In first three years, PM Modi scripted India’s re-emergence on world’s map; but challenge of job creation and farm sector still loom large.
On November 8, when PM Narendra Modi appeared for his address to the nation, declaring the abrogation of the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, apart from demonetization, it was also clear: he doesn’t mean to do things as business as usual. The outcome of the efforts are still being hotly debated, it has already resulted in 28.3% of income tax payers and created a financial trail that would enable the government to crack down on the big offenders.
Three years ago, PM Modi got full majority in Lok Sabha, and became first such PM whose career was entirely groomed outside Congress. It was expected out of him, to break several moulds and initiate an alternative discourse. The discourse, which is backed with ideas of nationalism, Hindu worldview, economics & philosophy, required a fulcrum, which could match the statures of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi et al. In last three years, Modi proved it to the world, he is the best man suited for the job. In his career, Nehru toed the line of erstwhile British rulers –the spirit of adventure and a rational spirit of inquiry had given way to a narrow orthodoxy, taboos and a blind idolatry—he propagated this as reasons for India’s subjugation. Modi draws his ideological heritage from Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Shama Prasad Mookherjee, who opposed Nehruvian views.
In three years, his blueprint of decentralization of power and empowerment of state governments –core Hindu philosophy of governance—is visible. This include sacking of Planning Commission, replacing it with NITI Aayog. The new body is still facing teething troubles, but the intent was clear. To make states more participative in the governance and decision making. When Modi took oath of PM, he was no greenhorn, though, either to politics or administration. He learnt it in a hard way, especially when the then UPA government started seeing him as a potential threat and halted several of his ventures as the CM of Gujarat. But he used his sweat in developing consensus, to effect the restructure of indirect tax to Goods and Services Tax, or increasing the devolution of funds to the states. GST –first time since unification of India, all states agreed to one broad draft of resolution—is a biggest tax reform in Indian history. This tax willmake it easier for industry to do business across states and improve tax compliance. Both these reforms are moving country away from Nehruvian idea of centralized development initiatives.
In 2014, PM Modi took over with legacy issues of banks burdened with extensive non-performing assets, or NPAs. The stressed banks are also leading to a situation where private sector appetite to take fresh debt too is squeezed. Now that the RBI is been given task to clean up the mess, along with Joint Lenders’ Forum, solution is expected soon. The same intent was there, when ‘carrot and stick’ UDAY scheme was put in works to clean up the books of electricity distribution companies. The power ministry is anchoring this reform, which will not only resolve the debt issues of these companies, but will also improve their efficiency in services and bill collection. Next in line is reform in the steel sector.
In next two years, Modi needs support of states and opposition more. This time, it is to reform the labour sector. Most of the economists across the globe believe, India is on the cusp of revival of investment cycle and labour is key. The industry is looking at ways to flexibility in hiring, better framework for minimum wages and greater & flexible pool of temporary employments. Along with this, he needs to make agriculture more robust and entrepreneurial. He has already shared his vision of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022, but it would require massive support from the states –including the ones ruled by the BJP or with its allies.
The last three years went in weeding out legacy issues in the infrastructure sector & clearing the path to seek private sector investments in expansion of the road, rail and shipping networks to boost connectivity and economic growth. Unlike UPA, Modi pushed his ministers to break their silos and work as a team –it is reflecting in the efficiency of decision making and resolving the complex issues. For example: the average tariff of electricity generated by state promoted NTPC came down from Rs 3.25 in 2014 to Rs 1.97 a unit –this is because of improved quality of coal & efficient logistics. This could be realized because coal & power are governed by one minister. During the UPA regimes both these ministries were seen fighting among themselves.
His baiters say, his love for poor is a leaf out of ex-PM Indira Gandhi’s power plans. But unlike 70s or early 80s, delivery is directed well and is monitored more carefully. Instead of doles, Modi is pushing idea of Deen Dayal Upadhyay of Antodaya –of empowerment of last man standing—or poverty elimination with empowerment. These include bank accounts under Jan Dhan Yojna, cheaper insurances, better access to health and education, free LPG connections via PM Ujjwala yojna, rural electrification or access to toilets. In his several speeches, he expressed his concern that there are still millions who eat one time in a day, on some unlucky day not even once. PM Modi, was criticized initially by his opponents, including Congress leadership in Rahul Gandhi, with barb ‘suit boot government’ or government for riches. But now when, the NDA government is completing its three years, PM Modi established himself as a messiah of poor. In his head, he is very clear; India can’t achieve development without taking the poor and dalits along. Large portion of our country don’t have access to clean drinking water, no toilets or pucca houses.
Three years back, when he took oath of country’s prime minister, Modi considered himself as an outsider and new to Delhi’s snooty power circles. He instead of middling with the power lobbies here, he started pushing the nodal ministries to do their conferences at state capitals rather than swanky auditoriums of Lutyens Delhi. This one simple idea, is allowing these ministries to think out-of-the-box solutions to solve legacy issues, of the minister noted. Modi spent major portion of his life, covering the country length and breadth first as a sage and later as RSS pracharak, those who know him, say, he doesn’t need to go back to his bureaucrats for anecdotal description of challenges. & this includes complex issues related to electricity or simple issue of filing up of the forms. This reflects in his control over the governance. He put a tight leash on his ministers and bureaucrats, and ensured that there is no scope for corruption. Similarly, he demolished the industry of posting and transfers, by simply focusing on merit.
In his biggest political test –Uttar Pradesh—PM Modi cleared with flying colours. Before 2019, Modi is proving it to the world that good economics means good politics as well.