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India’s transformation gets going

The government now has the ability to sketch out new ideas and replace crony capitalists with citizens as beneficiaries of government policy, Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar writes.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2014 15:32 IST
HT leadership summit,prime minister Narendra Modi,development

After almost a decade of lost opportunities, India seems to be on the move again! At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the long delayed process of reshaping India is in motion.

Just a few years ago, who would have thought that the political narrative across the country would change from the usual fear mongering to a competition of promises of governance and aspirational politics that India always deserved?

The real symbol of this is the energy and visibility of the Prime Minister and head of government. After a decade of confusion about who was in charge and/or responsible, here at last was a PM who wasn’t hesitant or apologetic about being in charge and accountable. Here at last was a PM and a government that believed in a dictum of maximum governance.

The most significant act of the Prime Minister was, from the word go, to involve people in this transformation and reshaping of India. This is powerful stuff because once you get a billion people behind ideas like clean India, national unity or governance through, there is no force political or otherwise that can then stop such an idea. In my budget speech in July 2014, I used a quote of Bill Clinton to tell the PM this: “No one has had the opportunity that you have to build an economy that leaves no one behind. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and also a profound responsibility.”

While the first budget, coming as it did soon after government formation was seen as status-quoist, it achieved the objective of stabilising the economy for the reforms and policy actions that were to follow. That the economic architecture is being recast is evident from decisive and well thought through decisions on tough issues like gas pricing, labour reforms, coal block auctions, PSU banking/NPA reforms, etc. All of which is surely and systematically dismantling the altar of crony capitalism that the previous government had begun to represent and which was destroying the country. The ‘Make in India’ vision will largely drive the future economic strategy —making deep changes to taxation, labour, supply chain infrastructure, transportation, logistics, etc. All this we lacked and which will now help generate investments and jobs.

Time has also been spent in these first six months on a significant effort on international diplomacy and on the security front. By committing time early on in his administration to securing relationships with our neighbours and establishing his foreign policy, PM Modi has laid the basis of economic ties with China, Japan, Germany and the USA.

Still, these are early days as the Narendra Modi government moves towards its first real budget. The economy must remain his priority. Deep structural reforms are required in the economy. With a team that includes RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and CEA Arvind Subramanian , the political leadership of PM and FM has now the ability to sketch out new ideas to push the economy towards reforming and bringing in more efficiency and competition, replacing crony capitalists with citizens, as the beneficiaries of government policy.

The focus of deep structural re-architecting of our economy is aimed, on one level, at attracting large investments. It is here that governments in the past have failed to live up to expectations with real policy and regulatory action. It is here that the Narendra Modi government will set new standards.

The urban Indian has for decades lived in shame at the decline and neglect of his/her city. With the 100 smart cities project, PM Modi’s government is embarking on transforming cities and building new ones that will improve the standards of infrastructure and services in cities.

What must follow economic reforms and restructuring is the critical issue of reforms in government and politics. The PM’s statement of attracting technocrats into the Indian Administrative Services is an early indicator of things to come. The move to faster prosecution of criminal cases against elected representatives is the start towards decriminalising politics.

Reshaping India after years of corruption and neglect isn’t a task for the faint hearted nor is it an easy one. But that we have embarked on this, I have no doubt. To quote John F Kennedy, “The problems of this world cannot possibly be solved by sceptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.” May the force be with you, Mr Prime Minister!

(The views expressed by the author are personal)

TOMORROW: Shiv Viswanathan writes about the contradictions of electorism in India

First Published: Nov 13, 2014 23:59 IST