“Finally, could one hope that there will be a new messiah, who will rise from the political class, to deliver the nation? Using all democratic processes to come to power, such a leader, working well within democratic means, could take a huge broom to clean up the system, usher in development and take the country on to a new path. Once a person like this emerges, the whole country will rise up to support him; the era of coalitions at the Centre would end —the country then will be on its way to reach its tryst with destiny. Not too far long back, a man called Mohandas Gandhi indeed lived in India —and achieved miracle!” The above was the concluding paragraph in the book GovernMint in India, published in 2008, written by the author of this article. At that time, Narendra Modi was nowhere in the picture, it was a cry of frustration.
In an earlier decade, Rajiv Gandhi had come to power with a massive mandate. He could have given decisive direction to India; alas, he did not comprehend the enormity of the task, did not know the contours of the issues involved. With little experience, he was a babe in the woods; he recklessly squandered the mandate given to him; India lost an opportunity to move towards greatness—to realise the full potential offered by the quality of its people. The 2008 prediction has now come true; will Modi be the true messiah to transform India?
Surely, Modi has the credentials. He has a successful record of performance in Gujarat, is fully familiar with the problems and issues confronting the citizen at the grassroots levels. He truly understands India. In the brilliantly orchestrated election campaign, much like the process for selection of the president in the US, Modi saw every corner of India, was able to relate to every local issue, was able to resonate with local sentiment in every corner. If he cannot succeed, nobody else can.
But let us not underestimate the enormity of the issues confronting the nation. Indira Gandhi pledged to ‘remove poverty’ over three decades ago; this has remained a shallow deceitful promise with no intention of fulfillment. The need to sharply reduce poverty levels is imperatively urgent. In an information age, the citizenry is alarmingly ill-educated; the public health conditions are abysmal, among the worst in the world. In short order, reliable regular power supply needs to be given in every village—this is fundamental to the process of development. Infrastructure has to be created ahead of need, rather than follow demand. There has to be rapid new job creation, to ensure continuing stability. Diversification of the agriculture sector and development of the rural areas have been talked about since the first Five-Year Plan—they need to become a reality. Restoring confidence in the economy and containing inflation are among the urgent objectives. There are a hundred other daunting tasks, equally difficult, confronting the new leader.
Massive resources need to be found to meet the process of rapid growth. This means that investment and industry need to be given reliable, open, friendly environment to flourish. But ‘growth’ alone cannot be the only mantra. The ‘trickle down’ theory has been nearly demolished by the weight of evidence—is Thomas Pickety’s latest thesis the final nail in the coffin? While rapid growth is imperative, it is not sufficient—income distribution needs to visibly reach the poorest classes. Wisdom is required to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory requirements.
All these cannot be achieved overnight. A turgid, sluggish administrative machinery needs to be galvanised, made accountable, and asked to perform; fortunately, we have a high-quality bureaucracy which will respond to clear, decisive and fair directions. Management of project conception and implementation needs to be dramatically speeded up and made efficient. Overall corruption levels need to be reduced dramatically—a target of 75 per cent reduction in five years would be a reasonable goal to set.
In a democracy, the citizen’s patience is not unlimited. Forces are ever-present to criticise and to exploit gaps and weaknesses in governance to generate discontent. Indians have given nearly 60 years to one party, very patiently and generously, finally to find themselves heavily shortchanged. Surely, they will now give five years to the new leader if they sense positive movement in key areas; they will also surely give 10 years for the achievements to show, and impact the life of every citizen. The new government is coming in arousing large expectations; it cannot fail. History has thrust a major responsibility on the shoulders of Modi.
“At the end, all we need is a new beginning; there is enormous inherent strength in the citizen, who has been suppressed, just not given the chance. In this democracy, the system and governance has so far been geared to suit the requirements of the ruling classes. All the citizen needs is the opportunity, provided the basics to find his feet, and allowed to flower —this he will do in quick time. Two-thirds of this century surely then will belong to India.”