, Modi and the BJP are hardly complacent or resting on past laurels. They do not limit themselves to mere pronouncements or enjoying the perks of office. Their commitment is to the work that lies ahead. For all the criticism that he has relentlessly encountered for over a decade, Modi has persisted with his efforts and mission towards better amenities and a more developed India. It is a task that calls for vision and commitment through the time it will take to be accomplished. On that account, Modi has yet no opponent.
The writer is national spokesperson of the BJP and an advocate at the Supreme Court.