1. 2014 victory now seems so distant for the BJP and PM Narendra Modi

2014 victory now seems so distant for the BJP and PM Narendra Modi

It has taken more than three years for Narendra Modi to realise that a presidential style of governance is not suitable for a country of India's size and complexity.

By: | Updated: October 28, 2017 9:13 PM
The Prime Minister may have found it easy to preside over Gujarat’s destiny with his personalised style of politics where he was a cut above the others in the government and party. (PTI)

It has taken more than three years for Narendra Modi to realise that a presidential style of governance is not suitable for a country of India’s size and complexity. The Prime Minister may have found it easy to preside over Gujarat’s destiny with his personalised style of politics where he was a cut above the others in the government and party. But India is different.

Hence his decision to set up an Economic Advisory Council to assist him in the framing of policy instead of pursuing an agenda in accordance with his own instincts and with inputs from the Finance Minister and the Chief Economic Adviser.

If anything substantiates the dire prognosis of former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the economy, it is the roping in of experts from outside Modi’s charmed circle. What it also shows is the non-fulfilment — at least for the present — of the expectation of “vikas” which was Modi’s trump card in 2014. Ironically, one of the reasons for the hopes turning sour is another of Modi’s purported trump cards — demonetisation — which, along with the clumsy rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), is now being held largely responsible for the current economic woes.

It is obvious that if the government had a team of experts earlier who were not overawed by the Prime Minister, then there would not have been any demonetisation if only because it was a step guided more by politics than economics.

The objective of the hugely disruptive step was to show Modi’s resolve to tackle the problem of black money in view of the government’s inability to deposit the promised Rs 15 lakh in every bank account by busting the parallel economy. As a political initiative, demonetisation was a success in the weeks immediately after its announcement since the Prime Minister is generally widely trusted and large sections believed that the hoarders of illegal funds were running for cover.

But it was a short-term gain, for the economic downturn has shown that there’s more to governance than political showmanship. As a result, the one-step-forward of the demonetisation has been followed by the two-steps-backward of a tacit admission that it takes more than one person to run a government, no matter how energetic he may be or how impressive an orator.

However, the pitfalls of an individualistic style have been evident earlier too. For instance, Modi realised within a year of assuming power that a pro-capitalist image does not sell well among the ordinary people for whom businessmen are associated more with profit than popular welfare.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Prime Minister’s recent endeavours have been to project himself as pro-poor in the aftermath of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s jibes about the government being a “suit-boot ki sarkar”. Modi also decided to drop his plans to amend the land acquisition law enacted by the previous government because it was felt that he was tilting too much in favour of big business.

This habit of adopting new outlooks has been seen in the demonetisation episode as well, which is now being presented as an exercise in digitalising the country’s financial transactions and not a drive against black money. However, all these twists and turns might not have led to the formation of the Economic Advisory Council if the sinking growth rate had not made the government jittery.

Besides, several other problems have cropped up to exacerbate the sense of unease in the government and the BJP. The caution sounded by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) about the murmurs of disquiet among the people must have also enhanced the feeling of anxiety in the saffron camp.

Among the main causes of worry is the absence of jobs, coupled with the State Bank of India’s view that the economic slowdown may not be a “transient” phenomenon and is certainly not a “technical” glitch, as BJP president Amit Shah has said. The phenomenon of jobless growth has changed, therefore, into one of few jobs and hardly any growth. However, as even a pro-BJP economist pointed out, an economic council will be unable to suggest the possibility of an immediate turnaround since its panaceas will all have long gestation periods.

The so-called Big Bang reforms to introduce buoyancy in the economy and boost public confidence are also out because the government has never tried it before and is unlikely to do so when the general elections are less than two years away and several crucial state assembly polls are due next year. Besides, Jaitley’s proposed Rs 50,000 crore ($7.6 billion) stimulus may undermine the target for curbing fiscal deficit. The scene is not unlike what happened towards the end of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure when he spoke of reviving the “animal spirits” but to no avail.

The economy is not the government’s only cause of concern. It was an unfortunate coincidence for the BJP that students went on the warpath in Banaras Hindu University just when the party was holding its National Executive meeting and Modi was in attendance in the city. The unrest drew attention to the fact that the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), has lost several student union elections recently in a demonstration of how the youth was getting disillusioned with the party.

For the BJP, 2014 has never been farther away.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst.)

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  1. Eknaath Nagarkar
    Oct 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm
    The opening paragraph wrongly suggests the idea 'last three years Modi has been pondering over this one thing' and nothing else! (?) Will someone please explain who can rightfully claim to be a political analyst? Till such time I too shall claim this le Political Analyst
    Reply
    1. Damodardas Subodhdas Deshaabhimaani
      Oct 1, 2017 at 7:31 am
      ...shri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India has acquired over the course of his life and their relevance and fitness that enable him to preside over the destiny of this great and ancient country of 1.3 billion people in the manner he does, and he did in Gujarat in 2002, before and after , and india since 2014. If you don't do that duty of your's , it is only history and future that will be left to do that job! But they will not only judge shri Modi and his policies! They will judge you too! And also will be judged the innocent and/or ignorant men of Nagpur! Your thoughts for this country may be noble, but your actions in putting this Man in charge of this country will be judged minutely in this world, and in the world above! You can not plead ignorance and innocence before history or God! Be ye know that sir!
      Reply
      1. Damodardas Subodhdas Deshaabhimaani
        Oct 1, 2017 at 7:30 am
        Where does he think his wisdom comes from to trust this one fool every sane economist of any training and education would dismiss as an with delusions and fantasies more akin to ual dreams and desires than economics? How can he gamble the present and future of the economy of a nation of 1.3 billion people based on his quirk belief in a fool from Pune that has zero training and education in economics or politics? That fool may know some gears and livers of mechanics, he may know some physics, he may know some mathematics but how would he know economics? Is it not very dangerous for this country to have such a gentleman as prime minister? People of India, intellectuals of India, economists of India, politicians of India, civil servants of India, educated patriots of India, you all have a duty to study and understand the thought process, the life background, the different training and life experiences this person named shri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India has ..
        Reply
        1. Damodardas Subodhdas Deshaabhimaani
          Oct 1, 2017 at 7:27 am
          Where does he think his wisdom comes from to trust this one fool every sane economist of any training and education would dismiss as an with delusions and fantasies more akin to ual dreams and desires than economics? Does he get it from his days of humble upbringing as a very normal child, or as a young man helping his father run his Tea shop making and dispensing Chai, or his Rss pracharak gurus or work as a pracharak that gave him what little education and knowledge he has about the world and India, or the bunch of thoughts of she late Guru Golwalkar, or his political mentors in the BJP office in New Delhi before he was sent to Gujarat? Why is he not humble enough to leave economics to economists by telling them his politics and seek their prescription for achieving his political philosophy, be it of RSS OR OF WHAT little acumen he acquired as a normal sane ordinary Indian and as an rss pracharak that has seen some down to earth life? How can he gamble the present ....
          Reply
          1. Damodardas Subodhdas Deshaabhimaani
            Oct 1, 2017 at 7:24 am
            Where does he get his acumen and knowledge that gives him such confidence to ignore everyone and everything he is bound to listen to and consult as per the cons ution? Not the Board of the RBI, not the cabinet, not the opposition leaders, not any past or present ministers of finance of India, not his predecessor prime minister Shri Manmohan singh, not the President of the Country in Office, not a past and present comptroller and Auditor General, not anyone from IMF OR WORLD bank or Bricks Bank? He trusts this fool of economic ual fantasies from Pune that has so many delusions and illusions and s with outlandish thoughts of a new world order of economics? What does give this prime minister that KIND of confidence about his own ability to ignore and distrust everyone but this fool and may be some sycophant IAS FELLOW from Gujarat days, or a psychopath secretary ? Where does he think his wisdom comes from to trust this one fool every sane economist of any training
            Reply
            1. Damodardas Subodhdas Deshaabhimaani
              Oct 1, 2017 at 7:22 am
              What kind of a Man shri Modi could be, if he listens to the fool of a mechanical Engineer of that ic organisation and economic philosophy called Arth Kranthi from Pune, With ideas that resemble more a ual fantasy than economics unheard of from any sane economist, and gambles with the future of a country of 1.3 billion people? This prime minister would bulldoze the sane advise of one of the sanest economists that ever headed the RBI, listens to this fool from Pune, does not consult any other of the hundreds of sane men with knowledge of economics but also love him as his fans, does not trust his own cabinet members and shepherds them to a meeting hall and gives a lecture to them before lecturing the country announcing demonetisation of a scale and severity that the world has never seen before! What does he think of his ability to grasp economics of a country as big as and as ancient and diverse as India?
              Reply
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