Expectations are the traps of good intentions. They arise from deprivation, and to boost the velocity of progress. Currently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is bearing the burden of India’s expectations and becoming the victim of his promises. But what is he supposed to do? Wave a magic wand like a fairy godfather and make inflation, price rise, retarded infrastructural growth and rural backwardness vanish? Is he expected to behave like a quack swami, making dollars appear in corporate coffers? He opened shop just seven months ago; is he magically supposed to turn India into a combination of Ram Rajya, China and America? Can he realistically reverse UPA’s disastrous economic and social politics in the blink of a half-year?
It’s the economy, stupid.
UPA I inherited a strong economy from the Vajpayee-led NDA, with a subsidy average of 2.79 per cent of the GDP. Under UPA II, it rose to 4.71 per cent. Vajpayee’s government was a coalition too, which functioned sans the excuse of “coalition compulsions”. Did the Congress deliberately leave behind a ruined economy to make Modi fail, and make a comeback in 2019? Big income tax refunds were unpaid. Modi has inherited `60,000 crore of oil subsidies. For 2013-14, fiscal deficit was 4.8 per cent, due to drastically reduced plan and capital expenditure, which slowed growth. An affidavit filed by the UPA in the Supreme Court affirmed that under NDA I, 23,814 km of national highways were added—around 50 per cent of the total length built in three decades. Under UPA, foreign debt rose to $426 billion by 2013-end. The spectre of raising `2.4 lakh crore to recapitalise the banks haunts NDA—without funds, how will banks fuel growth? UPA vote-velcro projects like MGNREGS and the Food Security Bill of `1.24 lakh crore at taxpayers’ expense increased purchasing power without rise in manufacturing and agricultural output. The rupee’s reduced purchasing power has destabilised household budgets. The disastrous Kisan Credit Card scheme led to more farmer suicides. The vegetable mafia imports cheaper produce, affecting domestic agriculture. On the lighter side, when Manmohan Singh announced on March 19, 2014, that he doesn’t want to be Prime Minister anymore, BSE shot up by 125 points.
Undoubtedly, the common man’s wallet is getting thinner. Consumer products are pricier; vegetables, fruits and meat are almost unaffordable to the ordinary Indian. The corporate sector is grumbling because Modi hasn’t filled its pockets. ‘Achhe Din’ promises bullet trains, smart cities, Digital India and massive FDI infusions. Modi’s first priority, however, should be to put money in the common man’s pocket, make housing affordable, initiate road, railway and healthcare reforms and launch mega-projects like new ports and airfields. He has to streamline the bureaucracy and cut frivolous expenditure like providing central heating to the houses of MPs and ministers. Image is the medium of the message, and the sincerity behind the Clean India campaign is creating awareness about a healthy India.
Statistics is the last refuge of the apologist, and Modi need not apologise for UPA’s mistakes. But his charisma has to translate into prosperity for the ordinary Indian, who needs quality nourishment and lower interest on EMIs. Fulfilling the great expectations of the ordinary man is true raj dharma—which Vajpayee believed Modi was following in Gujarat. It’s India’s turn now, Mr Prime Minister.