The three years of showmanship


DSC_5966 copy copy The country has spent three years under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule. The time has passed so quickly that no one could feel the passage of 36 months. Modi ruled the country with a remarkable speed; just like the hero of a film which runs at a fast pace. People had voted him on his slogan Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and the speed with which he had promised to develop the country. Obviously, people would like to evaluate his regime for what he has delivered during three years which is more than half of his term. The evaluation becomes all the more important when we find that he is likely to face 2019 elections without any formidable challenge because the Opposition is yet to unite and consolidate. People had to decide on giving another term to Modi.

We are living in a world of post-Soviet capitalism where old ideas of equality and limited consumptions do not form the part of mainstream discourse. The yardstick of a growing economy is that the money should earn more earn money and the market should be flooded with all the consumer items people can imagine. Naturally, Growth Rate of the economy is the most vital thing to measure the success of an economy. Has Modi achieved on that count?

The answer seems to be negative. On this count too, he failed to achieve. He had promised a double digit rate of growth in his manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The country’s economy could not grow beyond 7.5 per cent. It is also clear that the economy will not reach anywhere close to 10 per cent in remaining two years of Modi’s term. Besides promising a double digit economic growth, he had sold the dream of a comfortable life with all the amenities- house, drinking water and kitchen without smoke. He had promised jobs to youth and social security to vulnerable sections of the society including women, senior citizens and others. He, in his election campaigns, repeatedly asserted that India has demographic dividend with 35 per cent of its population being youth.

But, two recent reports, one from Indian Labor Bureau and other from the United Nations, depict a gloomy picture of employment scenario in the country. According to Labor Bureau, the job creation has been dismal in past two years. Only one lakh 55 thousand jobs could be created in 2015 and 2 Lakh 31 thousand in 2016. This is against the requirement of over one crore jobs a year. According to the government statistics, one crore 30 lakh people enter the job market every year. But, the reality is discouraging that the country could create not more than five lakh jobs in any year after 2012. The severity of the situation could be measured if when we take a look at the reduction of jobs in vital sectors like gem and jewelry, textiles and transport. These sectors have lost jobs in 2015 and 2016.

The changes in visa policy of United States after Trump has taken over is harming the IT industry so profoundly that the single most sector which has been providing jobs in bulk during recent years is going to off load human resources significantly. The IT giants including Infosys, Wipro and Cognizant have already retrenched a good number of their
employees. They are supposed to have down size their workforce by close to one lakh and seventy thousand in coming months. A UN report of 2017 has pointed out that the unemployment scenario is likely to worsen in coming two years of 2017 and 2018. The report has also warned about the rising inequality, which, according to the report, will also worsen during the two years to come. “Unemployment in India is projected to increase from 17.7 million last year to 17.8 million in 2017 and 18 million next year. In per centage, the unemployment rate will remain at 3.4 per cent in 2017-18 “, says the ILO report.

Contrary to his promises, Modi has cut down social sector expenditure in a massive way. The MNREGA, once a flagship program of the Government of India, is being throttled by various measures. Initially, allocations to the program were reduced, but later restored after opposition from non-BJP political parties. Budgetary allocations to social sectors have been either reduced or left at the past levels. Modi government is spending only around one per cent of GDP on health and three per cent on education. Dwindling government expenditure on education has led to mushrooming growth of private universities and country has now 33 per cent of its universities in private sector. The fee in premier institutions of learning such as IIT and IIMs has increased to a very high level which is unaffordable for a middle class student.

Though this is out of fashion these days to talk about inequality, it would only be relevant to quote a statistics highlighted by global NGO Oxfam. The statistics reveal increase in the wealth of Indian billionaires. Comprising only one per cent of Indian population, they were, in 2014, holding 53 per cent of the total assets of the country. In 2015-16, their wealth has increased to 58 per cent of country’s assets. If you look at it in monetary terms, the amount will be enough to fund most of the social welfare programs.

People have also started to forget Modi’s tall promises on bringing back the black money which is stashed abroad. This was one of the most important slogans in Modi’s campaign. There seems to be hardly any progress in tracking the black money. The issue has virtually died down after his smart move of demonetization. The demonetization brought havoc to the unorganized sector and destroyed larger part of the rural economy and loom industry. The campaign woven around that moneyed have been punished generated a psychological satisfaction among poor people seems to have worked in favor of Modi and it might have contributed in BJP’s win in Uttar Pradesh.

The black money and corruption which were the two important factors in Modi’s gaining power in 2014 have been conveniently shelved. The government did nothing to improve institutional mechanism to combat corruption. It refrained putting in place the institution of Lok Pal as well. What we see today in the name of cracking down on corruption is hunting heirs of opposition leaders for alleged disproportionate assets. The latest targets are son of former finance minister P Chidmabaram and daughter of former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad. The CBI and the
Enforcement is being used by the centre as it has been used earlier of by the ruling party. Is this what Modi had promised against black money and corruption?

There is no point in discussing the checklist of his performance. Instead, we need to discuss the kind of polity he intends to convert Indian political system into. It should be clear by now that he had not come with the simple agenda of making BJP an efficient party to govern the country. On the one hand, he is a politician who does not
collective leadership and believes in one-man rule, on the other, he is a firm believer of right wing sectarian politics.

 Only by keeping this in mind, we can analyze his governing the country during the last three years. If we take a closer look at his decisions, we would find that he made Prime Minister’s Office the centre of all the authorities and dismantled the collective character of the cabinet. He was able do this because of the fact that the entire campaign in Lok Sabha elections was centered on him and no one could claim that the party had earned the victory. The presence of Amit Shah as the chief of the party was also meant for symbolizing the advent of one-man rule in BJP. The journey onwards, naturally, had all the elements of single-person rule. Obviously, he eliminated all the possible sources of interference by sidelining senior leaders such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.

Modi’s rule of three years is the journey of a prime minister who ran his government as if he was running presidential form of government. Another element of his rule was his staunch support to right-wing policies. Despite the fact that changes in labour laws would add to already bleak situation of unemployment the Modi government went on doing away with all the labor regulations which put curbs on retrenchments and lay off. The government is in the process of changing all the labor laws which were enacted after a long fight by the workers. “Ease of doing business” remained his inspirational phrase in determining his economic policies. This has led to the opening up of all those sectors to Foreign Direct Investments which were not touched even by pro-liberalization government of Minoan Singh. They include such sectors as defense and railways. Opening up these sectors is considered
to be against the strategic interests of the country.

He combined his right-wing politics with his sectarian inclination could be seen in his allowing Gau-rakshaks and limiting representation of Muslims in the government. His allowing Yogi Adityanath to become the Chief Minister of
Uttar Pradesh shows his support to the RSS design of pro-Hindutva governance. Modi government is promoting militarism can be seen in the current discourse on nationalism. This was started soon after his coming into the power and has remained the dominant theme in three years he has just completed. The government’s handling of cases of Rohit Vemula, the JNU and the Delhi University shows it.

But, the militarist approach has ended up in complicating Kashmir situation and alienating all the immediate neighbors. The country is not only going to pay for these policies domestically, but also externally. However, with his Mann ki Baat, Chai pe Charcha and live shows in New York, Sydney and Dubai, he entertained and maintained his connect with the people. Chanting of Modi, Modi in his public meetings by his supporters helped him promote
his showmanship.