Just about a week for those magic machines to tell us where India is headed- decisively or otherwise..
While the growth story of our nation shall continue, whether or not Mr Modi is back to power, yet a GDP growth or any fiscal deficit number is never a reflection of how great a nation is, or how great a nation would be.
In terms of the GDP numbers, India would grow irrespective, and in fact -inspite, of certain political dispensations at centre. That’s because of a strong and, maybe good-maybe bad, robust bureaucracy. However, growth numbers in this century are far too integrated with the global developments than they ever were. Trump’s eureka moments and Eurozone hiccups have far more impact on domestic numbers that they ever did.
While fiscal strength and vital metrics are integral to how great a nation shapes up to be, yet almost all great nations and civilizations have looked much beyond that.
For India, completing 75 years of freedom soon, that moment is now as it chooses its next leadership.
Mr Modi’s first term was characterized by foremost, inculcating a sense of respect for the office of the Prime Minister of the nation. For almost 30 years, ever since Mrs Indira Gandhi- office of the Prime Minister had been a pushover, marred repeatedly by compromise candidates to serve the interests of coalition politics –‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’. Barring a few exceptions, for most part of the last three decades, India was led by governments bereft of any political ideologies.
First thing which Mr Modi did, was to- decisively, change the way a ‘leadership starved’ nation looked at this office. Office of the Prime Minister -now-led-from the front. Be it not just a ‘proactive’, but rather- an ‘aggressive’ foreign policy, marked by the boldness of giving Israel its due recognition for always standing by and for- India. Or for that matter, confronting Chinese aggressions with an ‘eyeball to eyeball’ contact on the eastern borders. Mr Modi’s 1st term started with doing the unthinkable and with Balakot ‘cross border’ and not a ‘cross LOC’ strike, ended the term by yet again, doing the unthinkable-an ‘Indian’ military aggression. India was no longer a pushover. Mr Modi had changed the narrative.
There were several more landmark initiatives which characterized this term, implementation of GST, Ujjwala, Power sector reforms, Ayush … et al.
However, the big bold decision which he took was, right or wrong -only time would tell, demonetization. In a matter of a few hours, Mr Modi changed the terms of engagement with the parallel economy in India. For the first time ever- globally, an exercise at this scale effecting almost a 1.3 billion population was attempted and a massive, humongous exercise of remonetization was well completed in the following months. A big bold move. Mr Modi had just done the unthinkable, yet again.
While the jury is still out and it would sure be a few years until Mr Modi is proven right- or if you will – wrong, yet nobody would ever contest that he had just ‘hugely impacted’ if not changed, the way business in India was conducted. Then came the GST. While there were initial hiccups, yet they are almost integral to any structural reform at such a big scale. With GST now beginning to being streamlined with collections of almost Rs 1.3 lac crores in April, and mostly, running almost seamlessly, the twin impact of demonetization and GST could, and I stick my neck out for that- bring, for a nation of 1.3 billion people- the unthinkable- a double digit GDP growth – whenever global tailwinds gain momentum.
Next, and again doing another unthinkable- not just Swacch Bharat, but boldly putting -ending open defecation- on national priority of world’s largest democracy, Mr Modi tried to first publicly acknowledge and then, address the issue which effected hundreds of millions of women in rural India. Once again, an immensely humiliating, yet a so-called acceptable way of life for women in rural India was discussed openly and has been impacted significantly.
While most of these reforms have gained tremendous traction, inspite of the incredible red-tape, our nation has long been characterized by- yet for a country of India’s size, most of these initiatives would possibly see full fruition in the next couple of years – and not the endless decades, which we have been used to..
But of course, there would be hits and misses. Perhaps Mr Modi could have done more regarding the ‘messaging’ of secularism, perhaps he could have done more on ‘farm distress’, perhaps more on ‘job losses’ and perhaps much more on many other things. However, whether he did more or not on these- only time would tell.
Legacy issues deeply ingrained into our system cannot all, be corrected in a stroke. While there is a clear political will and purpose, yet even at its fastest, systemic issues for a country of 1.3 b, having become a part of the ‘chalta hai’ culture through these 60 years, may take more time to correct.
Though I am not a psephologist, yet going by media reports and discussions with friends, family and colleagues across the country, Mr Modi, generally – could be expected to be the Prime Minister yet again. Several political pundits indicating a number for the ruling alliance between 290 to 330, which is a good enough majority.
So, assuming Mr Modi will get another term & I would again stick my neck out, that the agenda he pursued singularly during his first term, may not necessarily make it to his foremost priority and correctly so. While of course, economic prosperity is central for any dispensation and that he would absolutely ensure that every initiative taken during his first term sees proper fruition- yet his focus- and perhaps, India’s best chance, would be for Mr Modi to resurrect India’s pride and address definitive contentious issues – our nation has shied away from ever taking up in the past.
With no key state elections coming up immediately hereafter, I would believe and hope to see Mr Modi’s version 2. Armed with a confidence of successfully leading this country, I wish Mr Modi now incessantly pursues the three key agenda items of the BJP integral to the well-being of our nation- Uniform civil code, Article 370 and bring to a close the ever ‘perceived to be’ divisive Temple issue by building it.
While the oft-quoted Kashmiri pandit issue – having been reduced to a mere symbolism – should’ve have been taken up and addressed by successive regimes, yet the violence in West Bengal illustrates that we are close to reliving it there, with the state continuing to perpetually practice a ‘fabric changing’ politics of appeasement, at the cost of our nation. Western UP being another case in point. More than ever before, India desperately needs a Uniform code for its citizens.
While there will be an immediate political fallout and collateral damage in the form of Mr Nitish Kumar withdrawing support, yet a rediscovered camaraderie with Shiv Sena and a possible Rajya Sabha majority in the coming times, may just see Mr Modi bring to fore a continuous big, bold and audacious reformation of India and see it through.
Assuming its Mr Modi for this term- with an extremely unlikely 3rd term for this dispensation- irrespective of the stark contrast between a maverick leader and an utterly disgusting opposition we have – this is indeed India’s best chance ever to possibly address glaring omissions of the past…
May 23rd is now just a couple of weeks away… While the world will not collapse and India would continue to march ahead- even if Mr Modi isn’t back on 7, Lok Kalyan Marg – yet our nation may just lose the most incredible opportunity ever, of its true tryst with destiny.