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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

100 days of reckless and dangerous governance

The government has pushed its ideological agenda even at the cost of constitutional values and welfare

analysis Updated: Sep 09, 2019 09:30 IST
Rajeev Gowda
Rajeev Gowda
The Modi 2.0 government’s failures include alienating Kashmiris with draconian restrictions, communalising NRC, eroding independent institutions, engaging in political vendetta, and presiding over an economic crisis
The Modi 2.0 government’s failures include alienating Kashmiris with draconian restrictions, communalising NRC, eroding independent institutions, engaging in political vendetta, and presiding over an economic crisis (PTI)

The Modi government has embarked on a publicity blitz to mark the first 100 days of its second term. Since even accomplished purveyors of propaganda may leave out some achievements, I write to set the record straight.

The most prominent achievement of Modi 2.0 has been its emphasis on pushing through its ideological agenda, even at the cost of constitutional values and people’s welfare. On Jammu and Kashmir, home minister Amit Shah fulfilled the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) long-standing goal of eliminating Article 370, which provided the state constitutionally guaranteed special status. Whereas Kashmiris historically demanded more autonomy, the state has been downgraded to Union Territory status, and key powers transferred to New Delhi. The Modi government demonstrated how cunning it can be at using legal stratagems to circumvent constitutional provisions and democratic norms.

The impacts are yet to unfold. For now, “normalcy” involves draconian restrictions on civilians and communications. What price our own citizens will pay in future is a troubling question. Now that the government has confined pro-India politicians and undermined their credibility, it is anybody’s guess as to who will take the political process forward if and when elections are called. How can we achieve full integration of Kashmir into India by alienating its people? The government seems to neither care, nor have credible answers.

The central message is that the government’s mantra continues to be: “Act Now! Deal with Problems Later. What Problems?” This patented modus operandi is the same that was used during demonetisation. We know how demonetisation turned out.

Similarly, in Assam, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) verification process is causing unimaginable misery to large numbers of Indian citizens. After years of communalising the NRC process, the BJP now wants to disown it as the results have not gone according to plan. When it comes to plans, there is actually none in place on what the government will do with those who are excluded, rightly or wrongly. Instead, in what could involve a blatantly communal agenda, the government is readying to conduct similar exercises across the country.

Another achievement of Modi 2.0 is that it has plunged institutional credibility to a new low. The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) autonomy has taken yet another hit. Deputy Governor Viral Acharya resigned, after warning that “Governments that do not respect the central bank’s independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite economic fire, and come to rue the day they undermined an important regulatory institution”. Heedless, the government ensured that the RBI transferred a record sum of Rs 1,76,000 crore to it.

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate have been blatantly abused to target political opponents in a manner designed to humiliate rather than achieve the ends of justice. These agencies have not shown the same zeal to go after politicians accused of similar misdeeds, but who jumped to the BJP – New India’s equivalent to a dip in the holy Ganga, which washes away all of one’s sins.

An extended Parliament session saw a record number of bills passed, but at the cost of scrutiny by parliamentary committees. The government’s brute majority was used to weaken the Right to Information Act and criminalise civil offences.

Its massive mandate did not curb the BJP’s appetite for democratic destabilisation. In Karnataka, MLAs and ministers were induced to defect to the BJP, thus bringing down the Janata Dal (S)-Congress coalition. Similar mass defections were engineered in Goa and Sikkim. Rajya Sabha members too were induced and arm-twisted to join the BJP as it sought a majority in the Upper House.

On the economy, the Modi government has taken India to new lows. Thankfully, it is finally willing to accept bad news instead of trying to suppress or manipulate data. After the election, it accepted that India is facing record unemployment. Modi 2.0 now stands for job-loss growth. This is most visible in the automobile sector, where 3.5 lakh workers have already joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Last quarter’s GDP growth rate of 5% is a six-year low, and nominal GDP is at a 15- year low. At 2.7%, private investment is also at a record low. The state of consumption is reflected in the declining sales of Rs 5 biscuits. The number of unsold houses is rising, with ripple effects on construction-related industries. There has been an exponential rise in bank frauds, and the rupee is at its weakest ever.

Naturally, there is a substantial shortfall in revenue. The Goods and Services Tax regime continues to disappoint taxpayers and government alike. Off-budget borrowings camouflage the true magnitude of the fiscal deficit. Retrograde tax moves, since reversed, have led foreign investors to flee India. Entrepreneurs have been driven to suicide by tax terrorism.

Animal spirits are nowhere in evidence. Rural India is paying the price for the BJP’s desire to keep inflation low for urban consumers. Agricultural incomes are at a record low and wages have stagnated. Yet the unfulfillable slogan of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022 continues to reverberate. One can only pray that Modi 2.0 will deliver something more than hollow slogans and distractions from the existential challenges facing India’s citizens.

Rajeev Gowda is Member of Parliament, and chairman of the AICC research department
The views expressed are personal

First Published: Sep 09, 2019 09:30 IST