A mirage called ‘Modi Magic’

  • Sitaram Yechury
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2014 02:53 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just concluded his much tom-tomed visit to Japan, which received euphoric coverage in the Indian media. He returned to receive Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Soon he will receive Chinese President Xi Jinping before he sets off to the United Nations General Assembly and meets United States President Barack Obama on the sidelines.

In Japan, he thundered, that in his first 100 days as prime minister, he has performed miracles. Stating that he was new to national politics, apprehensive of moving to Delhi, he had nevertheless reversed the ‘paralysis’ that had gripped India under the earlier government. Justifying this claim, he quoted statistical data pompously announced by the Union finance minister a couple of days earlier. This was received with universal applause by the Indian media, with at least two leaders of India Inc publicly lauding his government’s first 100 days. It was precisely these sections that had once lauded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for having broken India’s nuclear isolation, gloating over his rubbing shoulders with world leaders at the G20 high table. They are now the chief propagandists of Modi overcoming such ‘paralysis’. Is Prime Minister Modi doing anything different on this score than what Prime Minister Singh did?

Read what Japan Times published on September 6 by Jeff Kingston: “Overall the Japanese media coverage was oddly muted despite all the fanfare” in contrast to the Indian media coverage. “But on Japan’s evening news (television) that night, this historic encounter merited barely a minute of coverage”. As Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to reshuffle his Cabinet and fend off various criticisms, the Indian prime minister’s visit was described thus: “The optics may have been the highlight as both leaders have crack PR teams and know the importance of good photo opportunities, starting with a welcome bear hug, temple tours and a tea ceremony, and Modi showing off his drumming and chopstick skills. Both leaders bonded just the way their handlers choreographed ….”. “But at the end not much happened. The two sides were unable to overcome the impasse over the civilian nuclear energy deal”. India’s hopes that Japan would cave in because it offers a potential $85 billion market for new reactors were belied.

Japan’s leading media house Asahi Shimbun speculated on why Modi was reluctant to upgrade regular talks on foreign policy and security affairs to the Cabinet level — 2+2 model of talks between foreign and defence ministers. Little do they know that in the Modi government, it is only the prime minister who, as per the responsibilities assigned by the Rashtrapati Bhavan at the time of his swearing-in, is solely responsible for “all important policy decisions”. The prime minister is simply unwilling to share responsibilities with his Cabinet colleagues. This reminds us of a king of France, Louis XV, who famously thought that there was no history before him and remarked “after me the deluge”!

Hoping to capture the huge potential market for long-distance ‘bullet train technology’ and mass transit projects announced by Modi, Abe announced the intention of providing investments towards this totalling nearly $34 billion over the next five years. The Japanese media asks: “Can he deliver?” Japan is desperately seeking to overcome its economic slowdown and recession and hopes that this would be an opportunity. But then, this is precisely what the Modi government is offering to the world and completely opening up the Indian economy to FDI irrespective of the impact on India’s economic sovereignty and the benefits we may receive but surely to provide foreign capital with greater profit-making avenues in India. So, on matters of liberal economic reforms also, is this trajectory any different from what UPA 2 government pursued?

Modi’s claims are based on the fact that the first quarter of the fiscal year April-June 2014 saw an increase in the country’s GDP from a sub-5% average during the last two years to 5.7%. Modi, sworn in as prime minister on May 26, had only the month of June to perform this ‘miracle’. Instead of a ‘messiah’, India Inc has, indeed, discovered a magician!

The Economic Survey 2013-14 prepared by the earlier government but ironically tabled in Parliament by the current Union finance minister says, “In 2014-15, the Indian economy is poised to overcome the sub-5% growth of GDP witnessed over the last two years.” Yet, this is the “Modi Magic”.
On the contrary, since Modi took over as prime minister, the four sectors of the economy which were showing signs of revival have actually registered a decline.
According to the official government statistics on the index of industrial production, the figures for these four sectors are: In May 2014, mining and quarrying — 125.6, manufacturing — 181.6, electricity — 183.2 and the general index — 173.8 declined in June 2014 to 121.5, 178.2, 181.6 and 170.5 respectively. Such is the truth.

Back home, the RSS/BJP is whipping up communal polarisation, by the day, hoping to reap electoral dividends in the elections due in important states. Recollect that during the last year of the Vajpayee government, the parameters of public discourse under the campaign of ‘Shining India’ and ‘feel good factor’ were the digging up of cricket pitches before a game with Pakistan; whether Ghulam Ali can sing his Ghazals in India; whether Deepa Mehta is allowed to make a film on widow remarriages in Banaras; etc, apart from the core Hindutva agenda. Today the issues are “love jihad”, “all people living in Hindustan are Hindus”, project 44 targeting the assembly of Jammu & Kashmir by sharpening communal polarisation, etc. This is the real agenda.

PM Modi used Teachers’ Day to indoctrinate school children. Don’t be surprised if he chooses to indoctrinate the teachers on November 14, that is Children’s Day.

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal

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