Over the last couple of months, I have had heated debates with my liberal friends over political issues and the debate has even led them to question my liberal credentials and them branding me as a “bhakt” only because I disagree with their opinion. The irony, of course, is that I present them with facts and data to substantiate my argument but from their side, all I get is empty rhetoric and unsubstantiated charges. Consequentially, this article is an attempt to evaluate the facts rather than indulge in ad-hominem.
By now we all know that we’ve got to vote in the coming two months and decide on who would lead India for the next 5 years. It is a very important decision and all of us must vote to shape up the future of India. It is also important to debunk the propaganda of voting for a candidate and not the leader of the party. The argument given by many is that the leader will not be responsible for the development of the constituency or may not be the interface between the people and the Prime Minister. But this is how India’s parliamentary system was designed. Consider this, if we pick individual candidates rather than picking the Prime Minister of the country, eventually what happens is that post-election, we may have a deadlock of an incompetent person who may emerge to lead India. When we vote during the Lok Sabha election, we must also look at the national perspective and vote for the leadership, a collective leadership that will steer our country in the right direction.
For the development of a constituency, we have the state legislators and the municipal corporations that have a greater influence and power towards the development of constituencies so we must understand the limitations of our parliamentary democracy, take them as a given and vote on the basis of the political leadership that we desire. In a sense, when we vote in 2019, we have a choice between Prime Minister Modi or the many leaders that the opposition has to offer. It must be stated that Opposition, as it stands today, can not give India a stable government for 5 years and without a stable government, it would be impossible to have a vision for the future of our country.
Achievements of the last 5 years
Let us recall the period of 2009-2013 when India was witnessing a slowing growth rate, accelerating inflation combined with a falling rupee. India was termed as one of the fragile five economies. Since then, India has come a long was as it has now become the fastest growing major economy of the world. This happened despite two successive droughts and an uncertain global environment (To understand how India’s growth rate accelerated, click on this link to view a talk on the subject). It is also important to note that India witnessed a drastic reduction in the poverty rates from 22% in 2011 to around 5% in 2019. There are multiple reasons behind why the Modi Government has managed to drastically reduce the poverty rates over the last five years and we’ve already discussed them at length in a separate article that can be accessed here. Fact remains that the macroeconomic parameters have been the best under the current government, especially when we consider it with respect to the governments post the reforms in 1991. In the table below we present the macroeconomic aggregates such as GDP Growth Rates, Current Account, Net Fiscal Deficit and Consumer Price Inflation.
The story from this table is evident when it comes to macroeconomic aggregates, the NDA performs better than compared to the UPA. The issue of jobs has been discussed at length and this issue has been discussed at length in numerous articles. Fact remains that job growth under the Modi government is higher than the job growth under UPA. There are estimates that suggest over 1.5 crore annual jobs were added since 2014 and this number points at a broad underlying trend of an increase in job creation post-2014 onwards. So, when it comes to economic management, the NDA gets a big plus point and if one has to vote for a better economy, the choice has to be Mr Modi in 2019.
But economic success of the Modi Government somewhere limits the impact that this government has had on the people of India. For starters, we have to credit this government for being one of the most transparent government as it established multiple trackers to evaluate the performance of some of its flagship programs. In many ways, this was a first in India as the government built extensive dashboards that provide real-time data on the amount of work done by respective ministries. One such dashboard is on the MyGov website which also happens to be the world’s largest platform that aims at functioning as a citizen engagement platform. The current government has repeatedly worked towards greater engagement with citizens as it aims at making development a social movement. In fact, many of the flagship programs of the government crowdsourced their logos from the MyGov platform and recently, the Self4Society campaign was launched which aims at fostering a culture of collective partnership to achieve key developmental objectives.
The change in the nature of governance is an important factor as it enabled the government to move towards a dynamic culture of delivering key services to all in a time-bound manner. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan was the start of this change as Prime Minister decided that he would make India Open Defecation Free in a time-bound manner. Till date over 9 crore toilets have already been constructed and there has been a dramatic shift in the attitude of people towards cleanliness. Similarly, around 18,000 villages did not have access to electricity in 2014. Imagine living in the 21st century without electricity. The Prime Minister decided to change it and as of today, all villages in India are electrified. For those of us who live in cities, this doesn’t seem like a big achievement but imagine living without electricity for a day. Another important aspect worth recognizing is that India was a power deficit country in 2014. Power outages were a common thing even in big cities like Delhi, Gurugram or Mumbai. This too has become a thing of the past as India became a power surplus country. We often forget the transformation that India underwent over the last couple of years largely because they all became a new normal for all of us.
The current government has also worked extensively towards building a new foreign policy doctrine as it plays a more proactive role in engaging with other nations. A key achievement of the government has been in the area of securing India through a pragmatic approach towards foreign and strategic policy. The doctrine of response towards terrorism has changed under the Modi government and this is in contrast with the approach that India followed post 26/11.
There have been many achievements of the current government, but somehow my liberal friends seem to disregard all of them and focus on a select couple of issues. They’ve based their resistance to PM Modi based on these factors, so I decided to explore them in detail. Somehow, as it turns out, these issues are manufactured issue and they’re not backed by empirical evidence.
On Cow and Media’s bias
A lot of people have discussed cow politics ever since 2014. There are multiple factors to explore related to cow and the politics associated with it. Dr Bhalla’s latest book might address this issue in greater detail and I am certainly looking forward to the book. But the most pertinent question is if Congress is any better than the BJP when it comes to cow politics. The mainstream media has painted the BJP as a regressive political party but is that the reality? As a matter of fact, protecting cow was mentioned in the directive principles of the constitution so this issue did not originate post-2014. However, going by media reports, it looks as if the cow was not an issue before 2014 but it only became an issue in BJP ruled states after 2014. What the media has often conveniently ignored is that even in Madhya Pradesh, Mr Kamal Nath invoked the National Security Act for cow slaughter. So, if you like your steak then you must know that the Congress is no different than the BJP when it comes to the question of beef and the politics of beef.
Is there a shrinking space for dissent?
The fact that I can even suggest that the space to dissent in India is shrinking is a manifestation of the fact that my suggestion is an absolute lie. If the space to dissent had reduced, then how could we criticize the government as freely and routinely as we do?
Tensions between communities have increased since 2014
Another charge against the government has been regarding the rise in tensions between communities or the charge that the BJP is communal. There have been extensive articles that have suggested that minorities in India are feeling insecure and that the current government wants to treat them as second-class citizens by amending the constitution. Unfortunately, these articles are geared towards dividing the voters and shifting the focus from important issues such as development and economic growth. These articles lack data on the subject and conveniently ignore the reality of India. There is evidence that suggests that religious minority groups, specifically Muslims tend to be the poorest groups in India. Consequentially, given that the BJP has worked extensively towards the bottom 50 per cent of India’s population, a major chunk of this is the Muslim households that lacked necessities before 2019. Therefore, the current developmental discourse has provided our Muslim brothers with the much-needed resources that were their right but successive governments ignored them. On the data for religious violence, again, I am hoping that Citizen Raj will fill the much-needed gap and settle this debate once and for all. By providing a 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections of the society, the government has in fact shown how it views Indians as Indians and not through the prism of caste or religion.
Earlier, reservations were only on the basis of caste and consequentially, religious minorities didn’t benefit from them but with this new policy, it will ensure that the benefit of reservation is also extended to them. Whether I believe in reservations as a tool to uplift people or not is a separate issue altogether but the only reason why I mentioned this is to illustrate how the “anti-minority” tag against the current government is laughable and a product of a carefully crafted branding strategy by the opposition that is devoid of facts. An important question is, if the opposition parties loved the minorities so much then why are most of them still poor, without a proper home, without an LPG connection or without electricity? Another important question is, if Modi hates non-Hindus, then why did he provide them with home, LPG and electricity in a record time of just 5 years?
There are multiple things that this government got right and there are multiple errors too that it has made but one has to compare a political party with other political parties. For all that the Modi government gets wrong, it gets at least twice as many things right. Be it a change in the nature of governance, eradication of corruption at the top level or delivery of basic services to all citizens of India.
India now has a government that not just shows up for work on time, but it actually works so my liberal friends, don’t fall for the propaganda of left-leaning digital propaganda websites masquerading as independent and objective journalism platforms. Look at data, at facts and then decide for yourself- do you want a government that delivers governance or do you want to go back to a government that only delivered Coalgate, 2G and the illustrious list of scams?
Karan Bhasin is a political economist by training and has diversified research interests in the field of economics. He tweets @karanbhasin95.