Business Of Democracy
MAKE OR BREAK YEAR
By Poonam I Kaushish
Hope smiles from the threshold of the year gone by, whispering, it will be happier, succinctly said poet Tennyson. Will it? Questions abound. True the ‘outsider’ from Gujarat rode the crest of electoral victory promising happy days with minimum Government and maximum governance, but in seven months he has become India Raj’s ‘insider’. Treading guardedly on key development issue, shenanigans of ‘parent’ RSS, earning the tag of dictatorial whereby the business of democracy continues as usual. Raising a moot point: Will 2015 be Prime Minister Modi’s make or break year?
With everything beginning and ending with our polity, India continues to search for her soul under the increasing onslaught of rising prices, intolerance, cultural terrorism, growing majority appeasement read Saffron Parivar’s ghar vapsi programmes and casteism. 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 Modi as ‘Mr U Turn’s’ on everything he assured: Changing the system of governance, eradicating corruption, getting back black money stashed abroad, flow of foreign investments capped by a new development agenda et al. All which have still to fructify.
Worse, by taking the ordinance route Modi has not only cocked a snook at Parliament supremacy and norms on key legislative issues that affect people’s lives but also indirectly underscored that he will brook no nonsense even if called dictatorial. No matter, the Government’s feeble alibi that it was due to the Opposition’s obstructionist attitude. Really? Why not come to the Rajya Sabha and come clean on the conversion row?
True, the blame rest on the Opposition too. The Congress was gung ho on the Insurance Bill raising foreign investment from 27 to 49 per cent, but hindered the House functioning by adopting a dog in the manger attitude just to score petty points.
But the hurry in promulgating the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 ordinance (questioned by the President) stands testimony to brazen ‘democracy by concessions and politics of direct sale’: amassing political power among a handful of business interests through the “politics of direct sale”. The dilution of the Social Impact Assessment clauses would impact farmers. It fails to address rising farmers suicides and issues dear to them prior to that.
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.
Already the Planning Commission has been rechristened the NITI Ayog ((National Institution for Transforming India)tasked with the role of formulating policies and direction for the Government by adopting a ‘Bharatiya’ approach to development, including strategic and technical advice on policy and economic matters. It adheres to also develop mechanisms for village-level plans and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of Government. Old wine in new bottles?
Alas, he has failed to rein in the rabid Hindutva brigade. Last month his Government was busy dousing inflammatory remarks made by a junior Union Minister on Ramazada vs haramzada alongside other Saffronites espousing objectionable discourses, neo-reconversion dreams, idolizing Gandhiji’s murderer Godse and vandalizing theatres showing anti-Godmen movie PK which have come to dominate political discourse. Typified by arrogance, hamari sarkar hai headed by an ex-pracharak.
Besides, see the way the CBI continues to be the Government’s “parrot”. While Party President has been given a clean chit in the Sohrabdin murder matter or going easy on AIDMK supremo Jayalalithaa, funny isn’t it the way the investigative agency is going hammer and tongs against the Prime Minister’s detractors, like nailing West Bengal’s Trinimool Government headed by stormy petrel Mamata Bannerjee in the Sardha scam.
Politically, as the BJP’s electoral victory in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and J&K showcases Modi continues to be the toast of India. His supporters reel out excuses for sluggish change, “How can one compare seven 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.
Further, it is Modi’s development agenda, read more economic reforms which has revitalised flagging interest of foreign investors in India. By getting US President Barack Obama as chief guest for the Republic Day, that too on short notice, all eyes are riveted on Modi how he plays out his foreign policy. Will his hard sell of India’s 1.3 billion plus consumers help achieve India’s economic goals? But the unreformed political and financial institutions might make this a daunting task.
Notably, the Prime Minister’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan, Made in India tag and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna have still to take-off. His plans of a National Ganga River Basin Authority has been delayed. Minister Uma Bharti wants the Army to help in the enormous process of cleaning and monitoring the sacred river running through nine States. From protecting our territorial borders, fighting terrorist, safeguarding India’s strategic interests to cleaning a river, really?
The aam aadmi plank of the Government appears to be coming unstuck, bringing tears to the leadership, as prices of food, oil, sugar, wheat and rice along-with water and electricity rise continuing to give a tough time to the common man. Will ending the financial year with GDP growth of 5.2% alleviate the misery of the people?
It is very well to shout from rooftops that India is a thriving democracy replete with total freedom. Additionally, as Modi swears to cut red tape and pitches greater academic freedom and autonomy to universities, mum is the word for the sudden resignation of Delhi’s IIT Director. Reportedly, he did not see eye-to-eye with the HRD Minister. Alongside replacing German with Sanskrit in schools and rewriting Indian history is akin to turning the past on its head!
Modi plans to intertwine Hindutva and economic issues and growth side-by-side. Having ruled Gujarat with an iron fist he understands what makes the common man tick as also he appreciated middle-class consumer aspirations as he highlights his humble beginning from a poor chai wallah to the top job.
So far so good. It remains to be seen if 2015 will be defined by Modi’s accomplishments post his promise of ushering in ache din for the aam aadmi and youth. Encompassing roti, kapada, makaan and naukri. Where is the much promised minimum Government and maximum governance?
Will he be able to ensure speedy development at the grassroots through a decentralized administration responsive to the rising expectations and aspirations 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? Time will tell. —– INFA
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance) New Delhi