How three years of Modi sarkar wiped out sabka saath, sabka vikas
Lack of transparency, unilateralism and a will to flout established norms of democracy have been its chief characteristics.
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Political "siyappa (mourning)" is no way to assess three years in power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. Unqualified adulation is equally unwarranted.
The problem is that assessment of PM Modi in the press swings between siyappa and adulation. The vast space between the two extremes lies open. Few dare to occupy that space.
There are reasons for avoiding the middle ground. Firstly, one is self-conscious that the person being evaluated has no respect for the middle ground. Moderation is not Narendra Modi’s strength.
By logic, one is forced to avoid moderation too. Taking a call on Modi’s politics, which characteristically invites strong emotions, calls for taking sharp and radical positions, for or against.
Secondly, our discourse has become sharply polarised in the public as well as the private space. Anybody who occupies the middle ground runs the risk of being a victim of the hubris of the Left as well as the Right, the majority as well as the minority, the peaceniks as well as the jingoists.
That’s why the middle ground has all but vanished since the BJP government was voted to power. The assessment of Modi in the press and social media, therefore, verges on sharply polarised opinion.
It would be a fallacy to say that his performance on political, economic and foreign affairs has been a mixed bag, a combination of plusses and minuses.
What can be said with certainty is this: lack of transparency, unilateralism and a will to flout established norms of democracy have been chief characteristics of the government.
One can quibble over ratings and give the government A in one area, B in another and C in yet another. But there is no room for quibbling over the three tendencies that have defined Modi’s rule.
Lack of transparency, lack of consensus and wilful defiance of democratic norms characterise all major areas — political, economic and foreign relations.
Let’s take political area first.
Modi stormed to power on the promise of sabka saath, sabka vikas (with everyone, development for all). This is, perhaps, one of the most inclusive slogans ever by any government in our republic’s history.
Coming as it did from a person as controversial as Modi, the promise of sabka saath, sabka vikas confused his critics but enthused a vast majority of the population. People reposed trust in him as they expected Modi to turn a new leaf once in power.
Barring his die-hard critics, the country’s burgeoning youth, urban middle class as well as rural voters dared to speculate that Modi would adopt moderation as the political strategy to make good of the unambiguous electoral verdict.
It was expected of someone who had fought political isolation, ridicule, court cases and even ban on travel to the US, to change the course.
The government wouldn’t have got bogged down in politics over people’s choice of food, the most basic need, if sabka saath, sabka vikas were indeed its agenda.
How can any government talk about sabka saath, sabka vikas if its policies alienate almost the entire minority?
For any political party or government in a democratic dispensation, the representation (or lack of it) of minority must be the most important marker of its politics and ideology.
On all the three parameters — transparency, consensus and respect for dissent — Modi’s political performance is total failure.
It’s no less true of the government’s performance on the economic front. The latest GDP numbers (6.1 per cent in the last quarter), reports on job creation front, close to total lack of investment from the nation’s big industrialists tell a sorry tale of the government’s economic policies.
If total marginalisation of minorities must be held as the worst indictment of the government on the political front, demonetisation must be the worst marker of the economic policies.
It was a decision taken by total lack of transparency, no consensus to the extent that even key ministers were kept in the dark, flouting past norms and precedents.
The net effect is India losing the crown of the world’s fastest growing economy, something which cockled the hearts of Modi and his supporters.
On employment generation, none other than BJP president Amit Shah has admitted that the government has kept the promise by creating jobs in the informal sector. That’s a stark admission of the government’s failure to generate employment in the formal sector.
Foreign relations under the Modi government are the biggest victim of lack of transparency, unilateralism and violation of established norms.
An unwritten code of consensus has always defined foreign policy. Governments in the past might have attempted to tweak one aspect of it here and lay emphasis on other aspects there, but the overall direction has been defined by consensus.
Modi has broken with the past. He has been hawkish and even adventurist in approach, which has unsettled India’s relations with its neighbours, regional and world powers.
Some may tom-tom Modi’s policies as tough and hard-nosed in relation to Pakistan and China. Some may gloat over his unconventional approach, which might sound pragmatic and bold in the short-term, but its long-term impact and consequences for the country remain fraught with risks.
No government claims high ratings on the basis of policies that are shorn of transparency, consensus and acceptance of dissent. These tendencies are contrary to the spirit of sabka saath, sabka vikaas.
It’s kuch ka saath, zyada ka vinaash (with a few, destruction for all).