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July 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         June 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2018

AN ASSESSMENT

Four years of PM Modi

Hari Jaisingh

As a journalist-author rooted to the soil, I have closely watched India’s social, economic and political scene for decades. I have objectively assessed the issues and problems the country has been faced in my book India: Between Dream and Reality released by eminent jurist Nani Palkhiwala in Mumbai in 1989.

Travelling across urban and rural areas, I find that after 71 years of Independence, the same issues of development and harmony continue to haunt us, with some variations in degrees. Development has been a passionate mantra of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has just crossed four out of five years of the BJP-led NDA rule which will be on the electorate test in 2019. The people deserve good governance and faster growth. Everything depends on committed rulers, guided by a true spirit of democracy and fair play.

It is foolhardy to hide the truth. Satyameva Jayate ! Indian rulers have to be true to their words, honest to themselves and the people and move fast to the modern path of logic and reason to make India shine beyond the narrow canvas of caste, creed, religion and community.

The “nakedness” of a ruler, whether self-inflicted or induced by his aides, cannot be a subject of controversy. The people are the best judge of ground realities, beyond biased eyes of analysts!

I do not wish to be judgmental as I look back and ahead on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime. However, I must say that no government since Independence ever launched such a massive publicity blitz on TV screens and in print as I see today with blownup pictures of PM Modi. My only word of caution to publicity wizards is: please do not subject Narendra Modi to the natural law of diminishing return!

Dreams are, of course, dreams. But our dreams must not get lost between promises and performance. It is beyond my means to examine each claim as spelt out by the publicity authorities of the Modi government as we see them on TV screens and in full page advertisements. I only propose to briefly assess some claims vis-àvis ground realities.

Generally speaking, official statistics are like bikini which hides “the real stuff”. Whether one is taken in by official figures and claims is an individual choice. However, I must say that big and small gaps do exist between promises and delivery on the ground.

My point of regret is: instead of tackling domestic problems, how could a grassroots chaiwala think of travelling to as many as 36 foreign countries (as of May 2018) during four years of his rule? And, with what results?


Of course, the in-thing is marketing. Even “dreams” are marketed. They may or may not stir the poor and the have-nots. Right from the days of Indira Gandhi, I believe that sloganeering can hardly banish poverty and illiteracy. Only action on the ground can speak louder than high-pitched anti-poverty slogans. Television images do glitter. But all that glitters is not gold!

The poor largely remain where they were in the on-going crushing level of high prices of even basic ingredients of life – dal and roti!

Amidst the growing gap between the rich and the poor, what is particularly worrying me is the way democracy is getting redefined. It is no longer “of the people, by the people and for the people”. Democracy today is of ‘politicians, by politicians and for politicians and their collaborators’! Here party labels are just incidental. Most leaders play populist politics. How can principles fit in the circumstances?

What is equally disquieting is today’s divisive politics has become confrontationist politics. That is why we see more exchanges of fisticuff and violent acts than meaningful debates in Parliament and legislatures on the people’s real problems.

Let me now get back to PM Modi’s eye-catching claims given in details in advertisements:
1. Harnessing Yuva Shakti.
2. Building a Healthy India
3. Development reaching out to the poor
4. Unwavering commitment to social justice
5. Putting Farmers First
6. New Infrastructure for New India
7. Full potential through womenled development
8. Eliminating corruption, institutionalizing Honesty and enhancing Transparency
9. Unprecedented speed and scale in Transforming India
10. India becomes the Global Growth Engine.

Without going into the details, I wish to recall some facts and ground realities which continue to bother me. My broad assessment of Narendra Modi on the national scene is that his understanding of India’s complexities is somewhat limited and lopsided. So are his priorities. Also, he has not yet fully grasped the country’s evolution historically. Indeed, one-track mind could be dangerous and counter-productive. India cannot be fully cast in the Gujarat mould of development!

My point of regret is: instead of tackling domestic problems, how could a grassroots chaiwala think of travelling to as many as 36 foreign countries (as of May 2018) during four years of his rule? And, with what results?

Adhocism does not help to make a sound and rational domestic and foreign policies. The Prime Minister can set the tone, but he has to use available instruments of governance and manpower to deliver the set targets. Cheers of NRIs and others could thrill him personally, but they cannot wipe out tears from the eyes of lakhs of farmers’ in distress and unemployed youth.

Prime Minister Modi promised in 2014 that farmers would earn “50 per cent profit above cost of production, over and above MSP”. This has not yet materialized. No wonder, the average income of farmers works out a mere Rs 1666 a month. The rest is a matter of detail – from loan waivers to MNREGA payments. On the claim of total electrification, a Financial Express report says 32 million households still remain to be electrified – 14 per cent across the country.


Over 130 farmer organisations begin 10-day stir Prime Minister Modi promised in 2014 that farmers would earn “50 per cent profit above cost of production, over and above MSP”. This has not yet materialized. No wonder, the average income of farmers works out a mere Rs 1666 a month. The rest is a matter of detail – from loan waivers to MNREGA payments. On the claim of total electrification, a Financial Express report says 32 million households still remain to be electrified – 14 per cent across the country.

As for the state of education, in February, the HRD Minister claimed that India (Centre and States) was spending 4.5 per cent of GDP on education. But the facts show otherwise.

Unplanned closure of 2 lakh government schools over the past four years has led to massive dropout of children, especially girls from tribal areas in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand as well as Rajasthan,Telengana and Gujarat. Well, so much for the national slogan of “Beti Bachao,Beti Padhao”.

Even on women’s rights and their safety, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests an increase of 12.4 per cent in rape cases, from 34,651 cases in 2015 to 38,947 in 2016.

What is more, in one year India has slipped 21 places on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index “from 87 to 108”, behind even China and Bangladesh.

Equally disturbing are NCRB figures that suggest a sharp increase in crimes against Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Even crime rates against certain sections of society has jumped eight times (746 p.c.) and 12 times (1,160 p.c.) in the past decades. The new trend in the past four years has been cow-related hate crimes, leading to rise in number of deaths of Muslims and Dalits.

On questions of corruption, bank frauds, transparency and Modi’s highly commendable promise of “Na Khaoonga, na Khaane doonga”, Forbes has ranked India as “the most corrupt country in Asia”. Apparently, someone somewhere is misleading the nation! Just recall the great escape of diamond merchant Nirav Modi after defrauding PNB of Rs 13,000 crore. It is said that as many as 31 scam-tainted billionaires have fled the country, right under the “transparent system” of our beloved chowkidar! The people are still awaiting his promised reforms in the financial administrative sectors! Also, where is the promised Lokpal?

Advt projection My idea is not to decry PM Modi and his team. The Prime Minister is a well-intentioned person. He has his dreams and priorities. But my expectations from were high when he landed on the national scene. Today I am disappointed, simply because of the glaring gaps I see between his promises and ground realities. Not that he has done nothing. Being a good orator, he has packaged his promises and some actions very well. But, whatever he has done are not good enough to outshine his predecessors. Here lies the tragedy as we see the tie with the roof getting thinner and thinner, with the man’s mind hanging in no-man’s land of history.

Disgust, frustration, cynicism and skepticism are inevitable fallout of the drift. In such a mental climate impulses can be easily provoked, making conflicts and tensions the masters of the mind. Politicians then play their games. They try to maximize votes by dividing the people and snap the very silken bonds that unite them.

Problems can certainly be tackled with a freshness of approach, bold initiatives, an integrated all-inclusive policies and honest pragmatic programming. Over to Prime Minister Modi! Can he correct himself? The problem with him is that he has cast himself in a larger-than-life mould. In this setting, no one seems to matter in the country’s intricate art of governance!