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By 2022, is ‘ New India’ becoming a reality? How far has the government come in achieving its ambitious goals?

By 2022, is ‘New India’ becoming a reality? How far has the government come in achieving its ambitious goals?

The prime failure for Narendra Modi is to change India’s economic fortunes, as he promised in 2014. The country is currently experiencing more deterioration in its institutions than ever before due to political change: majoritarianism has now been mainstreamed, and it has become more authoritarian.

The first year Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, he asked for ten years to transform the country. Almost three-quarters of the period has now passed under the Modi government. Considering the outlook for the last quarter-century of Modi’s rule, how should we look back on what we have lived through?

After the BJP won a majority in the Lok Sabha for the first time in three decades in the 2014 elections, the paralyzed government of Manmohan Singh was caught up in a web of scandals and had trouble stabilizing an economy reeling from record trade deficits, ballooning inflation and slow growth.

However, the depth of the mess in the banking system would soon become apparent. When the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in office, the economy grew at a rate well above 8%, poverty fell at a never-before rate, and growth averaged well over 8%. New leadership and a change in government were needed in the country.

 

2014 platform of India

New India possible only with new Punjab: Modi - Hindustan Times

Modi introduced himself, outlining a creditable but exaggerated record as governor of Gujarat. It was Modi who positioned himself brilliantly as a clean politician and a man of action: someone who would bring in faster economic growth, generate 10 million jobs every year, and bring back black money from abroad that amounts to Rs 15 lakh per voter (which many misinterpreted to mean that much money would go into every citizen’s pocket, something Modi never said).

Also, he would stop promoting dynasties, end politically-connected bank loans (“phone banking”), and get the government out of business. The central-state relationship would be reformed, agriculture would be reformed to yield more crops per drop, and the Gujarat model would be implemented. The protesters had subtler messages regarding the “pink economy” (meat exports).

Still, with his post-Godhra history, Modi didn’t need to shout communal messages as the RSS workers did at the ground level. As he promised “sabka saath, sabka Vikas” and described the Constitution as a “holy book”, he seemed to be trying to put the past behind him.

When Modi ran on an economic platform in 2014, it was clear that his priority was political.

A supremely gifted politician, Modi is no doubt. In addition to being an effective speaker with intelligent turns of phrase, he has an uncanny ability to discredit and denigrate his opponents with sarcasm.

He is a skilled organizer who marshals his forces effectively. He broke new ground by intelligently utilizing both technology and social media for his 2014 election campaign. He showcased his record of achievements in Gujarat to back up his promise of change. Except for the politically blind, most people had no doubts he would win a big mandate.

In 2014, the BJP increased its vote share from 19% to 31%, more than 60%. Modi reversing a steady decline in the party’s vote share, which had peaked at 25% in 1998, helped the party win back its majority.

 In 2014, the BJP won 282 seats, which was 100 more seats than its previous best tally, and over the 272 required to win a majority. Alliance partners added 54 seats to the BJP’s tally.

By 2019, the party will reach 37% of the vote and win more than 300 seats.

 

The political agenda of the major parties

We are creating new identity of New India: PM Modi | Deccan Herald

It soon became apparent that Modi’s priority was political, despite his economic platform during the 2014 campaign. Thus, he dominates the discussion more because of his politics than because of his economics. Having established a new political culture and redefined “the Idea of India” as the country’s defining political force, the BJP is positioned as the country’s defining political force.

Since Congress, the natural governing party, won less than ten per cent of all seats in 2014, he looked at the opposition as easy pickings. Modi was encouraged and went on to talk audaciously of a “Congress-mukt Bharat.”

With support in the “Delhi sultanate,” he next set his sights on winning control over the state governments, not just as a means of gaining a majority in the Rajya Sabha but also as a means of gaining support elsewhere in the country. The issue became urgent when his initial attempt to change land acquisition laws introduced by the previous government was blocked in parliament.

Modi was, above all, a pracharak committed primarily to the RSS goal of cultural change through which a post-colonial state would be transformed by returning to its “authentic” Hindu foundations.

Economic reforms came in second, causing some initial comments about his pace. The (defective) Goods and Services Tax (GST) was the only structural reform introduced in the first term. A bankruptcy law that has produced less than expected, a real estate law and a new framework for monetary policy that has been tested by inflation are the other measures.

Despite his efforts to make India prosperous economically, Modi was ultimately a pracharak dedicated primarily to the RSS goal of cultural revival, transforming a post-colonial state by restoring Hinduism to its “authentic” roots. His revanchism would end 1,200 years of slavery in the country by marginalizing the English-speaking “Lutyens” elite, rejecting syncretic traditions, and denying Muslims political representation (though Muslims held 14% of the vote in 2014).

The RSS’s long-held goal was to create a “Hindu Rashtra” – a country dominated by Hindus (who make up 80% of the population) so that India could eventually become de facto, if not yet de jure, some version of the Hindu Rashtra the RSS had long envisioned.

Secularism has always been a problem for the BJP, condemning its practical application as “pseudo-secularism”, but Modi has tried to capture the idea in his way.

As a part of the symbolic renaming of areas and places, government programmes and sports awards would change their names to erase memories of the Muslim dynasty and the Nehru-Gandhi administration (the Congress had renamed classes to obliterate the British term).

Moreover, history is selectively reinterpreted, ignored, or even invented to fit current political purposes, as is the style of many regimes worldwide (including democratic ones). The Indian nation believes Maharana Pratap did not lose at Haldighati to Akbar’s forces, that Aryans were native to the Indian subcontinent, and that mythical tales are based on historical facts. 

A re-do of New Delhi’s Central Vista and associated buildings is also being attempted to reinvent/bolster the BJP’s past (especially since it has been absent from the Indian freedom movement). It also claims ownership of non-anglicized politicians from the Congress stable like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Last year, a new war memorial and a statue of Subhash Chandra Bose were added to decolonize the Imperial Delhi legacy. Still, otherwise, most post-Independence buildings were demolished, hopefully replaced by better-looking and more efficient structures. Nehru is also slated to be erased from history books under the emerging new history.

It has always been the BJP’s problem with secularism, referring to it as pseudo-secularism, but Modi is attempting to move beyond this criticism. While being questioned about the matter at a media event, Modi insisted that minorities are entitled to the benefits of government programs. Afterwards, he appeared to conflate human rights with economic advantage.

However, those from the ruling establishment have only made muted noises or studied silences regarding hate speech against minority communities. In contrast, elements like Sadhvi Pragya Thakur (who faces murder charges) have managed to enter parliament. In recent years, Muslim attacks have become more frequent under the banner of alleged crimes such as love jihad and cow slaughter, which have progressed to preventing eateries from serving non-vegetarian food and a hotel opened by a Muslim family from welcoming guests.

The so-called Dharam sansads have now openly called for eradicating ethnic groups. The state police can only take very late and half-hearted action when they anticipate pressure from the Supreme Court. Modi remains silent, as is the President of the Republic. This is an aberration.

Muslims are on their way to feeling the pinch in states ruled by the BJP, while the RSS has its centennial celebrations.

After initially responding with whataboutery to accusations of anti-Muslim bias, BJP spokespersons have given up on this increasingly untenable tactic as Hindu vigilante groups have stepped up their activity. All and sundry have been intimidated by them without repercussion: cattle traders, Dalits, churches, Christian charities and schools, film-makers whose portrayals of historical figures were deemed offensive, owners of brand names whose advertising attracted the same type of criticism, etc.

Among them, the chief minister of the country’s largest state has become the leader of one vigilante group. Majoritarian trends became evident as rival political parties ceased speaking out for the Muslim community for fear of losing Hindu voters and sounded like the BJP’s ‘B’ team.

BJP-ruled states in which RSS is celebrating its centenary are on their way to realizing the goal of reducing Muslims to survival at the mercy of Hinduism, echoed by the late RSS supremo M S Golwalkar. Till now, Modi hasn’t been there for most of the journey, which is essential to understand. The conditions were already in place for someone like him to succeed.

The way Modi pulled this off is what the financial world refers to as a “bait-and-switch”: Pretending to make one kind of offer or promise (jobs, incomes, etc.) then delivering something completely different. A BJP campaign in 2014 promising to stop love jihad, cattle slaughter, and the abuse of prosecutorial agencies against those in opposition to the government would have undermined its chances of winning a majority in parliament. In addition to “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, Modi’s campaign slogan is “dangal karo, kaatra tehla”. 

Nevertheless, by the end of that year, Modi felt bold enough to claim (as widely reported; the official text is silent on this) that colonial minded people were attempting to thwart the country’s progress through freedom of speech, while his national security advisor told police officials that they should wage war against civil society.

Politicians are well-versed in the art of scapegoating, which is used when things are not going according to plan. In recent days, Modi has taken the statement a step further by arguing that the emphasis on fundamental rights has weakened the country, and essential duties must be emphasized instead.

As listed in the Constitution, there is no conflict between the latter (respect symbols like the flag, strive for excellence, etc.). It is also difficult to see how any of these rights conflict. The dangers of this RSS trope are apparent, but this is a common RSS trope.

The party, however, has delivered exactly what it promised all along: an end to the special constitutional status given to Jammu and Kashmir, an Ayodhya Ram temple and a uniform civil code (including a provision criminalizing “Triple Talaq”). A second longstanding promise of the party had been fulfilled when the Vajpayee administration made India a nuclear power in 1998.

Later in 2021, Modi was bold enough to claim the country’s progress was being stifled by colonially-minded people who exploited the freedom of expression.

According to the home minister, the change in the citizenship law was intended to disenfranchise many Muslim citizens, in keeping with Rajiv Gandhi’s Assam Accord of 1985 commitment to stop and possibly reverse the undocumented immigration of Muslim Bengalis.

However, these changes have been put on hold, partly due to the implementation of Covid. China has gained diplomatic ground in the neighbourhood when damaged relations with Bangladesh are becoming a concern.

 

Administrative style

Opinion-7: Will Modi Be Able To Deliver A New India By 2022? – Jayant  Shilanjan Mundhra

Modi’s style has been to rely on the bureaucracy to get things done, including his trusted bureaucrats. There has been a change in the appointments committee of the Cabinet: the prime minister and home minister are the only members; the minister in charge of the concerned ministry is no longer a member and does not have any say in who is appointed to their positions.

Through lateral entry and the dismantling of silos, Modi has made some attempts to reform a hidebound structure. Through inducing professionals into his government, he has also consistently attempted to strengthen the governance capacity of the BJP.

Parties’ top officials have key portfolios but have been joined by former staffers of the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Foreign Service and techno-entrepreneurs, who are heavily concerned with power, railways, communication, information technology, and international affairs, urban affairs, petroleum, etc.

Prime Minister Modi is the first leader to harness technology to achieve governmental goals since Rajiv Gandhi.

The Harvard vs hard work dichotomy (more on this later) can also be interpreted as Modi’s framework of thought as a chief minister who can launch and execute specific programs without overthinking about policy nuances.

 However, the prime minister has become the first after Rajiv Gandhi to focus on harnessing technology for government goals. As the first prime minister in Canadian history, he has also taken an ambitious approach to enact policy on a large scale, whether renewable energy, mass bank account openings, or attempts to ensure health insurance, good sanitation, and access to drinking water. The country’s physical infrastructure has also been a priority for him, as no prime minister has done so after Nehru.

The Modi government has a lot to offer the Indian political scene. Modi can be credited for mixing majoritarianism and populism for a potent cocktail in his new book, Modi’s India, as argued by author Christophe Jaffrelot. Nevertheless, he fits perfectly into the mould of populist leaders in other countries and right throughout history.

There is a sense of belonging to the masses (repeated calls to be blessed by the people), a heroic manner (working long hours for the greater good), and the sense of being chosen (Hindu hriday Samrat), all factors that contribute to personal identification with the masses. Old elites or minorities are targeted in an antagonistic mode.

There is an emphasis on hostile external elements combined with national strength, vigilante storm troopers are utilized, and clientelistic welfare policies are utilized. The establishment of a surveillance state using Israeli spyware like Pegasus and draconian laws that criminalize dissent are also attempts to concentrate power through creeping authoritarianism. 

The weakening of autonomous institutions (and others), the alignment of significant capital with its close ally, and the wiping out of institutions that might stand in his way. Many historical examples show that this combination of factors can only lead to upheaval, for good or bad. It is essential to determine whether India’s institutions would hold up when tested if one accepts the thesis; only countries with solid institutional structures will do well.

What would have happened if Modi hadn’t been there? The great Marxist philosopher argued, “Men are responsible for their history, but they do not make it as they please…but according to the circumstances which exist already, passed down from the past.” A Hindu majoritarian movement thus grew out of the sense that Hindus were an aggrieved minority despite the overwhelming majority’s identification with Hinduism.

The populist welfare state had gained traction in both the past and the present due to an underperforming economy. Due to the messiness of Indian democracy, a sense of strongman rule (or even military rule) seems to have generated an undercurrent of opinion—a view that appears to be shared by the majority of respondents to surveys dating back to 2017 more recently.

The BJP, in particular, had long favoured a presidential form of government. It was perhaps only a matter of time before these strands intertwined to become the personage of a politician who offered a one-stop-shop solution for all of our problems.

The real question is whether India’s institutions can stand up when tested if one accepts the thesis that nations with solid institutional structures do well.

A single individual or party can’t rule India. Consider the contest in the context of the Aryavarta core vs the periphery (the tribal and partially Christian north-east, Punjab with a majority of Sikhs, and Kashmir with a plurality of Muslims).

There’s no way I can see Hindutva in its all-encompassing, North Indian form stamping out the diversity of Dravidian South, its history, ethnicity, tradition, and language. Federalism still exists. Therefore, the BJP holds only 37% of all the seats in the states’ legislatures, and it represents less than a third, excluding Uttar Pradesh. Nine of the 20 larger states (including Bihar, a coalition partner) are run by it.

Maharashtra and Punjab are two states where the party has lost vital alliance partners. Moreover, Modi’s recent attempts to ram through legislation to amend citizenship, marketing policies for agricultural products, and labour laws have failed, proving that parliamentary majorities make no difference, even if a leader is popular. Government must be consent-based.

 

Failure in economics

Then what happened to the promise to change the country’s economic fortunes in the campaign? In all respects, Modi has failed here. His predecessor had promised the economy would grow faster under him, and he has achieved that quite the opposite. India has also experienced a faster economic recovery than most other economies, despite a pandemic that disrupted the economy more than most others in 2020.

Although the economy had already slowed even before the pandemic: growth was just 3% in the final quarter of 2019-20. It has shrunk in terms of its relative share of GDP, far from gaining traction and increasing its share of GDP. Until the current fiscal year, merchandise exports have been stagnant for the longest time.

The employment market has suffered in many ways: the proportion of job seekers has declined, and the number of people employed has also declined. In addition, because manufacturing and service sectors are suffering, more people are turning to agriculture, which already supports too many people, making most farming unprofitable. Unsurprisingly, the number of people seeking work under the employment guarantee programme has increased.

Post-pandemic, can growth be recovered? Yes, and no. On the one hand, since companies and banks have become more financially solid, it can. In addition, as the dangers of concentrated sources of supply have become more apparent and trade tensions mount, there is a search for alternatives to China as a sourcing centre internationally.

Additionally, because the ground has been prepared in other ways, or instead because the highway and railway networks have been built, the economy has been digitalized, which has lowered costs and made the country more accessible. The government’s efforts accomplish tasks.

As long as there is not more employment at higher income levels, only a tiny portion of the working population gains from economic growth. It appears that the Modi government doesn’t understand this problem.

The government debt as a percentage of GDP has soared, fiscal correction is urgently needed, the share of GDP invested has been steadily declining, and as a result of tariff walls, the economy is less open to outsiders than it used to be. Another reason is the fact that the economy operates at two speeds.

The top 20 listed companies account for almost two-thirds of corporate profits. Demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax, and the pandemic have all combined to cause a triple whammy that has severely hurt small and medium businesses. Due to this, millions have lost their jobs, thereby reducing the market’s size and reducing the consumption base.

Over time, macroeconomic trends will reflect the growing inequality implicit in these trends, suggesting a slowdown in growth in the medium term.

Practically, manufacturing still has a long way to go before shifting to a more labour-intensive, productive state. 

Our workforce surplus in farming needs to be redirected, but we have not come any closer to accomplishing this than before. It has gotten more difficult because if you need high tariff walls and production-linked incentives for industries that replace imports, it usually indicates that the currency is misaligned and is hostile to exports.

By how difficult it is to negotiate free trade agreements, we see that this distortion was corrected in 1991 and has now resurfaced. No economy can grow without export success. It is unlikely that the bottom half of the working population, or even two-thirds, will benefit from whatever progress is made in the manufacturing sector without more employment at higher incomes.

Unlike the Modi government, Princeton-educated advisers have returned to their homelands, and the mantra of doing things correctly (e.g., project execution) is ineffective at compensating for wrongdoing. Government, of course, has no solution to the problem. For decades, the government has suppressed or delayed data on unemployment, consumption, poverty, etc., to hide its failures.

Eventually, the numbers are released or leaked, but they do not provide a clear picture. Among the indicators are declining employment, falling consumption, and rising poverty.

 

The outlook for 2024

One Nation', New India and the Hollowing Out of the Federal Idea | The India  Forum

Considering the economic backdrop, how likely will Narendra Modi be re-elected to serve as Prime Minister in 2024? There’s no way to know how issues will be framed and whether the opposition will present a credible front that doesn’t split the non-BJP vote when the election is held.

In the 2018 election, the outcome was swung with remarkable ease, more than a ballet dancer might have done, after the terrorist attack on Pulwama in Kashmir (a failure in security) was turned into a victory by the airstrike on Balakot in Pakistan (and all that happened was a MiG-21).

The vast majority of voters should be able to claim some comforts they didn’t have before in 2024 even if they are not better off economically: access to tap water, electricity in the house, sanitary conditions, clean cooking energy, a bank account, and digital access, among others. A more modern rail system and new expressways are visible signs of progress by middle-class Indians. As the stock market outperforms the economy, those at the top can celebrate their wealth increase.

The possibility exists. If Modi came out victorious in the next two elections, he would become the first prime minister to win three elections since Nehru.

It is always possible to mobilize politically on a community basis if economic arguments fail to convince. With or without regard to the facts, Modi also has an unrivalled ability to spin a positive narrative to connect emotionally with voters.

The BJP, even if it does not win a majority, will almost certainly be the largest single party in the Lok Sabha and could be the leader of an upcoming coalition government. The possibility, therefore, exists that Modi could become the first Indian prime minister since Nehru to win three consecutive elections.

It can be said with greater clarity that India will not return to its former state when Modi assumes power. Modi has eroded the country’s institutional structures that have held power at bay, but they will most certainly be able to withstand an extreme test in the future.

In recent years, there has been an increasing co-optation of the police and civil administration to serve the party’s needs in power and often target the opposition. There are many opportunities for any leader or party that comes to power to exploit these situations, resulting in adverse outcomes long after Modi has gone. Can there be a counternarrative? But authoritarian regimes haven’t been particularly successful in history. An event that triggers a reversal is usually pivotal (usually traumatic).

Despite their resilience, India’s institutions that are supposed to check power may not stand up to a rigorous test, but they are now in a worse state than before Modi became prime minister.

But the Indian government has changed directions in the past and has reformed itself through elections, such as in 1977. It is possible to argue that Indians have become more accepting of freedom and the value of their political rights; that Hinduism’s tradition of taking difference and diversity can re-assert itself against the RSS’s deviant version, which is ironically mimicking the Abrahamic religion; Increasing middle class in a country tends to strengthen democracy and institutions.

It is still impossible to have a single template. For every example of democratization in the East Asian countries, you can cite two examples in Latin America that show the opposite, often accompanied by economic stagnation. Having been freed from the Soviet yoke, Central Europe and Central Asia have good and bad stories. Democracy and economic progress in Africa appeared to be improving at one point, but the trend has slowed down. Therefore, anything can happen.

The future of India depends mainly on its ability to continue to muddle along as an endless exercise in imperfection, both economic and increasingly political; a country where everything is valid (as the economist Joan Robinson noted) and opposition are just as valid. The norm will remain contestation.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma

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