Let’s rewind the tape to 2014: Riding high against the strong anti-incumbent sentiment that the Indian voters had after 10 years of UPA rule, Narendra Modi arrived as a "messiah" on the Indian soil.
Upset with the Congress, Indians chose a "man" who showed the signs of a "strong" leader — for Manmohan Singh was propagated to be a weak one. The extraordinary media blitzkrieg of BJP campaigns showed several dreams to us Indians, not to forget the iconic promise of Rs 15 lakh within 100 days. Modi emerged as a man who can deliver what he promised.
Now, four years down the road, his tall promises could be easily seen collapsing, one by one.
Notwithstanding the fact that the man is credited for BJP’s resurgence in the nation. The party has been winning states after states under the guidance of Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. And it’s a major accomplishment (perhaps, the only one), as after Indira Gandhi, only Narendra Modi has been such a leader who could take his party’s popularity to its zenith. From a political party that was once restricted to the Hindi heartland, the BJP has come a long way as now it has penetrated to the other states of the nation as well.
Giving credit where credit is due — for the BJP to rule the Northeast, which was an erstwhile Congress bastion, this feat itself is truly commendable. In the past four years, Modi single-handedly shouldered almost every BJP campaign — from municipal to parliamentary.
While he may have never failed to broadcast his and his party’s achievements in the high-octane election campaigns that he leads, he surely has failed to play the role of a prime minister, for he has remained nothing but a "pracharak".
As he approaches his final year in the office, he is now seeking another term as the nation’s prime minister — trying to seize the moral high ground during his speeches.
But as his prime ministership is in the books, he leaves a poor track record as his legacy — indicating that the possibility of “achhe din” continues to hang in the balance.
Modi supporters from 2014 might recall how he came to power promising to end the climbing inflation. The spiralling petrol and diesel prices were amongst some of the key reasons that pulled down the UPA government. Even though price rise was one of Modi’s favourite topics to talk about while he was in Opposition, during his tenure, he failed to break the vicious cycle of high petrol and diesel prices.
On June 25, 2014, the price of petrol in Delhi was Rs 71.56, which touched a record high of Rs 76.87 per litre on May 22 this year. Diesel price too climbed to its highest ever of Rs 68.08 on May 22, from Rs 57.28 on June 25, 2014.
At a rally in Agra in 2013, Narendra Modi promised one crore jobs to the country. However, Modi’s optimism about job-creation in India is out of synch with the reality. We are here today with over 31 million Indians unemployed, as per a report published on February 27 by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
With only 4.16 lakh jobs being created in the in the country’s organised sector during 2016-17, Indians have no choice but to face the ruthless truth that Modi's job creation promise was nothing but a mirage.
The series of scams during UPA’s 10-year rule gave BJP and Narendra Modi the much-touted anti-corruption plank which became the key ground for Modi’s 2014 election campaign. However, almost four years as the PM of India, Modi still hasn’t been able to appoint a Lokpal.
And the acquittal of all the accused in the 2G scam case by the CBI court, including former telecom minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi, hints at BJP’s failure to prove its accusations, rendering them questionable.
In the run-up to the 2014 election, Modi even went hog wild at Robert Vadra for allegedly dealing illegally in Haryana and Rajasthan. But for a man who came into power as an anti-corruption crusader, his failure to even perform any investigation against Robert Vadra, let alone putting him in jail, indicates inefficient governance.
Then the Modi government’s inability to clear the air about Rafale scam mystery also raises a question mark on the government’s so-called transparency and anti-corruption narrative. With charges of corruption against the BJP flying thick and fast, be it at the Centre or the state level, Modi’s true stand on corruption is yet to be understood by the citizens of India.
And when economic offenders like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, and Lalit Modi fled the country, it is hard to ignore the possibility of willful negligence or active connivance on the part of the ruling government.
Narendra Modi’s silence on alleged corruption charges against Piyush Goyal and the infamous Jay Shah case along with his decision to reinstate the scandal-tainted BS Yeddyurappa and mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy and his brother into the BJP during the 2018 Karnataka Assembly Elections, is a failure of Modi’s another poll promise “Na khaunga, Na khane doonga”.
Indian economy is in a mess today, and the credit goes to the Modi government. Not only has the consumer price index (CPI) inflation increased from 3.9 per cent in March 2017 to 4.3 per cent in March 2018, but the foreign trade deficit has also increased from $10.7 billion in March 2017 to $13.7 billion in March 2018.
Adding to the woes are the swelling crude oil prices and increasing bond yields. To top it all, we are also witnessing rupee depreciation. In 2018, the rupee has lost more than 6 per cent against the dollar.
First, the demonetisation drive led the country to a cash crunch that took several months to recover, drawing 86 per cent of the currency in circulation by value, affecting millions of medium and small businesses, and the already struggling rural economy. Then came another blow in the form of goods and services tax (GST), which was implemented hastily, causing troubles in the supply and production chains, and forcing distributors and retailers to liquidate their inventories, leading to huge losses.
Further, the gross NPAs of private banks touched Rs 109,076 crore in March 2018 from Rs 19,800 crore in FY 2013-2014. And four public sector banks (Canara Bank, Allahabad Bank, UCO Bank and Dena Bank) reported a combined loss of Rs 117.29 billion in March quarter lately.
The weak corporate and bank balance sheets have not only wreaked havoc in the Indian economy, but have also contributed to a steep slowdown in investment.
Increasing farm stress and a rise in farmer agitations and suicides across India over the past few years show the Modi government’s fiasco in handling the ongoing agrarian crisis. In 2014, the BJP promised to implement the minimum support price (MSP) with 50 per cent additional incentive for farmers. But, almost four years later, when finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that farmers would receive 1.5 times the cost of production as part of the MSP for all Kharif season crops, it revealed how the 2014 promise made by the BJP was nothing but another jumla.
With the ever-increasing tensions between India, China, and Pakistan, what comes as a major danger is India’s unpreparedness to defend the nation for a two-front war.
In the 2018-19 Union Budget, an amount of Rs 2.95 lakh crore has been allocated for the defence sector, out of which Rs 1,95,947 crore are for revenue expenditure, including payment of salaries and maintenance of establishments. This means that a majority of funds allocated to the defence sector are reserved for the usual functioning of the armed forces.
And with the failure of government’s Make in India initiative in the defence sector, the objective to create India’s own Boeings and Lockheed Martins that can strive in the global market is lost before it could even begin.
Cleaning up of the Ganga river was one of the key electoral promises made by Modi in 2014. But, even with a whopping budget of Rs 20,000 crore for a five-year period ending 2020, the Namami Gange Programme launched by the ruling government has shown slow-moving progress so far.
A performance audit report by CAG, tabled in December 2017 revealed that the sampled 87 projects faced several deficiencies like delay in project approvals, huge unspent balances under the schemes and shortage of human resources, etc — delaying the achievement of the planned targets.
PM Modi inaugurated the Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Srinagar on May 19, and provided a great solution to the Kashmir problem: development. Smartly side-lining the core issue of Kashmir’s political grievances, Modi continually stressed on infrastructure development.
Promises go down the drain?
In the beleaguered Valley, our soldiers and innocent civilians are paying the price of the opportunistic BJP-PDP alliance, but the government pays no heed. Perhaps the PM has failed to understand that the Valley needs a strong policy initiative and not the age-old development rhetoric to help the region pull through.
In his pre-election bluster on Pakistan, Modi assured of an effective and assertive policy towards the neighbour. However, even after four years, Pakistan continues to be a challenge, and the ties between the two nations have been as icy as they could get.
In 2017, over 860 instances of ceasefire violations by Pakistan reportedly occurred, injuring and killing several army personnel and civilians in India. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a horrific increase in Pakistani shelling and firing along the IB and the Line of Control (LoC) this year. So far, more than 700 such incidents have been reported this year, killing 39 people, including 18 security personnel, and leaving many injured.
The latest round of Pakistani firing which started on May 15, 2018, has put 100 border villages and 40 BSF outposts in Jammu, Samba, and Kathua districts under direct attack by Pakistani forces, leading to a strong counterattack by the BSF.
If all this doesn’t move Prime Minister Modi, then I wonder what will.
The Modi government’s promise to completely seal the country’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh have also been left hanging in mid-air.
India-China relations in the past few years have been marked by problems over the Nuclear Suppliers Group membership, the 2017 standoff in Doklam border, the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief as a global terrorist, and China’s fostering ties with Pakistan. And PM Modi’s failure to deal with these situations surely hints at the ruling government’s flawed foreign policy.
Ever since the BJP formed its government at the Centre in 2014, India’s relations with the friend-cum-neighbour Nepal have been hurtling down the hill. The ties between the two countries also saw some bad times when in 2015, Kathmandu accused New Delhi of imposing an unofficial trade blockade along their border — an allegation that was rebuffed by New Delhi. Modi government’s imperfect foreign policy disturbed the country’s relations with Nepal for the first time in Indian history, allowing China to step in and develop closer links with Nepal — forming a union that now poses a much greater threat to India.
Smart Cities mission
Narendra Modi’s promise to build 100 smart cities has also fallen short, like all the others. Launched about three years back, this ambitious mission completed only 5.2 per cent of the total identified projects with just 1.4 per cent of the total envisaged investment of Rs 1,35,958 crore as of January 2018.
Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative was launched with the objective to create a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. Four years down the line, the execution of the scheme still lags behind the schedule — reasons being the digital divide between rural and urban areas, digital illiteracy dampening the project, poor network connectivity, poor internet penetration, crashing government websites, and the failure to electrify every part of the country. With several problems in proper implementation, this pet project of the PM has so far just imposed huge costs on the economy, without driving the promised results.
Modi’s flagship Skill India campaign stumbled hard, earlier than expected. With the objective to train over 40 crore Indians in different skills by 2022, the project involved various initiatives like "National Skill Development Mission", "National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015", and the much popular "Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)".
As per the data disclosed for the PMKVY scheme up until the first week of July 2017, only 30.67 lakh candidates were trained or were undergoing training across the country. And out of them only 2.9 lakh candidates had got placement offers by that time. The low placements reveal that Modi’s promise to train the people of India was another pipe dream.
Make in India
Launched with a lot of pomp and show, Make in India was introduced to encourage companies to manufacture their products in India and to increase their investment. But, the reports state that the scheme failed miserably, affecting several sectors that were majorly hit by the dual force of demonetisation and GST. Other factors that led to the downfall of this initiative are the tough land legislation laws that make it difficult for companies to set up their manufacturing units coupled with the lack of industrial-scale innovation introduced, unavailability or the high price of raw materials, increasing competition from foreign markets like China.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
A high-voltage sanitation campaign that was launched with the vision of clean India by October 2, 2019 just had an advertorial shine to it. Even after more than three years of its launch, the municipal bodies have not installed proper dustbins at public places across the country, nor have they found any tangible solution to the problem of open defecation near slum areas which continues to expose the failure of the government’s much-hyped cleanliness campaign.
All of the above speaks volumes about our PM Modi’s national policies and development schemes which, without any tangible achievements, remain more of gimmicks and events, with the PM being the event manager.
In a country where minorities are lynched, farmers commit suicide, women get raped, youth remain unemployed, and small businesses suffer losses, the promise of “development for all” remains hollow and far from the ground reality.
It is important here to recall that so far Modi government has splurged Rs 4,343.26 crore for advertisements and publicity through different media, as revealed through an RTI reply.
So, when a year later PM Modi will again implore voters, hiding his trail of policy disasters, I will be ready for another publicity blitzkrieg — for I have learnt a lesson that Modi’s succession of promises is just a way to conjure up publicity events so that people can believe in his "dreams" of a developing nation.
Now, the larger question that’s left for the people of India to answer before the run-up to 2019 kicks off is: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
Think and respond. Because more than anybody else, it is your conscience that needs the answer.,