2017 make or break year
By Poonam I Kaushish
Happy New Year! Will it be happy? Most important, where is our Pradhan Sevak taking India? Questions abound. Given that the promise of ache din with minimum Government and maximum governance has turned out to be an ephemeral mirage over the last two and a half years, specially post demonetization. Raising a moot point: Will 2017 be his make or break year?
Undoubtedly, demonetsation was a game changer, whether good or bad, the jury is still out. True economists worldwide have condemned the move as a retrograde step which would set India back by a year at least. They have a point. Rules were changed over 60 times in 50 days. Sic.
Shockingly, banks are still not able to dispense money and provide full cash requirement for running ATMs on a 24×7 basis. Add to it over 40 per cent of these are not working and those functional dispense new notes of Rs 2,000 because of the shortage of notes of lesser value.
Worse, the RBI has downsized GDP by over one per cent, businesses are folding up like a pack of cards, millions of workers have been laid off resulting in rising unemployment, loss of wages, aanaj mandis and other markets saw a sharp drop in trading volumes and notwithstanding the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and kisan cards over 52 per cent of farmers have an average debt of Rs 47,000.
As per the RBI’s Financial Stability Report, the stress test indicated that under the baseline scenario, the Gross Non-Performing Assets (GNPA) ratio might increase from 9.1 per cent in September 2016 to 9.8 per cent by March 2017. This could further increase to 10.1 per cent by March 2018.
Predictably, with everything beginning and ending with our Prime Minister, India continues to search for her soul. Topped by a mundane performance, more talk than action. Yet, Modi remains the tallest leader with the people rooting for him as decisive, one who is determined to build a prosperous future for them.
Caring tuppence for the Opposition disparagingly dismissing him as ‘Mr U Turn’s’ on everything he assured: Eradicating corruption, getting back black money stashed abroad, flow of foreign investments capped by a new development agenda et al. All which seem to have come to naught.
True, the blame rest on the Opposition too. The Congress’s VP Rahul aka “Pappu” balance sheet not only shows nil but also there is mutual antipathy between him and the Party’s old guard. Alongside, he is not taking seriously by the regional satraps who refuse to accept him as their leader.
Naturally with a disunited Opposition, Modi continues to be the toast of India. His supporters reel out excuses for sluggish change, “How can one compare 30 months rule to 60 years misrule, the Congress looted the exchequer leaving no money in the Governmental till, give him time.” Importantly, his single-status, integrity and honesty whitewash all the criticism. Remember stories of how he took his ministerial colleagues to task on talk of bribery.
However, politically for the NDA Government and Party it is not going to be a cake walk. Much will depend on how the elections to five State Assemblies pans out this year. If the BJP wins UP and Gujarat, NaMo’s reputation will scale new heights. Besides giving the NDA more elbow room for reforms in its last two years.
The results would also determine whether Modi gets to pick his President and Vice-President. If the BJP’ loses UP it would fail to gain a majority in the Rajya Sabha to pass key legislations. The Opposition would smell an opportunity and mar the chances of a Hindutva Presidential nominee.
However, the Party has enough votes in the two Houses to get a VP of its liking which is crucial since he presides over the Rajya Sabha. Hence 2017 will determine whether the Prime Minister has the clout to pick winners for high state offices.
Startlingly, for reasons best known to him, Modi has still to address key developmental issues that continue to exercise people: education, health, and housing before toilets! Water, power and employment. More. He has yet to adopt out-of-the-box measures in running his administration, invigorate the system and fortify democratic institutions. How can a bureaucracy meant to perpetuate Status Quo be the instruments of change? Babus becoming dynamos, impossible.
Sadly, beyond the financial might of overflowing tillers of Brand India, lies the squalor and the filth that is the reality of asli Bharat. The less said the better of the poor kisans. The polity’s callous and lackadaisical reaction to farmers’ suicide says it all. Compensation is virtually non-existent.
Alongside, the terror dance continues. Undeniably, the Government has a lot of explaining to do vis-à-vis Pathankot, Pampore, Uri and Handwara. Till date no one is any the wiser about what exactly happened, how the militants and whether it was an intelligence failure or lack of preparedness. Coupled with this we don’t seem to have a Pakistan policy? All knee jerk reactions of India loves Pakistan, no it does not.
What next? Can Modi change India and take it to superpower status? Given that the Prime Minister has raised the aspirational barometer higher can he ensure speedy development at the grassroots through a decentralized administration responsive to the rising expectations of its people in accordance with a mature and meaningful democracy? Rise above the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva agenda even as he touts development as India’s panacea?
Undeniably, Modi has taken a grand gamble. Certainly, he is no magician who can cure India of all its 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.
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 and social networking sites.
The next 12 months will see whether the war on black money will yield political dividends for the BJP and the economy pick up. Will India buy peace with Pakistan and negotiate with Donald Trump’s America.
Certainly, Modi’s image for honesty has been burnished but his image as a pro-growth reformer needs a boost. He needs to spend big on infrastructure and revive rural economy. Shamefully, in the last year alone, over 16,500 farmers have committed suicide, epitomising the country’s ennui to its farmers.
The burden on NaMo is enormous and his task is not enviable. He needs to remember with great power comes greater responsibility. Time to rejig his persona and come down to earth. Rise from being an absolute ruler to a grassroots neta. It remains to be seen if Modi can and will reconstruct the language of democracy. Remember, leaders don’t build democracies; people do.
All in all, 2017 will be defined by Modi’s accomplishments, his ability to redefine politics and bring about change? Deliver on his promised Acche Din encompassing roti, kapada, makaan and naukri and minimum Government and maximum governance? NaMo still has three more years to deliver. Hope lives on. —— INFA