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Slow modi, stable india

COMMENT / POLITICS / NATION By PREM CHANDRAN As the adage goes, "Slow and steady wins the race". The NDA .....




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Thumbs up Slow modi, stable india


COMMENT / POLITICS / NATION

By PREM CHANDRAN
As the adage goes, "Slow and steady wins the race". The NDA government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for a change, can preen their feathers. After all, they have not let down the nation the way the Sri Lankan and Pakistani rulers have. Indian economy is functional though the growth rate remains slow. Prudence in spending and in money management should keep India in good stead. The future might still be unpredictable, given the kind of hits that Indian banks are taking due to outright loot by India's business crooks in collusion with the reckless, unprincipled political class. There's no end to this and even cooperative banks are looted right and left. The systems have loosened over the years and there's less of checks and balances. What we see today are simply symptoms of a deeper malady.

On the positive side, one must reckon the fact that the eight years of Modi at the apex have been a season of political stability, a season of social harmony except for some aberrations, and there were hardly any riots though perceptions in 2014 were that Modi and the RSS will bleed India with their likely excesses of the Hindutva kind. Peace and stability are integral to the progress of a nation. Yet, this was a season of limited progress. Modi himself has his limitations. He lacks the cutting edge. He's not aggressive in his pushes and has even cut and run as in situations like the farmer agitation. The subsequent assembly polls showed those who ran the farmer agitation were not able to tilt the balance against the BJP or Modi. Proof was Uttar Pradesh. Question arose as to whether there really was a need for Modi to abandon the long-awaited farm reforms. As is commonly acknowledged, political will is a pre-requisite to reforms. For, statusquoists are bound to stand in the way. Even a well-meaning reform like this was scuttled due to lack of will -- or a misplaced eagerness on the part of Modi to win the approaching round of assembly polls in a string of states. The BJP had little chance of winning power in Punjab, anyway, after its alliance with the once-influential SAD collapsed.

Good things apart, we need to re-emphasize the fact that Modi has not changed India in any significant way, other than for certain sectors like the highways that are being built in a class format in northern states, and where the push of a Nitin Gadkari is also evident. Atal Behari Vajpayee had started this push. A leader with a sense of dynamism at the helm would see India growing by leaps and bounds. Modi is far from this. The two years of the Covid-induced lull by itself cannot be an excuse for the slow pace of growth for the nation. Every sector is crying for attention and uplift.

The railways are still in its old format except for marginal improvements. Modi's bullet train project typifies the lack of political will and the systemic flaws that the nation is faced with. It suffered a hit with the exit of the BJP ministry in Maharashtra but, with BJP back in power there, it might now have a new lease of life. Work on its Gujarat side is progressing. For another, India has not made any huge defence acquisitions other than for the set of Rafale jets, while on the ground level Modi strengthened the infra along the border regions. The Atal Tunnel et al are major forays.

Also, notably, the Industrial sector continues to take a hit also as businessmen have made a business out of looting banks and making good their escape. None of Modi's "friendships" helped get the sharks like Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallya back to Indian shores. The agriculture sector has some good tidings but more could have been achieved had India proceeded with its reform steps. Exports have grown, but there is nothing much to crow about. The Olympic performance, that symbolically measures the will of a nation and its leadership, remains as bad as ever. What did Modi do change all these for the better?

For sure, the Modi era will be noted for the good tidings on fronts like Kashmir. The abolition of the special status for the province and the administrative overhaul there were a master stroke. Modi and Amit Shah, together, did a grand job. That demonstrated their own will and the will of the nation. The Congress party will never have taken such strong steps. Shah kept the things under control though even those like Rahul Gandhi got onto the rooftop and shouted, in its aftermath, that Kashmir was up in flames. It was not. Markedly, the Modi government in its eight years handled the terrorist front well. Yet, Pathankot and Uri happened directly under Modi's watch. Progressively, things are under control. The intelligence services have been strengthened on this front.

Modi did well on the welfare front too. The Jan Oushadhi, dispensing with medicines at cheap rates, is a great help to the poor and the middle-class. So with the subsidies for LPG for the BPL families or the pension scheme for farmers and street vendors. All these are small comforts to the nation. What did the Modi establishment do at the macro level, and was there any earth-shaking moment for this government to wax eloquent? The surgical strikes were too mild a response, after all. The loss of the fighter jets in its immediate aftermath meant a lack of preparedness at the highest levels. India was shamed in the end. Who was caught napping? Or, the Galwan Valley, Ladakh, for that matter. Who had the last laugh?

While Modi governed the nation with a wealth of experience in handling a western state for quite long, a problem is he moves at his own pace, which is a slow pace. He comes with a limited agenda, the RSS agenda, which is not forward-looking. The Sanghis live in an old world; they have little understanding of the dynamics that propel the new global order. Modi is essentially an RSS product. The good side of it should not be overlooked, however. He moves with the pace of an elephant; with sure, steady steps.

It was Modi's inaction, not action, in 2002 that won him a hero status among the Sangh Parivar clan, a la the Gujarat Riots. As chief minister, he sat back, perhaps blinking at a time when alert and action were of urgency. The Hindu zealots praised his inaction, as if it was a calculated response vis-a-vis attempts to target Muslims in the aftermath of the Godhra mayhem. That inaction, by default, eventually catapulted Modi to the national level.

The progress for India, under Modi, is slow. The nation quietly carries on. A gladdening thought is that he did not let India down. The economy, for instance; set against the disasters in Sri Lanka as also Pakistan. It is safe to assume that the outright loot of the exchequer by the politicos and others in both the nations --and majorly the army brass in Pakistan -- also led to the present situations there. China has stopped its funding for CPEC and other initiatives in Pakistan by demanding that there should be guarantee to zero corruption there. There is no Pakistan if there is no corruption; and there is no Pakistan if the present scenario goes on and on for more time. Pakistan's collapse is only a matter of time. So much of its wealth is being looted and taken out of the country. India can end up in a similar plight if our corrupt regional dynasts are given an opportunity to run India from Delhi. Fact is, among the dynasts, only the Nehru family conducts itself with a sense of responsibility; though the greedy Sonia Gandhi era was its undoing. India's regional dynasts, aiming to grab power in Delhi, would do just the same as what the Rajapaksas did in Sri Lanka. God forbid.

Modi by himself is possibly not corrupt. Why would he, after all? What he had proclaimed was that he would not eat and not let others eat the dirty pie. But, in his eight years, the graph of corruption in public life has progressively risen to new heights though corruption at the top political level in central government, overall, might be less compared to the UPA days. In the present pack too, there are those who are making money and this is not a secret. The central secretariat directly under Modi's nose has earned a notoriety: that not a single file moves there as long as the officials' palms are not greased with lakhs. Even state governments now have a provision to reach money to get files moving. Modi obviously gave a long rope to the bureaucracy. When Modi took charge as PM in 2014, he had no confidence to ruffle the bureaucratic feathers. The babus in top positions remained where they were, they having perfected the styles of loot of public exchequer under the rudderless UPA terms.

Modi is no reformist. Despite his 56-inch chest, he lacks the courage to bell the cat or take matters head on. He allows things to drift. While he is busy with planning the celebrations marking the 75 years of Indian Independence, under the Amrit Mahotsav banner, he shows no palpable interest to clean the body politic of the rot that has hugely set in in the last over seven decades. Over the years, the systems have loosened and rules got rusted. Even the justice dispensation system -- central to the growth and sustenance of a nation--is in disarray. Cases are going on and on for up to 20 years or more. Over five crore cases are pending in Indian courts. It's a merry go-round. The Constitution has not stipulated how long can a case be carried on. Dragging a case for long, even for generations, suits the vested interests. Law is losing its teeth. Police investigators, the lawyers who argue the cases, and the judiciary as a whole too show no seriousness to dispose of cases in right earnest. Truth must be told.

The flaws in the systems need be rectified. Periodic reforms are the way forward. But, weak leaders who ascend the throne for five years do not have a long-term vision for the nation's future. This is a problem with democracy as we practise it here. They are game playing around, making compromises, and strategizing to win the next election so that they can warm up their chairs for five more years. It becomes a one-point agenda from the day one begins his rule. Modi is not an exception. That's the tragedy with India today. The loot brigade is making full use of this situation.

Putting a dalit in the form of Ram Nath Kovid in the presidential house or bringing in tribal Droupadi Murmu to the exalted post carries with it a message. After all, the post of president is that of a titular head. The system would take care of the rest. By contrast, look at the jaded mindset of India's Opposition in the form of a Yashwant Sinha as their nominee. By resurrecting an ageing deadwood, they proved a point: that, they are incapable of thinking anew. And, who guided them? The Leftists, an anachronism in politics. Modi's selection of those from the backward or depressed segments of the society is loaded with a strong message to wider India, its large army of poor, that the disadvantaged too matter in our (otherwise elitist) scheme of things.

A sense of inclusiveness is central to the spirit of democracy. Fact, though, is that this is a far cry from the real efforts at uplift of the poor or the disadvantaged sections of the population. They, as a whole, require a major governmental push. An individual or two being installed in Rashtrapati Bhavan by itself is no guarantee to their mass uplift. This is just a symbolism. Yet, Modi's attempt helps keep India as one. Muslims too deserve such positions in view of their numerical strength and due to the sense of alienation they experience in the Indian contexts. India must, after all, stand together.

--The writer is a senior journalist, former Editor and an activist of India Against Corruption premcee@gmail.com

Last edited by Premchandran; at 11:40 AM
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