Exactly a year ago on 26th of May, 2014, Narendra Modi took oath as 15th Prime Minister of India. The Gujarat CM and BJP’s PM candidate led BJP to an absolute majority with 282 seats in Lok Sabha elections. This was a thumping majority considering the last any party achieved this feat was 30 years ago. In 1984 Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi after her mother Indira’s assassination won a whopping 414 / 543 seats.
Modi the face of BJP’s campaign became the Prime Mister of the country carrying expectations of a crore plus population on his shoulders. People were fed up of rampant corruption and inaction under UPA II. They voted overwhelmingly for Modi – seen by many – as the messiah for change and growth.
As he completes one year in office, social media / news channels / print media is abuzz running polls on performance of his govt. Many articles / op-eds have been written. Opinion is divided – has he / hasn’t he lived upto expectations. Majority of the polls show more than 50% of the respondents are satisfied with govt. performance.
One year must admit is a short tenor to evaluate a government’s performance. Critics and opposition parties point out that Modi has not delivered on many promises. They should realize that 4 years are still left in his tenure so he still has time to fulfil the promises. Plus he doesn’t have any magic wand.
Critics would again argue then why did he claim he had a magic wand. If Modi would have said he cannot solve India’s problems or will take very long time to solve, people would not have voted for him.
We break this one year performance into various dimensions to see how Modi has fared in 1st year.
- Political – Helps BJP to bring more states in its fold
Post elections, BJP President Rajnath Singh was made a Cabinet Minister and he had to leave his Presidency post. Modi ensured his protégé Amit Shah was appointed as President of the party. This was required to keep unhappy seniors / other dissident voices in check. After all with Shah taking care of party affairs, Modi was now free to focus on govt. agenda without worrying too much what is happening behind his back in the organization.
Modi led BJP’s campaign in state elections which followed – Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir. In all these states BJP was not in power. He was the face of the campaign with no declared CM candidate. Result, BJP was able to form govt. in all these states. BJP / India was Modified.
With Modi-Shah at the helm, BJP became aggressive, evident in the way it arm twisted Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. BJP strategy is to saffronize India and win as many states as possible. That’s why it even teamed up with pro separatists / Pakistan party PDP to form govt. to be on track to achieve target.
Not only aggressive it became ambitious – to become the world’s biggest party (membership wise) and truly national party with presence in south / north east / J&K etc.
The dream run was halted in Delhi by the aam aadmi Kejriwal. BJP perhaps sniffed this and made Kiran Bedi CM candidate to take the blame for the loss. This was a big personal setback for Modi. Supporters would say, state elections are fought on local issues and Modi is not to blame. Then why give him credit for the win the 4 states?
The Bihar elections are to be held in year end and this will be another test whether Modi jadoo is still working or not.
Modi though was troubled by many loose cannons including some ministers who spoke out of turn and made controversial remarks. This questioned the fact whether he really is in full control of party. Modi’s silence and not seen as coming out openly to criticize these people did complicate matters. But things seem to have calmed down lately….
Who might be these loose cannons? Some are disgruntled members who have been denied ministry. Some backed by the old camp (Advani/Joshi). Some ministers who make these statements to ward off competition and try to remain in good books of Modi. So not to be taken too seriously….
- Social – Clear focus on the POOR
BJP is perceived as a pro middle class / pro rich party. It lost the 2004 elections to the surprise of many despite India Shining. The India Shining campaign is believed to have insulted primarily the low income groups (traditional votebank of Congress) and created an elitist image of BJP.
The poor and the downtrodden have voted in large numbers for BJP and Modi in 2014 disillusioned by the previous UPA I & II.
|Class Wise Party Preference in % in Last 3 Elections|
|BJP All India Vote Share||22||19||31|
The lesson of 2004 has made BJP cautious. POOR is the central theme of Modi and his govt. In most of his election speeches in the states and other public platforms Modi has clearly and loudly stated that his govt. is for the POOR. Many schemes for social inclusion of the poor / lower class have been instituted like opening of bank accounts, insurance schemes namely Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Beema Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana.
Opposition has criticized that the govt. is overstating the number of accounts opened in the scheme and actually many accounts have shown no transactions. That is more of an institutional problem that poor don’t have enough money to deposit in their accounts and will take years to rectify. The numbers may be whatever small, good scheme which needs to be appreciated. Also helps in the long term to curb black money if poor are encouraged to use the banking channels.
Congress is upset as Modi through these schemes is trying to break into the traditional vote bank of Congress. A certain section of the poor in states like Delhi still considers BJP as elitist and instead voted for AAP in the state elections. With poor and lower class accounting for majority of Indian population Modi rightly is focusing on this segment.
The Congress before elections had warned the minorities that if BJP comes to power then mass scale riots could take place. Nothing of that sort has happened. There have been some attacks on churches which have been blown out of proportion by media / opposition. Resultantly, however even the Christian has become somewhat scared.
- Economic – Positive Start with a bit of help from lower crude prices
Economists / markets / industry is divided on the fact whether Modi has been able to kick start the economy. Economy in many ways is like a manufacturing plant, after years of low production / shut down, you cannot expect the plant to operate at 100% capacity after new management takes over. You can’t switch on switch off economy at will. Gist of the story it will take time for the economy to recover and see results on the ground.
Crude prices have reduced from USD 100/bbl levels to USD 60/bbl levels. This has significant impact on Indian economy which imports 80% of its oil requirements. Result – inflation is down, trade deficit has narrowed down, subsidy bill has reduced, fiscal deficit is down.
Economy has seen many positives, of course a lot more needs to be done as enumerated below:
- Rupee is down 9%
- In 2015, Indian markets worst performing among emerging markets
- No increase in tax net
- Lack of effective communication regarding changes in calculation of GDP
- No growth in bank credit
- Lack of big ticket disinvestment program
- Inflation has calmed down (WPI fell from 6.18% in May 2014 to -2.6% in Apr 2015)
- Interest rates have reduced and are expected to reduce further spurring growth
- Stock market returns in last 1 year 13%
- Sovereign rating outlook upgraded by S&P & Moody’s
- GDP grew by 7.4% in Q4 2014 surpassing China
- Ordinance on Insurance Bill
- GST passed in LS to be implemented by next year
- Black Money bill passed in Parliament
- Highest job creation in Q1-Q3 FY15 highest since Apr-Dec 2011
- Forex reserves up from USD 312b in May 2014 to USD 353b currently
- Increase in FDI inflows from USD 21.2b in FY14 to USD 34.2b in FY15
- Highest investment by FIIs in any fiscal year in 2015 to the tune of USD 43.5b
- Successful auctioning of coal / spectrum of course under SC observation
- Foreign Policy – Modi acquired the RockStar Status
Foreign policy is being looked after directly by Modi under able leadership of Sushama Swaraj. Modi visited 18 countries last year – US, China, Japan, France, S.Korea, Australia and also neighbors like Nepal. This has definitely led to improvement in image of India globally. India is now seen as a true super power eager to influence world polity. Also important from the view point of countering Chinese influence in neighboring countries. Also important to draw investments into India.
One thing which needs to stop immediately though is his speeches to NRI community. Modi has on a few occasions gone over the top and criticized previous govt. He has to realize that he is now PM of the country and not a BJP spokesperson. This seems to have drawn unnecessary controversy and offset some of the good work done in this front.
How is Modi govt. similar to the previous UPA govt.?
Though Modi govt. has done well and is seen as actively managing India vis-à-vis a govt. led by MMS who was seen as sitting on important stuff and not taking decisions; there are many areas where the Modi govt. looks very similar to the previous Manmohan govt.
The govt. was sworn in with much fanfare with a lean ministry – total 40 ministers. A lot was said about how Modi has combined many related ministries, how they will function like a corporate entity and how a small ministry will help take faster decisions. Taunts were made at the jumbo size cabinet of Manmohan. 6 months after, the story was the same, Modi cabinet size was increased to 66. This is big by any standards, if not small.
Modi personally made a lot of statements about criminalization of politics. He promised setting up of courts which would decide cases against politicians in a time frame manner. 20 / 64 ministers in Modi cabinet have criminal cases against them as per Association of Democratic Reforms. This is very similar to the UPA regime.
The Modi government is also realizing how difficult it is to govern as it is easier to criticize while sitting in opposition. There are 2 clear cases where it has adopted the same approach of the previous Manmohan govt.
On the black money issue, it made a presentation in the Supreme Court that it cannot divulge the names of people stashing illegal money abroad as it would violate Double Taxation Agreements signed with various countries. Only after a rap by the Court it presented the names in a sealed envelope.
On the Netaji issue, it has refused to make public classified documents relating to his disappearance / death. Only after recent ho-hallah it has decided to constitute a committee to take a call on the same.
The govt. has also felt the heat in courts. While on the Ganga cleaning it has made an ambitious plan “Namame Ganga” which is well advertised, it has received successive raps form Supreme Court which has gone to the extent of saying this plan would take 200 years to fructify.
Challenges for the govt. ahead
The govt. is in a minority in Rajya Sabha. NDA has 60 MPs in Rajya Sabha out of total strength of 288. It can rely on support of Aiadmk (11) and BJD (7) but this is not enough. Congress has 69. It is very difficult for BJP to pass any of its bills in Rajya Sabha like witnessed in winter & current session, though it can call joint sessions to sail it through or take the ordinance route. But it can’t take this unconventional step all the time as ordinances are valid only for six months. It could see how despite being in majority it is difficult to run the house if opposition is united and is in no mood to listen.
The elections in states in the next few years are important not only from point of bringing more states under BJP rule but also from point of view of improving BJP seats in Rajya Sabha.
Effective communication of govt. policies will be the key. A recharged Congress under Rahul and united Janata parivaar could provide strong opposition to govt. in years to come.
The 1st year for Modi as PM has been very hectic and challenging. There was lots to do but limited time / resources. Expectations were very high. A lot has been achieved and a lot more needs to be achieved in the next 4 years. A good start to the innings in 1styear must say….
So acchhe din aaye ya nahin! There is intense debate on this in the country. Voice your opinion!