The PM believes that the nation is now a force to be reckoned with, in matters of national security and economic inclusion for the masses. Predictably, the Opposition released a chargesheet against Modi’s government. It included accusations of reversing economic gains made by the previous Congress led-UPA government, the inept handling of COVID, the insensitive treatment meted out to farmers protesting the new farm laws, and its inability to give a befitting reply to China’s expansionist strategies. Taking stock of the NDA’s track record will be a tall order by any stretch of the imagination. But a few measurable parameters might help contextualise how they have fared so far.
When the UPA handed over the reins to the NDA in 2014, the GDP growth projection of India was set at about 7.4%. However, the NDA government unleashed two disruptive economic reforms during its first four years – demonetisation in 2016, and the Goods and Services Tax in 2017. Referring to the note ban, the PM said it was short term pain for a long-term gain. Not quite, as its effects were long-lasting in India’s cash-driven economy where thousands of SMEs shut shop, on account of blocked cash in various quarters.
And before India could limp back to business, Modi and Co unleashed the GST regime, unifying taxes under a single umbrella. While India Inc welcomed the measure towards ‘One Nation, One Tax’, the aftermath witnessed our GDP growth percentage dip from 7.4% in 2014 to 6.12% in 2018 and 4.18% in 2019. Pre-pandemic, the unemployment rate touched 23% in 2019. Now, our GDP is set to contract by 7.3%. The Opposition has placed the onus of inflation and price rise of essentials including petrol and edible oil with the government.
To give credit where it is due, the PM had affirmed that since independence, only 3.5 cr rural homes had water connections, a scenario the NDA has seemingly transformed by allotting 4.5 cr homes water connections in the past two years alone. The PM drew attention to Ayushman Bharat that provides crores of people access to subsidised healthcare. The Jan Dhan Yojana, has also helped millions categorised as unbanked get covered by financial inclusion. The Centre’s focus on rural electrification, Swachh Bharat and Aatma Nirbhar Bharat are also laudable.
But for every commendable initiative, there looms a feeling that not everything is going as per plan for Team Modi. Under the regime, we have witnessed some of the most revered public institutions reduced to mere spectators. The contentious farm bill passed without due process, calls into question the role of our parliament, and the strength it wields. The controversial Citizenship Amendment Act has invoked the ire of those who believe India cannot be split on account of religious bifurcation. Instances of sectarian violence directed at members of the minority and subjugated communities show no signs of receding. A notion of us versus them is seeping into the relationship between the people and their governments. Safe spaces for dissent and free speech are now an anomaly in India as the incarceration of students, activists and peaceful protesters has become the norm, along with running after social media apps with a vendetta.
It might be argued that every government is a work in progress. Today, India is battered by a pandemic, running out of everything – from oxygen to lifesaving drugs and vaccines to burial grounds. As per Pew Research, over 3 cr have been pushed off the middle-class bracket due to COVID. For team Modi, it presents an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and put its money where its mouth is. The people would certainly remember in 2024 if their government traded its bravado in exchange for some earnestness and actual on-ground action for the populace.