This might seem a far-fetched thought, but then these are over-stretched times. Would it help if we renamed the monsoon session of Parliament? It ends each year just before Independence Day: could we call it the Azadi session? The memory of our founding generation just might persuade those who invest in pandemonium to consider the erosion in credibility of institutions central to democracy. Is this the legacy we want to bequeath to our children? Will the class of 2084 recall 2015 with even a hundredth of the admiration we possess for the great generation of 1947?
There is now only one session of Parliament which proceeds in comparative calm: the operative word is comparative, not calm. No one disturbs the Budget process because all sides of the House recognise that government would come to a standstill. When are we going to realise that if mayhem continues, democracy might come to a standstill?
There is no great mystery about why Congress, under the petulant leadership of Rahul Gandhi, decided to wreck every day of the last Rajya Sabha session and severely damage the Lok Sabha. When a fading opposition encounters good governance and a revived economy, it must fight for relevance. This is understandable. What is not comprehensible is the impatience, immaturity, cynicism and negativity which Rahul Gandhi, abetted by his mother Sonia Gandhi, has brought into play. No one has told them that this is counter-productive, and will diminish Congress even further.
The story begins in May, on the first anniversary of the Modi administration.
First advantage went to Congress, particularly when it got some surprise help from celebrities who felt that they had been denied a role in the new dispensation. Their attack was around a theme: Modi was all talk and no delivery. The government took a few days to organise itself, but recovered its poise. So far, so normal. The rules of a five-year engagement in our system are logical. You skirmish for three years, then start building momentum before the war for the jugular occupies the last year of any term. Rahul Gandhi, however, decided to launch an immediate now-or-never campaign, using everything in his arsenal, undeterred by the truth that his armoury was largely light artillery or dud ammunition.
The triumvirate of Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav made two mistakes. They underestimated the PM’s resilience. And they refused to recognise that facts were not on their side.
Perhaps he thought that if he could batter the Prime Minister enough, it would open a breach that he and his allies in Bihar, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav, could exploit in the October Assembly elections. In such a partisan scenario, they would then hold the political advantage, damage India’s economic recovery, undermine Narendra Modi’s development plank, and make the Modi government ineffective for the rest of its term.
The triumvirate of Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav made two mistakes. They underestimated the Prime Minister’s resilience. And they refused to recognise that facts were not on their side.
Facts survive when polemics has withered. Facts influence voters far more than rhetoric. Facts are the big boys in this game. We shall let the facts speak for themselves.
On 14 August, Mint, an independent business newspaper, published a two-page spread of graphics listing precisely what Prime Minister Modi had achieved in hard practical terms during his first 14 months in office. At the top of the list was financial inclusion, which is the present administration’s core programme to improve the quality of life among the impoverished.
Through the Jan Dhan Yojana an astonishing 17.45 crore new accounts have been opened. For the first time, hundreds of millions have access to bank services which will become their vehicle to security and opportunity. On 15 August, the Prime Minister explained the meaning of opportunity. He asked the roughly 125,000 bank branches across the country to provide loans on easy terms to small start-ups which will be owned by tribals, Dalits and women. Think about what this will mean to the poor, and the number of jobs this Start-Up, Stand-Up programme will create at the base level.
Over 8 crore people have already taken insurance under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, and nearly three crore in the inexpensive life insurance plan. This initiates the first social security for those who need it most. The Mudra plan has already disbursed funds worth Rs 137 crore to the self-employed who earn a living, to take an example, by selling vegetables on carts. To repeat, or even list, all the financial empowerment schemes would take up far more space than this column has, but at least I can mention the various heads: Financial inclusion, Competitiveness, Health and Hygiene, Reviving Rural India, Subsidy Reforms, Reviving Urban India.
The Indian voter is deeply unimpressed by the politics of hypocrisy. Rahul Gandhi’s cynical attempt to hurt India’s economy for his personal interest has damaged Congress. For this party, the fortunes of one dynast are more important than the nation’s recovery. One day, possibly soon, the last dynasty in India’s history will realise this.