Last year, the month of May marked the final stages of one of India's most keenly awaited general elections. It was a long and hard-fought battle, but the upshot was beyond the expectations of most experts and psephologists. I myself, in a panel of political pundits, covered the elections for a leading TV channel. None of us, even those such as myself who had predicted Narendra Modi's return to power, had dreamed of the BJP bagging as many as 303 seats. TsuNaMo, once again, proved the naysayers and Cassandras wrong.
A mixed bag
But the first year of Modi 2.0 has not been easy either for the Prime Minister or for India. True, there have been notable achievements. Among these, the passage of the bill against triple talaq, the resolution of the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, and abrogation of Article 370 instantly come to mind. The Ram Janmabhoomi settlement, that too through judicial means, ranks as one of Modi 2.0's greatest triumphs. An issue that had divided the nation for decades was solved in such a quietly confident and definitive manner. Now, happily, on the first anniversary of the government's re-election, construction has actually started. Mandir wahin ban raha hai. The return of Sri Ram to his rightful birthplace has also brought peace to Ayodhya.
TsuNaMo, once again, proved the naysayers and Cassandras wrong. (Photo: Reuters)
Similarly, perhaps more spectacularly, the change in Article 370 altered the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, bifurcating it into two centrally administered Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Again, such a radical alteration, which was so long overdue, was boldly and openly affected in the Indian Parliament, steered through with masterly manoeuvres, by Home Minister Amit Shah. Those who watched the proceedings in both houses could not but be hugely impressed by this constitutional coup. Not so successful, when judged by reactions, was the Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA). Its thrust was to fast-track the citizenship of non-Muslim religious refugees to India from our neighbourhood. The CAA produced a backlash of unexpected dimensions, with the Shaheen Bagh protests turning into a semi-permanent campsite in the Capital. There were copy-cat demonstrations in other parts of India. Worse, this issue, with its distortions and misunderstandings, threatened to create a new communal divide. Tensions culminated in the violent riots that Delhi witnessed during the visit of Donald Trump on January 24-25, 2020.
The Corona challenge
The more recent outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic posed an even bigger challenge to the country. But one unexpected benefit was the complete eclipsing, if not wiping out, of the Shaheen Bagh type of communalised anti-CAA protests.
Instead, headlines were dominated by "superspreaders" from the Tablighi Jamaat, who had congregated in thousands at their Nizamuddin Markaz. Soon, we were overtaken by what was perhaps the severest lockdown in the world. Starting from March 23, it still continues despite some easing, in most parts of India.
Though the government has handled the pandemic with admirable efficiency, the Prime Minister himself leading from the front, our case-tally is rising alarmingly, close to 2 lakhs already. Luckily, when it comes to our fatality rates, they are among the lowest in the world, around three per million of our population. Though it has left over 5,500 dead, the infection may not be as deadly in India as in Europe or the Americas. The government did well in pandemic management, with Dr Harsh Vardhan in charge of the Health Ministry, but we did not fare equally well when it came to handling the migrant labour crisis. Not only were the numbers of stranded migrants underestimated, but the logistical arrangements to convey them home were also found wanting. Several labourers perished on their way back home, some tragically run over on railway tracks near Aurangabad, where they were resting. PM Modi acknowledged the plight of the migrant workers in his 'Maan Ki Baat' on May 31.
Costs of a pandemic
As to the economy, the government was faced with a difficult task to start with. Now, with the added impact of Covid-19 and the Amphan cyclone, the economy is likely to take a big hit. Though the Finance Minister has eased liquidity, demand destruction is a huge problem. Plus the spectre of huge job losses, bankruptcies, bad loans, and rising NPAs. One positive outcome of the crisis is the pushing through of long-awaited and much-needed labour reforms. Though our growth rate is predicted to dip to sub 3% levels for the first time in decades, we are bound to survive this crisis. Even if slogans of "Atmanirbhar Bharat" do not necessarily have the desired effects on the ground, they are a good rallying cry in troubled times. In the fast-changing post-Covid-19 global order, the world is facing an unprecedented leadership crisis. India is relatively better, with Modi's ratings still high both domestically and internationally.
But, in our own neighbourhood, cross-border terrorism is making a comeback in Kashmir. In Ladakh and Nepal, we are facing tremendous pressure and hostility whose source is China. China being one of the world's most disliked powers and the United States, with its own election-year internal divisions not very far behind, this is a great opportunity of India to make lasting advances.
Overall, the Narendra Modi led BJP government's report card is positive. But there are still several challenges that it faces before the motto of 3'R's' - Reaffirmation, Resoluteness and Resurgence -manifests in reality.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)