Yesterday was the last working day for the 16th Lok Sabha. The next time the Lok Sabha convenes, we will have freshly elected members from every corner of the country, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh. Over 500 million people will vote in the world’s largest democratic exercise. Makes you feel like part of something bigger, does it not?
Indeed, we have been having these elections at regular intervals (with one dark exception in the 1970s when the election was delayed by a year) for nearly seven decades now. Not many nations can boast of such a record, including many nations of Western Europe. Did you know that Spain and Portugal became democracies only in the late 1970s?
So what has changed in these five years of Modi sarkar?
On the last working day of Parliament, the CAG report on the Rafale deal was placed before the people. Their conclusion: 2.86% cost savings versus the 2007 deal that was negotiated by UPA government.
Note that the CAG compares the 2007 price versus the 2015 price in absolute terms. In other words, if the price negotiated for Rafale in 2007 was Rs 100, the NDA negotiated a price of Rs 97.14 in 2015.
This, of course, is *much more* than savings of 2.86%, because inflation means that Rs 100 in 2015 is worth much less than Rs 100 in 2007. That NDA’s deal should actually cost less in 2015 in absolute terms compared to the 2007 price negotiated by UPA is nothing short of spectacular.
Instead of apologizing, the Opposition actually went out and attacked the Modi government with a straight face.
This does not even need to be debunked any more. The Supreme Court found nothing wrong with the deal. The CAG found nothing wrong with the deal. After two clean chits from two topmost independent constitutional authorities, if somebody just wants to make accusations and look ridiculous, so be it.
The political fight has moved on from how much was stolen to how much was saved. This is a new experience for us all. Even the smallest government contract in India often leads to relentless price escalation by corrupt officials who pay inflated amounts by looting the public treasury.
How refreshing is it to hear political parties argue over how much money was saved? Where is Achche Din?
Who remembers how the UPA government shamed India by purchasing toilet and tissue paper at over 7 times the price? Who remembers how tissue paper dispensers costing just 9 British Pounds each were purchased at 64 British Pounds each, a 600% price escalation!!
Those who ran the UPA government now want a debate over whether the savings in Rafale was 9% or 3%!
Where is Achche Din?
Meanwhile, opposition friendly newspapers run “exclusive” stories trying to prove that the savings were actually ZERO.
ZERO? Why does that ring a bell?
Who remembers the (in)famous ZERO loss theory that the UPA floated in its defence after the 1.76 lakh crore 2G scam was exposed?
The Congress has gone from alleging ZERO loss when it was in power to alleging ZERO savings now that it is in the Opposition.
Where is Achche Din?
PM Modi’s government has completed five years in the Lok Sabha without a single scam. When was the last time this happened? In fact, has it ever happened before?
The word scam has disappeared from India’s political lexicon. Let us have more political arguments about which party can save more public money. A wonderful new beginning.
This should be understood as an expanded version of Swachch Bharat Abhiyan. Like spitting or throwing garbage in public places, corruption was a bad habit that we had come to acquire as a nation. From the common person who gives bribes at the RTO to the common person who takes bribes at the RTO, from the small shopkeeper to the big business house, everyone thought that it is simply how things are done in India. And for certain political families, corruption had become a way of life. For generations. The bad habit had to end someday.
The only way to break this habit is by enforcing a period of prolonged hygiene, after which the right way of doing things will become the new normal. The new normal: don’t expect to see people throwing garbage on the street. Don’t expect to see people defecating in the open. Don’t expect politicians to be doing scams. Have we reached the point where this can simply be taken as the new normal no matter who comes to power? Or will Modi be voted back to enforce the political hygiene of the last five years? We will find out.