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Waiting for the Saviour

Waiting for the Saviour
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Waiting for the Saviour. India is waiting for the saviour. But the wait seems to be tedious and longer. From May 16 to 26, it is perhaps the longest...

India is waiting for the saviour. But the wait seems to be tedious and longer. From May 16 to 26, it is perhaps the longest ever labour pain. People’s expectations are running so high that questions are being asked, “Will he ever deliver?”

After all the sound and fury of the elections, everything has come to a standstill. Astrologers have given the time and date – 6 pm on May 26. The whole country is waiting with bated breath for the defining moment. The hope is that Narendra Modi can make his success story of Gujarat into India’s economic miracle. The expectations of the first time voter are far greater –that Modi can generate millions of new jobs; economists hope that Modi can plug India’s infrastructure gap and attract foreign money as he has done in Gujarat; investor hope has pushed stock market to the dizzy height of 25,000 at BSE and more than 7,500 at NSE; rupee has regained value and stabilised at around Rs 59-60 against US dollar from Rs 69-70 some six months ago.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects India’s growth rate to recover from 4.4 per cent in 2013 to 5.4 per cent in 2014 and 6.4 per cent in 2015. Will he meet the expectations? Only time will tell.

The BJP, which espouses a pro-Hindu nationalist message, however, will have to compromise its rhetoric in the face of global political and economic realities. Though the economy started looking up, the less than 5 per cent growth rate is worrisome, while consumer price inflation is going up unchecked at around 10 per cent, foreign investment in the country has been falling. Falling growth rate and inflation are closely related to the UPA government’s populist measures and the subsidies. According to economists, some of the populist schemes that the Congress-led UPA government had launched -- like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), a work programme for unskilled rural labourers, and the National Food Security Act, a programme to subsidise food and grains for some 800 million people -- are simply too popular for the BJP to scrap. For political reasons, the BJP will have to carry on a lot of what the Congress had doled out as subsidies.

India faces a number of internal security threats, including that of the Maoists and Islamic Indian Mujahedeen terror groups. Modi may have promised tough measures against both the outfits, but wisdom suggests that he should handle the problem very delicately, otherwise chances are that it will be counter-productive and may boomerang.

Even his policy towards the Muslim minorities should not provoke the community further. Modi can’t just write off more than 130 million citizens who are Muslims. He can win elections without their votes, but he can’t alienate them without damaging his legitimacy, according to some observers. He is already paying a heavy price for the Gujarat riots of 2002. Even if he becomes a very successful Prime Minister, eventually history will judge him for his role in the deadly massacre.

The Congress, the regional parties and the Left have come together to fight the communal and anti-secular policies of the BJP government. Though the party, together with the allies, has managed to win 336 seats in the Lok Sabha, it doesn’t have enough strength in the Rajya Sabha to get the crucial Bills passed in the Upper House. Unless the party wins more states and the number of RS members is increased, most of the Bills will be stuck up in the Rajya Sabha as has happened to the UPA government.

The election results show that some of the non-BJP governments have lost the confidence of the people – like the ones in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Maharashtra and even Karnataka – and taking a cue from the Janata Party Government in 1977, the BJP government at the Centre can dissolve these State Assemblies and call for fresh elections. In March 1977, the Janata Party won a clear majority in the Lok Sabha and brought to an end 30 years of uninterrupted rule of the Congress at the Centre.

In a very swift move, the Janata government dissolved the State Assemblies in seven Congress-ruled States and announced a mini-general election in June 1977. The people, disappointed by the repeated failures of the Congress to fulfil its promises, turned to their new found love, and the Janata Party gained power in seven States. The northern states swept away the Congress party, and decided to try the Janata Party, which was nothing but a coalition, described by Indira Gandhi as a political kichidi. However, the Janata Party was not a viable proposition; it eventually crumbled under the weight of its own contradictions.

The mid-term elections to the Lok Sabha held in January 1980 returned Mrs Gandhi to power by an overwhelming majority. Within five weeks of assuming office, in a tit for tat, she decided to cut short the life of eight Assemblies where non-Congress governments were in power. Subsequently, in the elections held in May 1980, the Congress secured two-thirds majority in five States and absolute majority in three States.

In the present scenario, the BJP government at the Centre could dissolve the State Assemblies where the ruling party had been virtually wiped out in the Lok Sabha elections. If fresh elections are held, the BJP will sweep these States as well. This, in turn, will increase the strength of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha as well.

In any case, the State Governments in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh do not deserve to be in power, going by their non-performance. In Delhi, there is no government and the Assembly has been kept in suspended animation. Fresh election is the only solution even there.

Well, the new government needs to exhibit strong political will to implement bold economic reforms, create world-class infrastructure, address the power deficit and all the promises made by Modi during the election campaign.

The people have given the verdict. Now it is for him to deliver.

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