On the first anniversary of the NDA government, I had written a piece underscoring the budding scepticism of the people with the BJP-led government. At the end of 24 months, cynicism and disillusionment are the two overriding emotions that summarise mass opinion about the functioning of this government notwithstanding the odd electoral success in Assam.
It would perhaps be appropriate to measure the performance of this government on the same five benchmarks that were used last year — social cohesion, political stability, economic development, internal security and foreign relations.
Social cohesion has further deteriorated in the past one year. There are abysses and crevices in the hearts and minds of people. Yet invisible but solid walls have come up between communities as a result of polarising and noxious rhetoric orated by the government functionaries.
Never before has it ever happened that writers, poets, artistes and filmmakers have risen as one against the spectre of intolerance created by this government. The silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the lynching of an innocent Muslim on the false charge of storing beef has been deafening. The crude attempts by Union ministers and chief ministers to demonise culinary choices by proclaiming that those who eat beef can go to Pakistan and criminalising mere possession of beef are but overt manifestations of the revivalist and medieval mindsets in the ruling dispensation.
The spurious debate on nationalism of the “Bharat Mata ki Jai” variety that found protuberant mention even in the resolutions of the BJP and attempts to brand Jawaharlal Nehru University as anti-national on the strength of allegedly fake and spurious videos amply demonstrated that this was no loony fringe at work but very much a mainstream ideological enterprise of the BJP-RSS to try and change the fundamental narrative of India and anchor it on the extreme Right. All this has upset the intricate social balance of India, with the worst yet to come in the years ahead.
Political stability is yet another area where the country has taken a huge hit. The relentless attack on institutions beginning with the judiciary demonstrates the inability of Mr Modi to reconcile to the changed power dynamic of India where the political executive is just one of the stakeholders in a multi-stakeholder rubric. The demolition of the Planning Commission and its replacement with a one-and-a-half man-act called the Niti Aayog has removed a fair financial arbiter between the Centre and the states.
The unprecedented assault on the Reserve Bank of India and its governor Raghuram Rajan for its refusal to toe the government line and persevere with the protection of the interests of millions of small depositors is, perhaps, the worst form of fascist intimidation through vilification and calumny. The message this government is sending out to upright professionals is if you do not play ball with us we will hound you, harass you and finally run you into the ground. However what is even more ominous is the sledgehammer blow dealt by this government to Indian federalism.
The toppling of elected Congress governments by misusing the instrumentalities of the state, including the office of governor, shows the scant regard the Centre has for democratic traditions and conventions. It took the combined heft of the high court of Uttarakhand and the Supreme Court to prevent the blatant subversion of democratic principles. The verdict of the Supreme Court in the Arunachal Pradesh matter is still awaited.
Even the role of the President in not preventing the misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution of India by the BJP-NDA does not really warm the cockles of the heart. On the economic front this government has been able to achieve the impossible. They have actually sunk and shrunk the Indian economy. The Indian economy is growing at a derisory 4.5-5 per cent annually.
The government’s own economic numbers put out by the department of economic affairs tell a sordid story. Amid unparalleled agricultural distress across a third of the country agriculture grew by a measly 1.1 per cent in 2015-16. From April 2015 to February 2016, the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) grew by a measly 2.6 per cent only.
During the same period eight core infrastructure sectors namely coal, crude oil, natural gas production, refining, steel, cement and fertilisers grew by only 2.3 per cent. Out of the 24 months that this government has been in office exports and imports have been in a free fall for 18 months in a row.
The internal security situation in the past one year has taken a turn for the worse. Punjab, a frontline border state that had been peaceful since 1995 saw two back-to-back terrorists attacks in Gurdaspur and Pathankot respectively. In Jammu and Kashmir, the situation is on a razor’s edge with stone pelting crowds back on the streets to welcome the second stint of the BJP-PDP alliance. In the Northeast, and the Naxalite menaced areas of Central India security forces are being repeatedly ambushed and killed by terrorists.
However, the worst cock-up has been in the area of international relations. After two years of chest thumping spectacles, especially curated for pliant people of Indian origin (PIOs), the Modi government has nothing substantive to account for in terms of a foreign policy. South Block has allowed the Pakistani deep state to run circles around it putting the countries national security in grave peril. Despite Pakistan rubbishing the Ufa joint statement even before the ink had dried on it, in spite of repeated terror attacks emanating from that country, Mr Modi chose to drop by at Lahore to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for no ostensible reason.
The bilateral relationship with China is also in the chiller with China openly blocking India’s candidature for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the designation of Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohammad as a terrorist entities respectively.
There has been no big idea or initiative qua the United States. The Free Trade Agreement with the European Union remains frozen. India’s foreign policy is adrift and rudderless at a point in time when events in the South China Sea the throat of the Indo-Pacific region are reaching a flashpoint. Even India’s most trusted ally Russia of yesteryears has now started striking a linear equation between India and Pakistan.
The best one-liner on the performance of this government came from a little boy working at a ramshackle teashop on the GT Road. When queried about the Prime Minister’s performance, he replied: “Gaccha de gaya Modi”. Loosely translated in English, it means the honourable Prime Minister has made a chump of us.