by George Abraham
One year ago there was a tsunami of promises and dreams by the BJP before the elections. But once the BJP came to power it forgot everything. Since then there has been a complete reversal of the promised policies and programmes,’’said Anand Sharma, former minister and spokesperson for the Congress party.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister claimed that “Modi restored the dignity of the Prime Minister which had disappeared during the previous regime and he has convinced the countryman that authority of the Prime Minister is supreme in every decision-making”.
One year into the NDA rule led by BJP, a non-partisan group also argued that that BJP rule was not a disaster as some had predicted or a resounding success as their party faithful proclaims. The truth may lie somewhere between.
During a recent interview, one of the esteemed anchors of an Indian TV network operating in the U.S. asked me whether I was impressed with the ‘Jan DhanYojana’ program the Prime Minister has initiated, which has already created a whopping14 Crore new accounts. Of course, it is impressive statistics; however, the trouble with that simple assumption is that it is just half of the story. As many as 24 Crore people had already had signed up for the ‘Zero frills bank account’ prior to the present government which renamed the existing program as ‘Jan DhanYojana’.
It is said that imitation is the best form of flattery and for the Congress leaders, it must be redemption time as the Modi Government continues with many of their initiated plans, only under a different banner. Giving a little credit to the UPA would have gone a long way towards creating unity and purpose across the aisle.The larger question one needs to ponder here is whether the whole campaign about “achche din aa gaya” is mere sloganeering or based on facts and figures.
At the outset, the BJP’s charges about Congress obstructing its legislative agenda is laughable, as the BJP has opposed everything from Indo-US Civil Nuclear Treaty to Insurance Bill and FDI in multi-brand retail to name a few..They have so vehemently raised all the roadblocks in their power to derail the previous administration’s efforts. Since they have succeeded now in passing 50 some Bills in its first year, Congress cannot pose as large an obstruction as the BJP touts.
If one examines the economic indicators, Modi’s economy was sluggish to say the least in spite of having the good fortune of low crude oil prices. Growth in 8 core industrial sectors was mere 3.5%, and exports contracted by 11.19% to 23.88 billion compared to 26.89 billion in the same month of 2014. Although Modi promised 10 crore jobs in 5 years, if the April-June job growth of 1.17 lakhs is correct, that dream is quite far-fetched. If the inflation is contained as it is claimed, it is largely due to the decline in oil prices. Yet, food items such as Milk and pulses show a steady increase in prices while no savings from the oil have been passed on to the consumers.
While the economic conditions largely remain intact for ordinary citizens, Modi’s government has slashed social spending by Rs. 1,75,122 crores in one year alone, undermining the very concept of inclusive and equitable development. All sectors including Agriculture, Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Panchayat Raj, Women and Child development and Education suffered cuts including UPA’s flagship program for the rural poor called MGNREGA.
After soaring through the political landscape by accusing the Congress of corruption at high places, BJP has done very little to allay the concerns of the ordinary citizens on this count. 30 per cent of the Council of Ministers have criminal charges pending against them. These include attempted murder, accusations of rape, inciting communal disharmony and electoral violations.
What happened to the promise of transparency and clean governance? “Whenever the PM sees an institution that is constitutional, that people have faith in, he wants to end it as he wants all power with himself and corporates” said Mrs. Gandhi, President of Congress party in a rare intervention in a parliament session. She was indeed referring to the power grab by the PMO and alleged undermining of popular institution such as RTI (Right to Information Act)’ by keeping the leading position (CIC) vacant.
Former Defence Minister A. K. Antony, who is known for his integrity, has accused the NDA government of “neglecting national security, ignoring security lapses and ultimately compromised national security”. He questioned the wisdom of surrendering Rs. 29000 crores from the current budget cycle while slashing the manpower by half of the “Mountain Strike Corps” which was created to face increased Chinese buildup. He also faulted the Modi government of dragging its feet on the One-Rank – One pension scheme that should have been effective from April 2014.
Prime Minister Modi has been widely acclaimed for his successful foreign travels. Previous Prime Ministers have done the same without this much pomp and ceremony. At the end of the day, one would have to ask ‘where is the beef’? The purchase of Rafael jets from France is surrounded by hypocrisy and double talk! The ‘Make in India’ slogan was given away to make in France, eliminating the public sector HAL probably for the sake of a future tie-up with preferred corporations!
On his visit to Korea, the Prime Minister declared that Indians were ashamed of their nationality until he became prime minister! I do not know about you; as for me, I was always proud of my motherland yet willing to see its problems and shortcomings from a resolution perspective. The efforts of Non-Resident Indians over last three decades have contributed so much to the transformation of the world in the field of Technology, Science and Medicine, earning the respect for mother India, particularly from the people from the west. It is sad to see any politician taking away the fruits of their hard labor!
Finally, is what we see with this government is perception or reality? About five years ago, the campaign of the ‘Gujarat Model’ has surfaced building up the image of Modi who is said to have transformed Gujarat into a modern miracle. Today, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) report, which was published recently, tore apart the tall claims of the state government led by former the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, particularly in terms of agricultural growth, social indicators, as well as public spending on social infrastructure, fiscal discipline, right to education, and law and order. Gujarat is ranked 12 among states for its Human Development Index, and has a permanent underclass mainly consisting of minorities. Unless the citizen on the street is vigilant, he may be once again swallowed up by the ongoing hoopla of an imaginary world! When it comes to ‘achche din’ let reality be real!
George Abraham is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and Chairman of the Indian National Overseas Congress, USA.