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Growing Disenchantment

Growing Disenchantment
Highlights

There was great enthusiasm and hopes were running high, particularly among the youth, when people decided to defeat the Congress party and gave a clear mandate to the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi. The BJP in fact got an unprecedented majority. People used to be glued to the TV channels whenever Modi used to speak – whether on Indian soil or somewhere abroad.

There was great enthusiasm and hopes were running high, particularly among the youth, when people decided to defeat the Congress party and gave a clear mandate to the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi. The BJP in fact got an unprecedented majority. People used to be glued to the TV channels whenever Modi used to speak – whether on Indian soil or somewhere abroad. That was Modi mania. People felt very happy when Modi got a red-carpet welcome in US, a country where once his entry was barred. People had entertained high hopes that corruption would come down and black money would be controlled.

With general elections just six months away (in case the Centre goes ahead with its decision of holding simultaneous polls), it’s time to take stock of what has been said and what has been achieved. The Swiss National Bank’s data which revealed the rise in Indian money held with Swiss banks by 50 per cent comes as a surprise and shock given the continuing clampdown on black money stashed abroad. This has received flak even from BJP leaders.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy has hit out at the government for its failure in curbing generation of black money. Writing on his Twitter handle, Swamy said, "Secret Swiss bank accounts deposits from global sources rose by three per cent in last 12 months. Indians' deposits however grew 50 per cent."

The Congress in a tweet said, "One of PM Modi's long-standing campaign promises of bringing back black money falls flat. While you sit and wait for your promised Rs 15 lakh, more capital has flown the coop." AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said Modi had promised that his government would bring back the money stashed in Swiss banks and would deposit Rs 15 lakhs in each account of poor in the country but even 15 paise has not been deposited. Tweeting a caricature on the development, the Aam Aadmi Party said the black money parked in foreign lands will not return in PM Modi's government.

In the past the ruling parties used to say that they had not been able to usher in certain reforms since they had unwieldy coalitions. Modi government had an enviable and clear majority. But still four years down the line and close to next elections, reforms seem to be a distant dream. Even the slogan of cooperative federalism which was seen as a welcome concept seems to have failed. Most of the states felt that the Centre would take the state governments on board as well. To convert cooperative federalism into a reality, most states require constant hand-holding. While the Centre has all experts to come up with various models and concepts the state governments do not have such resources. They also do not have the kind of policymakers the centre has.

A little bit of introspection would reveal that the Centre seems to have failed to convert the slogan of cooperative federalism into reality. The state governments have not been given proper incentives and there has been no follow-up support. In one word, the Centre seems to have ignored the States, including those ruled by its allies.

While in the past unwieldy coalition hampered cooperative federalism, this time absolute majority seems to have made the Centre adamant in its attitude. In public administration and business management, the first lesson says that no two situations are similar, and the solution cannot be same for similar problem every time. The policies which brought success for Modi while he was the Chief Minister for 12 years need not necessarily be equally successful across the country.

It is not that Modi government did not achieve any success. It did both nationally and Internationally. For example, the project it had taken up for rural electrification has been a major success. The pace of rural electrification has been fastest in India’s history. Similarly, the NDA government had taken up road building on a massive scale. If about 17 km or roads were built per day during the UPA regime, the NDA government constructed around 17 km of roads per day. Another bold step was the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS). This scheme, if properly implemented, would provide medical insurance to about 500 million people who are in the low income group.

But then why did the sheen of Modi government start wearing away? Analysts say that the defence budget did not match the requirement. Nearly two per cent of GDP goes towards salaries, pensions and overheads. Demonetisation was badly executed and it had made people lose faith in the banking system. Even today many people prefer to keep some cash reserves at home since they are unable to draw their own money from the ATMs. Even before people could reconcile with the negative impact of demonetisation came the GST which has burdened the common man.

The GST has been designed in such a complex manner that even a small business entrepreneur feels that a big hole has been dug into his pocket and his net income which used to be on an average about Rs 50,000 has come down to Rs 30,000 or so. This has alienated the young entrepreneur and middle-class. The middle class now has to pay more for all kinds of goods they buy from the market. The traders charge GST but no one knows how much they are showing on record and how much tax they are paying to the government genuinely. If the statistics are any indication, the tax collection also does not seem to have increased much.

The slogan of Make in India had in the initial stage become a major slogan both for the BJP and the Congress but this too seems to have been a mixed bag. The investors, particularly foreign investors, seem to be making cautious moves. While the silver lining for the NDA government is that there has been no scam which the opposition can talk about, it has failed to overcome the bureaucratic inertia. Certain schemes conceived by the government lacked proper study. Financial wizards say that the regressive long-term capital gains tax has slowed inflows into mutual funds.

The success of a government depends on the happiness index of people and this too seems to have hit a new low. Certainly, the BJP has an uphill task before it to sustain its present strength in Lok Sabha.

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