A government that promised eight crore new jobs in four years has not even created eight lakh new employment opportunities, forget jobs.
Yesterday the Narendra Modi government completed four years in office. Over the past four years, in these very columns, I have assessed the performance of the NDA/BJP government every anniversary using the same set of benchmarks namely social cohesion, economic development, internal security, foreign policy and political stability. The time has now come to do a holistic assessment of the past 1,460 days.
Social cohesion has undoubtedly been the single biggest casualty of this government’s tenure. The collective ideological DNA of the Indian right wing has never been able to reconcile itself to the fact as to why the religious partition didn’t reach its logical culmination. If an Islamic Pakistan was born out of that blood stained spectre, why not a Hindu Hindustan? In 2014, riding on the thinnest electoral base that any majority government has had since 1952, the right wingers set about attempting to rewrite the fundamental compact that underpins the Indian republic, that is, of a progressive, pluralist, inclusive and a liberal nation.
Deploying a toxic cocktail of hyper-nationalism and totalitarianism reminiscent of the Nacht der langen Messer (night of the long knives) and Kristallnacht (night of the broken glass) and of the Nazi era, a spectre of terror and trepidation was unleashed on an ill-fated nation.
A new language was invented whereby critiquing the BJP is tantamount to treason, criticising the government is equivalent to sedition and questioning the establishment is downright blasphemous. Prestigious institutions were labelled anti-national because some moronic students allegedly shouted imbecile slogans that earlier were never ever dignified with a response. Lynchings in the name of cow protection, for allegedly possessing beef, an oxymoron called love jihad, a faith reconversion programme labelled ghar wapsi, killings of inconvenient and progressive journalists, constriction of liberal spaces are instruments that have been clinically employed to send a straight message to all minorities and liberal recalcitrants among the majority that a de-facto majoritarian state is in existence. Fawning corporate media, especially North Korean elements of the broadcast media, gleefully lent their full-throated support to implement this noxious enterprise.
The principal casualty of this ill-conceived communal polarisation has been economic development. What Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not realise is that social conflict and economic development are an anathema to each other. The real GDP growth over the past four years discounting the statistical jugglery brought about by the change of base year from 2004-05 to 2010-11 has averaged at a measly five per cent. The past three years have been the worst in terms of investments by domestic corporates into the Indian economy. There has been a flight of capital with thousands of high net worth individuals opting to become non-residents. Agrarian distress is at an all time high with peasant movements and agitations sweeping across most Indian states. The Tughlaqi demonetisation coupled with an irrational GST has wiped out the informal sector of the Indian economy. There has been no job creation. A government that promised eight crore new jobs in four years has not even created eight lakh new employment opportunities, forget jobs. According to the International Labour Organisation about 823,000 jobs had been created in the country till October 2017, most of it classified as vulnerable employment. Pakora economics has become the order of the day.
The NDA/BJP government has enjoyed an unprecedented four years of very low crude oil prices. Despite that the government did not feel it appropriate to pass the benefit onto the common consumers but filled its coffers. Now with the crude oil prices hardening a wee bit but still in the low 70s ($72 for a barrel of crude oil), the government has jacked up petrol and diesel prices to extraordinary levels.
The track record of the government on internal security is hardly inspiring. Nothing characterises it better than the mishandling of the Jammu and Kashmir situation. The inability of the Election Commission to even hold a parliamentary byelection in Anantnag now for over a year after postponing it indefinitely on May 12, 2017 is the most poignant admission of the inaptitude of the Indian security establishment. The blatant communalisation of the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl belonging to the nomadic Bakarwal community of Gujur Muslims has further undermined communal amity in the state. Perhaps sensitive to the reality that the Bakarwals have been India’s first line of defence even an otherwise obdurate Gen. V.K. Singh was constrained to tweet asking for justice for the little child.
Elsewhere across the country the Naxal challenge has only intensified. The mythical Naga accord is yet to see the light of the day despite a highly secretive “framework agreement” signed by the Prime Minister and representatives of the largest insurgent group NSCN(IM) in August 2015. The ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan that came in effect on November 26, 2003 bringing relief to thousands of innocent villagers along the Line of Control, International Border and the Actual Ground Position Line has virtually been a dead letter since September 2014.
Insofar as international relations are concerned, despite the Prime Minister touring the world incessantly making as many as 36 foreign trips and visiting 54 countries in four years, foreign policy is no better off. He unfortunately disrupted the equilibrium deftly and dexterously maintained by his predecessors between the great powers.
As a consequence you saw a warming of Russia to Pakistan even at the height of the alleged surgical strikes and the worst stand off, in recent years, with China at Doklam. Even the United States has hardened its position on trade and visa issues. Europe has fallen off the map and Africa and South America do not seem to exist for this government. The neighbourhood is bending to the Chinese wind and India’s hegemony in its near abroad seems to be a thing of the past.
The past four years have seen unprecedented assaults on federalism in the quest for an Opposition-mukt Bharat. As the run up to 2019 intensifies, the only question that India should ask itself is: Is this what we voted for in 2014?