Just as the tenure of this government enters its teens and the growing pains abate, a section of business and the media is reported to be growing impatient with things. Perhaps it is reflecting our cultural temperament to now feel things only in extremes.
The BJP-led NDA government has traversed a difficult terrain on the economic front. In the first instance, it has had to deal with structural issues hobbling the economy and has attempted a shift from a populist, short-term approach to policy to a longer term, sustainable regime. The electoral mandate, delivered against the profligacies of the earlier regime and its propensity for graft, made it necessary for the NDA to act against such leakages. The successful coal and spectrum auctions are examples.
The mood that this government inherited was sombre, and 14 months and two budgets down, some heartburn has been expressed due to the ‘incremental’ approach the union finance minister has chosen to build his budget around and the lack of a ‘big bang’ flavour to it. It is understandable that people expecting a rocket to zoom off are disappointed when a calmer take-off is offered, but the fact remains that almost everyone has admitted to the importance of the calibrated approach the NDA has chosen to follow.
We are today dealing with a number of issues that cannot be de-prioritised: Strengthening the banking system as it stands, the pressure to reclaim GDP growth numbers, currency stability, controlling inflation, the CAD, enhancing exports and rationalising social spend have all made for contradictory pulls and pressures and yet there have been solid steps taken. The reorganisation of past and new social schemes and its integration with bank accounts has signalled a paradigm shift in approach.
The social security schemes have begun to deliver health and financial security among the poor and backward at a scale not witnessed in the last six decades. Rather than fighting for credit, let us just say that this government has used the same material with modifications to much better effect than what the earlier regime did, could or imagined.
The ambitious signals of Make in India, Digital India, Clean India and Skill India are emerging as well-thought-out components of a grander, more robust design to enhance the scale and thrust of a larger plan to lift up each sector.
Foreign policy has never been as well oiled as now and with China seen as a counter, India’s rise will be welcomed and this government is playing that card with diligence and flair.
The key features of this government in operational control are: Undivided attention to the fundamentals of the economy; emphasis on good governance and a corruption-free administration; engagement with all states equally in a federal temper and primacy of national interest in all matters.
In spite of such stellar performance, the government has been treated harshly in the media and a section of its die-hard supporters from industry and business are sulking. Unsubstantiated as they are, it may be more important for us to start looking under our feet more carefully and realise that to be swept off your feet, you need to be standing on solid ground. This government did not inherit that, but has managed to achieve it.
(Sanjay Kaul is spokesperson for the BJP. The views expressed are personal)