The billion-dollar question is not what the budget holds for the country but what the voter holds between his heart and his mind.
Will India continue to remain under MODI-fication or will a neutral and ‘harmless’ PM be chosen by a united opposition or will we remain ‘hung’?
It is a given that PM Modi will not be able to retain the majority support he earned in the last term and he would at best be provided a watered down support if he is to remain as the PM with NDA. To the Prime Minister’s credit, he revved up the spirit of the country, won us esteem oversees, gave us the ‘josh’ and led from the front. Whether it be responding to enemy incursions with surgical strikes or making bold moves at COP 21 or setting up the renewable energy targets, he has moved decisively. Yes, demonetisation has been a failure, though he does not admit it. But GST, which was a call of the industry, has been introduced and is seeing course corrections constantly.
He began his term by implementing the 7th Pay commission and One Rank One Pension (OROP) payouts. His campaigns like Swachh Bharat, Smart Cities, Digital India, Start-Up India, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Ujala, Atal Pension Yojana, Direct Benefit Transfer, and so on, have all been implemented and accounted for in terms of their percentage accomplishments.
All schemes have had ambitious targets and have achieved above average success. The biggest lacuna under his administration has been underestimating the banking problem when the NDA took over. Had he drawn up a white paper on the economy on assuming charge,
we would have known the exact state of affairs of the economy then. Despite a favourable oil price during most of his term, the NPA overhang has been a drag on the economy.
The Insolvency and Banking Code (IBC) has been again a gift under his regime to the corporate sector as now assets frozen under liquidation are springing back to productive life. The pace of project launches has been slow as first the NDA fought off the Land Acquisition Act issues and then as the economy was reaching the point of appearing ripe for private investment, throwing all caution to winds, the PM made a scathing attack on black money through demonetisation. This was followed by GST, which was already scheduled and the economy could never recover from this double whammy. Meanwhile, NDA in support of the religious spirit, brought in the cow slaughter ban Bill, which not only began affecting the social and secular spirit but hurt the beef export business, leather business and disrupted the farmer’s model of sustainability.
So while the middlemen in politics, the black money dealers, the hawala dealers, the unscrupulous builders were miffed at having been given the short shrift by the PM’s progressive policies, he also hurt the MSMEs and the farmers through his ill-advised actions and inactions.
And, while the jury is out on who wins the crown and the country spends talk-time on their versions of who will win and lose, it is also time to reflect on our election system, which is partially responsible for the poor returns we derive from our leaders. While PM Modi is a man of vision and has the persona of a great leader, he has been too busy trying to win elections for his party. Now even if he gets elected again, albeit with a reduced majority, he will again want to win elections to strengthen his party’s position. This is like the CEO of the company constantly engaged in sales! Policy groups must work towards bringing about this modification if things have to change.