If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance battle them with bull. A truism which comes to mind as the Modi Sarkar rolls out its first year report card nee facts, figures, data and statistics of 2.0, no matter statistics are unreliable facts from reliable figures.
Sure, the Prime Minister can overwhelm with his speaking skills and optics continuing to ride the wings of glory and fame for a new order of acche din. The message must be resounding and messianic. If his first tenure was about ‘Swachch Bharat’ to ‘Make in India’, now it’s Aatma Nirbhar, and ‘Go vocal on local.’ Namo’s progress is a study in chutzpah and grandeur.
Certainly, he’s the smartest politician since Indira Gandhi, has won two full majorities, projects himself as protector and father figure and has contempt for the Lutyens lobby and Khan Market Gang. His macho “56 inch ke chhathi” persona is built on his oratory skills, decisiveness and his connect and identity with the aam aadmi.
Perhaps, that explains his perceived arrogance running a one-man rock band albeit concentrating power in the PMO. A one-way street full of staccato monologue, no dialogue and questions are a strict no-no. He uses Modisque ‘direct marketing’ format and delivers a speech every 1.9 days (45.6 hours) and counting.
He has destroyed all Opposition which is in shambles, fragmented, leaderless and directionless in its elusive quest for a coherent narrative to take on the BJP defines Modi’s first year of 2.0 in office. He has saturated airwaves, social and digital media with his relentless onslaught of ushering in change.
Yet when one draws up the balance-sheet of his Government, can the Prime Minister brush under the carpet the fact that the situation sadly continues to remain stagnant —status quo ante? Has Modi walked his talk of Saath Hai, Vishwaas Hai…Ho Raha Vikas Hai and delivered? Has he brought about inclusiveness, made minorities comfortable and won their confidence? And where are the jobs, the promised development, infrastructure, quality education even Aache Din? Or, should one believe his detractors who see Modi as a filibuster of a “fundamentalist Party”?
As the BJP Government marks its first anniversary 2.0, the year is likely to be celebrated, though subdued, for fulfillment of its decades-old “core” ideological Hindutva demands of building a Ram temple at Ayodhya (judicial order) and nullification of Article 370, which gave the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir special status.
Two other achievements were criminalising the practice of instant divorce among Muslim men and successfully pushing through the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Christian and Parsi from Muslim majority Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh on the ground of religious persecution,
Politically, while the BJP juggernaut rolls on, the electoral rewards show the Party wanting, whereby it underperformed in 5 State Assembly polls compared to its massive 303 MPs Lok Sabha win. With the NaMo factor absent the Party performed below par in Maharashtra, where its traditional ally Shiv Sena joined hands with the Opposition NCP and Congress to form the Government and in Haryana it was forced to ally with Chautala’s JJP to rule.
The Party suffered a big defeat in Jharkhand where it lost power and fared poorly in Delhi. It however, managed to turn tables in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh as defections from the JD(S) and Congress saw veteran saffron warhorses Yediyurappa and SS Chouhan as Chief Ministers.
Undeniably, as the heart-wrenching migrant crisis continues to unfold it exposes the Government floundering and dithering. Stories abound of men and pregnant women carrying mal-nourished children begging for water and food, driven by hunger and joblessness, pushed around by police as they trudge slowly back home on foot or packed in container trucks; run over by goods trains and speeding trucks on highways or falling dead out of exhaustion.
It’s been nine weeks since this exodus began, and no one from the Government has reached out to these millions with even empty sympathy. Instead, they preen around reeling figures of the Shramik trains, money deposited under various schemes like the Garib Kalyan Yojana. Yet the urban and rural poor continue to suffer.
It took the pandemic to showcase that India is grappling with catastrophic suffering on two fronts: Health and economic. On both counts the level of Government preparedness is as non-existent now as it was earlier. We barely have a health infrastructure which is plagued by heartlessness, lethargy, corruption and bereft of cure and consolation. At best it is rickety. Think. Public investment in health is barely 1% of the GDP? Consequently, public health is in the ICU despite, Government’s cut throat projections and assertions of ‘all’s good.’
Appallingly, the country is crippled by shortage of over 600,000 doctors and two million nurses. there is only one allopathic doctor per 10,189 people, one hospital bed per 2046 persons and one State-run hospital per 90,343 people, one million allopathic doctors for 1.3 billion people of which only 10% work in public health sector and 700 million have no access to specialist care as 80% of specialists live in urban areas.
Startlingly, Modi has still to address key developmental issues that continue to exercise people: employment, enforcing basic state functions like law and order, preventing crime against women and children, inflation, illiteracy and ill-health which are the touchstone of the much-hyped and illusionary deal of roti, kapada aur makan. Look at the irony. Cellphones go abegging, yet people continue to beg for food.
The most notable failure of the Government is that its catchy slogan of minimum government, maximum governance touted as a new power paradigm of providing baggage-free good governance to unshackle moribund laws and State has come to bite him and how! Today, alas, the Government has its fingers in all economic and social policies for change. Down to deciding if people should eat meat and drink.
Moreover, there is political disquiet over Modi’s failure to curb his fringe rabid Hindutva brigands who espouse communal polarization. This has corroded inter-community relations, to an extent where discrimination against the minority community seems to be par for the course. Less said the better about allegations of Saffronisation of education.
What next? Politically, can Modi change India? Certainly, he is no magician who can cure India of its over 70 years ills expediently, despite his brand of politics. Towards that end he needs to relive what he ad nauseum chants, “The real meaning of politics is not power but service.” He needs to invigorate the system and fortify democratic institutions.
There is no gainsaying that NaMo and his Hindutva cahoots can no longer afford to be complacent or traditional as the young voters do not have the patience for inane diatribe, they demand a better deal for their tomorrow. He can enhance his Government’s performance by addressing weak areas and can covert threats into opportunities.
Time now to stop being smug, ostrich-like cocooned in the misconception that ‘all is well’ as it reels of statistics, umpteen yojnas and continues to pat itself for a job well done. Milking ‘Go vocal on Atmanirbhar’ will not fill malnourished hungry stomachs. People need roti, kapada, makaan and naukri. Besides, Saath and Vishwas alone about Vikas will not usher Achhe Din.
All in all, the task is cumbersome and steep. The clock continues to tick as shrewd Modi continues his promises juggernaut. He has to live up to huge expectations generated by his 3D media campaign on twitter, U tube, social networking sites and Man ki baat.
Certainly he has redefined politics and promises further change. Importantly, can and will Modi be able to reconstruct the language of democracy. Remember, leaders don’t build democracies; people do.