Note: This is a very long analysis and opinion piece. Thus, if you choose to read it, take some time.
Yes, PM Modi has over-promised, shown us too many big dreams and may not be able to achieve all the targets he had set for the present Government when he came to power. But, what he has achieved, apart from a few setbacks, is something I believe is unprecedented. I am a fairly educated young person with a good understanding of economics and politics. I study both subjects in great detail. So, just as many people say that they don’t see anything positive happening, I think I am equipped enough to have a judgement and assessment of my own. And, in my judgement, this current government has done a fairly good job that is akin to laying a fertile land where a bumper harvest can be produced for several years to come in succession. And that is no mean achievement for a government in just one term. Especially in a convoluted economic setup that PM Modi and his team had inherited from his predecessors. Without more talk, let’s dive into the details.
When it comes to economy and finances, yes, I trust my government’s intentions. I feel that they have done considerably well even if a few of their moves backfired. The incumbent government is at least taking action and doing something about the mess that they inherited. The previous establishment, in order to make lesser mistakes in their second term, simply did nothing at all! Okay, I won’t say they did nothing. But the point is, they didn’t do enough to deserve that seat of power and command. That is not the kind of government I want.
Financial sector reforms, be it the GST or the IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) are both tremendous juggernauts that our nation has needed for a long time. This government got them the political consensus without which they would still have been just a matter being studied by someone’s committee. Sure, I do lament that the GST was implemented too hastily. But again, I never said that this government has been perfect. All I am asserting here is that it’s way better than its predecessors. So, let’s appreciate it for the big feat that it managed to accomplish with each state being a part of the decision-making. That’s cooperative federalism at its best, and it has been further championed by this government after Atal Ji’s times.
Financial inclusion has been another big milestone which has gotten the poorest of all to open up a bank account. Now their subsidies and money from several welfare schemes go straight into their accounts free of any dirty middlemen. Many people say that this has been a failed drive given that over half of these accounts hold zero balance. What they often miss is that the number of accounts created is way above 33 crores. Which means that even if half of those accounts are zero-balance accounts, we still have over 16.5 crore poor people joining the banking loop. That may be a small thing for many. But in my view, that is unprecedented.
Furthermore, the previous government had left my country’s economy in shambles with a ballooning current account deficit, uber high inflation, falling forex reserves, and a shaky housing market.
As many might be aware that in India, the price of a property consists of three components. The circle charge and the registry charges. And, then there is this black component. And, it is this component which had gone just too high and has been heavily brought down under the present administration. Now, many don’t appreciate the Government enough for this achievement. But I sure do. Because this black component was all illicit and hidden money which is obviously anti-poor and anti-development and favours only the rich. And, how has all of this been achieved? One main reason is demonetization, another is the implementation of RERA (Real Estate Regulation Act) while another major reason is the notification of Benami Property Act because of which many such people who hold such properties to their names now want to sell those off as soon as possible. Thus demand is low and supply is high bringing down the costs to what more of the common people can afford. Big win!
Another big achievement with respect to the economy and finance sector, in my belief, is the way the government has acted on unearthing the heaps of NPAs and bad loans that were awarded by the public sector banks. Under the previous administration (UPA-1&2), most of these banks lost their lending moralities and lent out money to cronies and capitalists because of incessant political pressure, meddling and corruption. And, when the administration changed in May 2014, the new Government found itself in a deep mess. Thus, it initiated a crackdown on such banks and their illicit and corrupt history. Slowly, a huge pile of NPAs begun to spring up as the incumbent Government kept pushing the banks to go through stringer audits and checks. Consequently, it was revealed that our public sector banks were in a self-deprecating lending cycle which had wrecked them up financially. Thus, to better the state of banks, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was brought to life. A massive recapitalization exercise was initiated as well (a big credit for unearthing NPAs also goes to former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan). And, similarly, stricter provisioning clauses were imposed on the banking institutions to keep them afloat and to recover and to make up whatever losses that they had made in the past. RBI was empowered with tonnes of powers over the way banks work. Preventive and Corrective Action was also initiated over 11 PSBs which is now being expected to expand to 6 more PSBs.
When we talk of infrastructure, I believe the current establishment has, in every metric, fared better than almost every other previous administration. Be it roads or ports, rivers or railways, aviation or even power, those are all sectors where I see a big change. Roads and highways were never built at a rate at which was even comparable to the present rate. Previous administration left us at 11 km a day of highway construction. This March, we were at 27 km a day and are charging towards accomplishing 45 km a day by March 2019.
The ports sector had always been laggard except for JNPT and Mundra (which are not public sector entities). Today, I can actually see the loss-ridden ports making profits under the watch of the incumbent administration while massive road building projects are not just being awarded but are also being completed, often before the scheduled deadlines.
Inland waterways had always been just a pipe dream with various DPRs but nothing ever happened on the ground. This Government got the ball rolling, gave the policy a push, defined a mission to achieve with timelines and created the conducive environment for builders and private sectors from not just India but also outside to come and invest, and build those.
When it comes to the railways, when was the last time you heard that the railways have increased its CapEx by three times in three freaking years! We were running on a 100-year-old signalling system and no one gave a damn. The Delhi to Kolkata route was super jammed and needed urgent upgradation. But no one cared. None of the northeastern capitals was connected to rest of the country, except Guwahati. Today, six out of seven are connected to the national broad-gauge grid with Agartala and many others shaving direct trains to Delhi and other major cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai.
Under the previous establishment, a lot of projects were being awarded, money was being disbursed and a big hoopla used to be orchestrated, while nothing significant used to happen on the ground for years and years. But, I see that order completely overhauled in the present administration for which I am very happy, satiated and excited. People often say that all these projects being inaugurated by PM Modi were launched during UPA-2’s tenure. What they fail to realize is that most of those projects had either turned NPAs or were on the brink when UPA-2 left. Those projects had been sabotaged and had to be brought back to rolling roads by the current Government with Nitin Gadkari making it happen.
Now talking about foreign policy, I would say that my judgement is not that polite anymore. And the dampener is the growing hostility towards India among our neighbouring countries. Especially Nepal and Bhutan. Yes, many may not know that a large population of Bhutanese people are irritated with Indian intervention and dominance over them. So much so that many political analysts have augured that the next elections in Bhutan will be fought between two factions – those who are pro-India, and those who are not.
Apart from that, animosity and hostility with Pakistan and the love-hate relationship with China are no big deal. This would most probably continue for a long time to come. After all, things have been that way for a very long time now. Things get better, then they get worse. So, I don’t have any problems with the present Government’s way of dealing with them. Particularly with respect to China, I am happy the way PM Modi has recently changed the narrative and tone with the eastern giant.
As far as the faltering relationships with the United States of America are concerned, well, which major country has a flourishing relationship with them anyway since Donald Trump came to power? Ergo, I have no complains to make in that respect either. That said, I believe that India, under the leadership of PM Modi, has been a rockstar on the global landscape! Be it reaching out to the Indian diaspora scattered across the globe, creating a great image for brand India, or giving a thaw to the bilateral relationships with countries across the globe, India under present administration has been on a roll. And, that truly deserves accolades.
When we talk about defence, we have both internal security and overall strength and the well-being of the armed forces to discuss. As far as internal security is concerned, I believe that we have witnessed immense success in containing Naxalism, stopping its spread and also bringing down separatist and insurgency movements in the northeastern states.
That’s the reason why AFSPA has been revoked or scaled down in some states and territories of North East India.
Yes, J&K has been a boiler no doubt. But I think, unless section 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution are abrogated, no significant and lasting good can be achieved there. So the hardline approach seems to be only viable option to deal with extremists and terrorists. On that front, I guess I am not that happy about the track of present Government. I want more to be done by the Government in how they deal with terrorists.
Regarding the well being of the armed forces, I met an army major during a train journey from Siliguri to New Delhi who told me, “Whichever Government may be at the centre, none has ever had a good relationship with armed forces. That’s because no Government can ever do all that the armed forces expect it to do.” Thus, my assessment of the support to the armed forces is relative. Has the present Government done better for our Jawaans and Rakshaks than the previous UPA-2 government? I believe the answer is a big yes. With astounding support to the armed forces for their actions on the ground against the militants and repeated cross-firing and shelling on the border, the way present Government’s actions are really unprecedented.
Now let’s talk a little about betterment of women. Under the Ujjwala Yojana, the government has already distributed 4.65 crore free LPG cylinders to poor families who had been using coal and wood choolahs which left them gasping for breath, ridding many from possible lung infections, attenuated eye-sight and even cancer. And, who is the greatest beneficiary of this movement? The women. Same is true about the toilet movement. The Government claims that it has constructed well over 7.7 million new household toilets. And, I don’t believe that. But, if that is what they claim, at least half of that number should be true. In no metrics would that be a small or trivial achievement. And, yet again it’s the women who are going to benefit out of those toilets the most.
Using this two-pronged strategy, PM Modi has beautifully tried to reach out to the women pan India by directly taking up issues which they grapple with every day.
When naysayers say that PM Modi has not given jobs that he promised, I just ask those people one question which apparently no one has ever been able to give me the answer to. Under the present Government’s Mudra Yojana, over 12 crore individuals hailing from SC/ST/OBC communities have been awarded loans of as much as 10 lakhs to run a business of their own. Now that 12 crore business loans have been given, am I wrong to assume that each one of those businesses must have at least created a job for one person? That’s the very minimal count. The actual count should be over that. So, that’s simple mathematics. Those who don’t believe that number can go to the web portal of Mudra Yojana and see the results for themselves. Thus, I believe that this jobs debate is nothing but a frivolous attempt by the opposition to rake up a non- issue. I mean, when in the recent times has the Indian opposition been seen to be so damn weak? I can’t recall any such instance. Just think about it.
Each of the opposition parties have just one agenda, to attack Modi and his failures. And for me, those failures are so few that you can count them on your fingers. It’s always demonetization, multiple GST rates, rising petroleum prices or the lynchings. That is it. Every speech, every public appearance, every single time they get in front of a camera or type something out on Twitter, it all turns out to be one of those four subjects. That is how dumbfounded the opposition is at the present. And, even among those, I personally disagree with them on the issue of high prices of petroleum products. I support that. The more the better. But, that is a personal opinion, so let me keep that aside. Moving on, having talked about and analyzed so many of these domains of a Government’s work, it’s important to investigate the alternatives.
We have a rich, inexperienced dude who thinks he deserves to be the PM because he was born in a family of Prime Ministers. Also, because he wears a white Kurta almost all the time when he is in India, he thinks that makes him appear like a commoner among the masses. Thus, he thinks it is his privilege, his destiny, his right to become the Prime Minister. Also, despite being an elected MP for Amethi since 2004, he has the audacity to promise that if elected again, he would turn Amethi into Singapore. You believe him? You can decide. I know where I stand.
Moving on. We have an archaic, shrewd and self-centric politician called Didi under whose rule we get to hear of a new riot emerging somewhere or other in the state of West Bengal. A woman under whom West Bengal, once one of the most prosperous states of India, has begun to slip behind most major states in all socio-economic metrics. Do I want the same mess at pan-India level? You know my answer.
And finally, we have a proven, learned and experienced incumbent Telangana Chief Minister who is a great choice. But, and it’s a big but! For him to become PM, he would have to go for a coalition with figures like Didi and many more from BSP and SP. And that is simply not in the best interest of this country. Under the rule of UPA, we have seen what happens when such a coalition comes to power despite a relatively honest and dedicated PM leading it.
To be true, PM Modi hasn’t done that bad either. Especially when you juxtapose him against all of his predecessors, I would say that he has done a better job than most of them. Hence, PM Modi is the man I wish to see leading my country post-2019 as well. And, that’s why I will be voting for him. Firstly, because I believe that he has done a fairly good job. Secondly, because I don’t see a better option.