Having lost Delhi in overconfidence and Bihar in a tactically bad campaign, Assam has restored the nerves. Modi is a winner.
The past is prologue. It has given us a good idea of how much has been achieved and how much there is yet to do. It has also revealed to the PM himself his strength and his weaknesses. There have been successes in raising India’s image abroad. The Look East policy, the Pakistan initiatives, the Chabahar challenge — all bear Modi’s signature. The economy has been strong despite the two droughts. Even inflation — onion prices, dal prices — has not made headlines lately.
Having lost Delhi in overconfidence and Bihar in a tactically bad campaign, Assam has restored the nerves. Modi is a winner. Amit Shah has corralled the culture warriors within his party. That assures success.
There has been a lot of learning. The incoming government had a naive faith in a Lok Sabha majority as a guarantee of legislative power. It got hung up on Rajya Sabha numbers. It took some time to realise that a majority in the Rajya Sabha was not on the cards even under the best case scenario till 2019. The Prime Minister’s lack of Delhi experience showed. As an outsider, he takes the rules of the parliamentary game literally. Parliament in India does not work on raw numbers, but on the capacity to make deals. The previous four governments since 1989 which had five-year terms never had a majority; they survived by doing deals. But to Modi, deal-making smacked of corruption. So precious time was spent on learning the wisdom of experienced players.
The same goes for the Executive. A provincial chief minister is a dictator. A prime minister has to seek Cabinet support. Modi trusted civil service too much as an instrument of implementation. The bureaucracy is clever and efficient but not quick. The government has taken two years to realise that the PSU banks need consolidation at the very least and privatisation is the best option. But Modi is a moderate conservative, not a reforming radical. The price is slow progress and the stagnation of manufacturing, because the government dare not change labour laws.
So while Modi is still número uno, there is a whiff of disappointment at the slowness of change. A slew of new initiatives have been launched by the PM, but they cannot disguise the lack of radical reform of the old moribund structure he inherited.
There are only 1,092 days left. An end to the drought will help enormously. Suresh Prabhu and Nitin Gadkari are making massive investment in infrastructure. Piyush Goyal should have sorted out the power problem within the next year and Ravi Shankar Prasad, the issues with communications.
Make in India, Start-up India, Swachh Bharat and the social welfare initiatives will bear fruits soon. The trajectory of growth rates would be upwards to 9 per cent in the next three years.
The Government must realise that you don’t need a majority to get legislation through, but goodwill. Do not worry about the Congress (apart from unparliamentary conduct). Find support from others. Nor should it worry about the siren voices asking it to ditch Raghuram Rajan. A local passport does not matter as much as competence and confidence of the global markets. Offer him an extension and hope he accepts and does not have better jobs to go to. Then re-election with a bigger majority would be a good bet.