Political discourse in India responds to frenzy, sensationalism and hype. It is a narrative driven overwhelmingly by personalities and identities and less by facts, figures and logic. We first identify the individual, codify his status and then proceed to classify his commentary, regardless of its merits to correlate with his standing. This skewed approach results in fluid conclusions that swing wildly from exultant euphoria to dismal pessimism. A sense of balance is vital to a cogent assessment.
Recent outbursts by two marginalised leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party have unduly stirred a hornets’ nest, provided fodder to the opposition to damn this government and engendered a mood of extreme pessimism.
But is this doomsday scenario a reality? With due respect for the experience and scholarship of these worthies, I must say that while there is some substance to their concerns, the spiel is overblown and smacks of vindictiveness.
Criticism of the government’s GST implementation is just not cricket. GST was a much-needed reform, which was inevitable. For too long had pusillanimous governments tip-toed around this decision. This government had the courage to bite the bullet and take the first step. It needs to be commended. With regard to the charge of addled implementation, I can only say that hindsight is 20/20. The government needs to be judged by its ability to identify and rectify ensuing problems, which it has already done recently by modifying the GST on select items.
At times, people on the outside have a better perspective. Commenting on the drop of India’s GDP rate to 5.7%, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker remarked: “What you are calling a slowdown would be a major performance in Europe… I wouldn’t be too afraid of what you are calling slowdown.”
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim calls this downturn as a transitory aberration that would correct itself over the next few months. So, India’s economic plight is not unsalvageable as it has been made out to be.
More importantly, we cannot be carried away by one issue. The monetary element, while important, is not the sum total of a country’s advancement. India is still a work in progress with varied sectors, social and otherwise, that are direly in need of attention.
This government has shown remarkable resourcefulness by tending to those areas that have been neglected so far.
The most notable accomplishment, however, has to be the drive to eradicate open defecation, which prompted Bill Gates to write, “I can’t think of another time when a national leader has broached such a sensitive topic so frankly and so publicly.”
PM Modi has made touchy Indians look at their own frailties, especially the ubiquitous dirt that plagues the country via the Swachh Bharat programme, which is essential to the health of Indians.
Gender sensitivity is high on this government’s list, as evidenced by the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (save and educate the girl child) programme, the number of women in Modi’s Cabinet and the endorsement of the abolition of triple talaq.
A key feature of this government is its corruption-free status. Modi rode to victory on the promise of a corruption free government (as opposed to the scam ridden Congress tenure). He has kept his word: his government has not had a single graft controversy.
This government has much to be proud about and need not be defensive. Naysayers must not be allowed to hijack the narrative of a resurgent India, damp its enthusiasm and push it down a path of gloom and doom.
Exceptionally high expectations make fulfilment a difficult proposition. The Modi government is treading a difficult path and failures are inevitable. The greatest USP of this government is its non-corruptibility and impeccable good intentions that remain intact. The public will willingly pardon its genuine mistakes and accord it a second chance despite the prevalent orchestrated negativity.
The government on its part must exercise due caution, be open to constructive criticism and promptly correct the deficiencies or gaffes of its governance. Failure of this government is not an option for either the BJP or the people of India; both of them have too much riding on this equation.
Vivek Gumaste is a US based academic and political commentator.