by Muzamil Yaqoob 5 April 2019
At a time when Indian political scene is strained under the Right-wing populism, there is a great hue and cry around the next parliamentary elections. The performance of ruling dispensation is largely been debated and analysed on multiple parameters. The rising unemployment and jobless growth with mounting inflation are the prominent issues dominating the rhetoric of competing parties. Alongside this, there are many pressing issues being debated to furnish a strategy for future governments to secure the rights of minority communities-religious, sexual, etc. There is also a debate around the constant onslaught on different institutions to conform to the dictates of the ruling regime that has led to a large institutional breakdown in the country.
In such a situation, it is indispensable for any concerned citizen to carefully analyse and make an assessment of what has happened and what could have been done? In this direction, the book, ‘Modi’s Rule and India’s Unbound Opportunities: narratives of the substantives and beyond’ is one such attempt which has touched a wide array of issues concerning the Indian politics since 2014. The author has derived the content largely from his write-ups and other scholarly works. This book is a pragmatic analysis of Modi govt’s policies and strategies for the last five years. The author has examined the performance of this govt with the party’s own manifesto for 2014 elections. ‘This book is neither a blind appraisal nor prejudiced criticism, but realistic and pragmatic analysis of India’s position within the region and the global platform.’
Touching the Vagaries
The book comprises of ten chapters including the introduction and the conclusion part, which deal with the issues starting from poll campaigning’s for 2014 elections to different initiatives taken by this govt at multiple fronts. The author raises many important questions at each step which makes reading the book even more interesting.
India has been credited with having the largest demographic dividend with almost ‘35% of its population under the age of 35 years.’ The author suggests that any future govt should take note of this benefit and utilize the talents of this varied population group in the right direction. The failures of existing politics to bring this stratum to mainstream have been highlighted with the words that ‘for most Indians democracy has remained confined in mere participation in the electoral process as the existing system has utterly failed in ensuring people of this country emerging as the stakeholders of policy-making, implementation and the process of nation building.’ (p 3)
Interestingly, the book starts the current political expedition with the poll journey of 2014 and highlights almost every issue which the BJP tried to mobilize the public opinion around. The decade of ‘jobless growth’ under Congress-led UPA and the rising social discordances, particularly among the youth, were exploited to every extent before the polls. This was helped by the Narendra Modi’s venture into the poll politics whose strategy helped to bring organizational reforms and ‘discipline and end the rifts among party leaders for the interests of the party’ (P 11). The party was further helped by its ‘aim to talk of specific actions it will take in key areas such as the economy, particularly improving industrial growth, governance, and transparency, and internal and external security’ (P 17).
BJP’s landslide victory in the 2014 polls bought an end to the decades-long political instability of coalition politics in India. The author raises an interesting question about what did the party do with the mandate it got? Was there any possibility to do more than what the BJP accomplished in its entire tenure? The party under Narendra Modi bought a strategic change in its style of governance. There is no denial of the fact that much of the attention was given to foreign policy during the initial years.
Modi planned to give ‘new focus on India’s foreign policy with a roadmap and enhancing this further through more engagement and diplomatic drives in the initial days of his tenure (p 46). However, the success of this external engagement still remains a question. However, what is ostensible now is that this didn’t pay many dividends to India. There was a huge job loss which the foreign investments couldn’t secure. Finally, India couldn’t get the desired position of a world leader which the Modi government bragged too much during the entire period.
After the foreign policy, there was considerable attention on the social sector which was under different shades since long. The earlier governments had failed to strengthen and evolve a commitment among all to contribute to the process of national development. The new government initiated its strategy by introducing legislation on multiple fronts of the social sector. Major legislation was bought to regulate the industry, and to control inflation apart from the regulations in the education sector, housing, water, etc. The book also finds discussion around various schemes like ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’ and the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana’ which the BJP launched in this sector. The author very lucidly highlights the loopholes which were raised from time to time against such initiatives. The major criticisms initiated against these initiatives were that they had lower budgetary allocations, they were moves towards centralization, and having no academic logic.
Exploring the Unbound Opportunities
With ‘65% population below 35 years of age’ (p129), the youth in India comprise a distinct constituency who can change the dynamics of electoral politics in India which no political party can afford to neglect. Even we can say that the fortunes of BJP were changed mainly by the young population in 2014. This opportunity was utilized by BJP leadership while rightly identifying the ‘employment generation and entrepreneurship as the most effective tools for youth empowerment in India’ (p 135).
The preceding part of the book talks about the Demonetization phase of the Indian economy. The book inquires into the details of what went wrong with the policy initiatives against black money. Using data on different parameters, the author has revealed many details from public perception to national imagination. Towards the end the author has summarized the economic policy of Modi govt and how was it materialized on the ground.
The concluding part of the book debates the foreign policy initiatives of the Modi govt and how will it affect the relations in the longer run. The author also provides a roadmap which can help the future governments to exploit India’s unbound opportunities. Respecting the diversified talents, nourishing and giving them the right direction can help India secure its fortunes domestically as well as on the global scene.
This book is first of its kind which thoroughly explicates the last five years of Indian politics. The author should be credited for writing this dense book for the large audience to seek answers for the unexamined questions which are being tried to bury in the graveyard of history. The continuous focus on deliberation and accountability holds much of the author’s attention during the entire book. This book not only contributes to the existing literature on Indian politics but also venerates many important questions which the nation as a whole should seek answers for. Written very lucidly, this book is comprehensible to anyone interested in Indian politics.