Can Modi change India’s dynamics?
This Independence Day has the potential to mark the charting of a radically different path from any other that has preceded it.
This owes to the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first leader from avowedly Hindutva ranks who, on account of his clear parliamentary majority, will be guiding the nation according to his lights untrammelled by coalition-related impediments.
This is a luxury no Indian PM has enjoyed in the past quarter century, and each had to trim his sights in the context of coalition pressures and dilemmas. To what extent he can move the country to the Right in keeping with his party’s, and his own, credentials will depend on how true he remains to his colours.
During the campaign for the Lok Sabha, Mr Modi had not put himself out too flagrantly as a mascot of Hindu majoritarianism for which he had become known in the country during his days as chief minister of Gujarat. There were others to do that. The BJP’s PM-aspirant had instead focused on slogans pertaining to development, and attacked the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA whose Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, was made fun of as an ineffectual head of government who had lost his tongue and could not connect with the country.
The UPA’s policies and programmes were also trashed as not being in keeping with the aspirations of the country’s youth majority. The datum that the ineffective Dr Singh had delivered an average economic growth of more than 7.5 per cent over a 10-year stretch was overlooked. Mr Modi coined the idea of “more governance, less government” to impart a sense of dynamism. He gave the clearest impression that there were too many obstacles in the path of organised sector investment. He promised to weed out corruption, curb price rise which was eating into real incomes, generate employment on an unmatched scale, and work for social harmony by putting an end to “appeasement”, which was described as the stock-in-trade of the Congress, the former ruling party.
The PM’s speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort will be matched against commitment made in these spheres. The investment community is so far not enthused by the first Budget of the present government. Ordinary people continue to be plagued by uncomfortably high price levels. A dynamic neighbourhood policy, of course, is a work in progress but the signs in respect of Pakistan are not too encouraging. As the first 100 days of the government come to an end soon, the republic will be happier if it is given some inkling of action points that relate to their lives, not rhetoric. Mr Modi has a reputation for dynamic action and single-mindedness. They look forward to see some of this.