Amid the agenda-driven hullabaloo over India’s alleged “tilt to intolerance” and “murder of democracy”, what has been remarkable in these four years of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government is the single-minded determination with which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone about doing his job, never shifting his focus from his goal of delivering the goods to the people who entrusted him with the charge of the country on 26 May 2014. This is one aspect that does not get talked about in the media, or even if it starts getting talked about, it gets drowned in a cacophony of claims and counter claims, as a concerted attempt is made to shift the country’s focus to often “fringe” issues that help certain people to portray the current government as destroying the very ethos and moral fibre of this country. It is a different matter that the lunatics among the right-wing have done their best to add heft to such claims being made, and the government too has struggled to keep these ruffians on a short leash. Nor has it helped the government and the ruling party to see some of its appendages in various parts of the country get involved in unnecessary controversies regarding food and dress. All the more reason why, in this election year, the Modi government must keep the country’s focus firmly on the work it has been doing, without letting either the left or the right hijack the narrative. And there is no denying that the Modi government has been doing a commendable job. Of course, many of the policies of the government and their implementation can be criticised, as it is the case with governments the world over, but that does not take away from the intent. One of the reasons behind Prime Minister Modi’s continuing popularity is people’s belief in him as a man with a “clean intent”—someone whose intentions are right. That this government survived the badly implemented demonetisation, was because of people’s faith in the Prime Minister’s intention to suck black money out of the system. Somewhat similar is the case with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, which, unfortunately, is still too complicated to give the much required kick-start to the economy to move into a double-digit growth rate.
At the same time, even though demonetisation was a policy flop, and GST stays hobbled at best, it would be unfair to identify these two as the hallmarks of the Modi government. Under Prime Minister Modi, sectors such as infrastructure have witnessed a kind of push the country has never seen before. According to news reports, logistics costs have come down to 8%, matching China’s, from the earlier 14%, making the economy more competitive, because the thrust has been on the integrated development of a network of roads, railways, airports and waterways, and not just on roads, unlike in earlier governments. Even then, as this newspaper has been reporting, the pace of road construction has been far superior to that of UPA government’s. The National Civil Aviation Policy too has tremendously boosted regional connectivity, with as many as 160 airports being operationalised. Rural electrification is another area where the Modi government should be justifiably proud of. It says a lot about the work done in this area by previous governments that it took 70 years to electrify all of India’s villages. Another remarkable achievement has been the 30-rank jump in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index. As part of this, of particular significance is the rise in India’s rank to 29 in 2018 from 137 in 2015 in the “Getting Electricity” for business segment. Electricity generation in the country has grown by 5.8% in 2016-2017, with the fiscal 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 witnessing the lowest ever energy deficit of 0.7%. Immense effort is also going towards reducing India’s dependence on fossil fuel, with particular emphasis being given to solar power generation. As this newspaper reported recently, India achieved in 2018 the target of setting up 20 GW of solar power plants, four years ahead of the 2022 deadline set by the UPA government in 2010. Out of India’s new target of generating 175 GW power from clean energy by 2022, 100 GW is expected to come just from solar energy. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the 120-plus-nation International Solar Alliance came into existence solely because of the Prime Minister’s personal initiative to ensure that global warming does not aggravate. The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana set up in 2015 too is a hugely successful scheme, where, in three years, over 12 crore people have been given loans for their micro units. Out of this, around 6 crore loans have gone to those termed as socially “backward”. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is another scheme that has caught the people’s imagination, with lakhs and lakhs of people giving up their LPG subsidy at the request of the Prime Minister so that the money can fund free LPG connections for those belonging to “below poverty line”. And these are just a few instances. There is no doubt that in spite of the tardy economic growth at times, remarkable work is being done by the Modi government, results of which will become visible over time. If the BJP wants to win the election in 2019, it has its job cut out—take the message of the Prime Minister to the last voter and ensure that the fringe stays under control.