So it’s been a year since the mandate came into effect. A time to take stock. A time to reflect on the choice the country made.
The first thing to consider is that fact: choice. Every election is a choice. This time, it was clear. We could have elected the same people again, and found out whether an idiot PM was better than a smart mute one. (spoiler alert: it would’ve been worse, and would’ve spoilt the holiday plans for our spoilt brat of a scion). We could have gone with the “third option” and handed over the whole country to the people who have done such a splendid job in UP, Bihar, Bengal etc. then we could’ve followed the famous path that divides us even further than religion, even further than caste. (Nitish practices special policies for subsections he calls Ati-Pichhra and Maha-Dalits)
Or we could’ve chosen the party that has never had a clean run, and which projected a face that has had a clean run in a state. A guy who is popular in his state. And a party that keeps winning the states it runs.
Leave aside all other concerns and think what choice would be better for the nation. I think we made the only rational choice. We said welcome to PM N D Modi.
Soon, we experienced a cacophony: kahaan hain achchhe din? It was either people having exceptional expectations from a new govt or people who hate looking to justify their hatred. But the signs of change have been present since the start: signs both that lead me to hope and despair.
The babu-dom has been utterly shaken in the last year. From biometric attendance, random inspections and regular performance reviews to freedom and encouragement for new ideas. Streamline, discipline, and get them to work. Answerable directly to a strict PM. All done without any public drama or childish acts like locking offices.
There have also been a lot of grand plans, announcements and investments. There has been no crackdown of criticism as people were predicting. (There was one person who pretended to be scared of saying the names of Gadkari/Modi/BJP, saying that a “media cell” will “arrest him” if he did that.)
There was no persecution of minorities. The “church attacks” were either mistakes, or had nothing to with them being Churches. There have been no Khoon Ki Nadiyan as predicted by riot fear-mongers. There was, however, a spotlight on everything Hindu, and an emboldening of the Hindutva fringe. There has been no support whatsoever from the govt for these people, and there is frequent, public renouncement of all ideologies except “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, but there is no real crackdown on the crazy ones either.
Contrary to what was feared, Reliance has actually been fined heavily when found lacking and the informants of corporates, including Reliance presumably, who were found snooping have been investigated and prosecuted. That “snoopgate” was unearthed because of specific measures to check bureaucracy leaking info.It worked. Do I think snooping today is at level zero? Of course not. But is it much lower than earlier? Of course it is.
In fact, contrary to Mr Jaitley, I don’t think political corruption has been eliminated, but it sure has shrunk a lot. Rafael jets were purchased for the same price for the Indian army as for the French army. The era of ever-increasing scams seems old news. There are reports in all sort of international publications that showcase this fact.
And talking of international, there have been trips. This PM has spent more than a month and a half on foreign trips, often equated with tourism. Even forgetting the fact that the “crown prince” spent longer on his “introspection” in Thailand, what do we think these trips have been like? How many days has the PM kissed work because of these trips? As someone who knows people who have to travel a lot for work, I can attest that there is zero fun to be had on a business trip. The prime minister of India doesn’t need to travel abroad to experience luxury. His travel is MORE work for him, not less. He meets really big, influential, tough people out there, and comes back with his reputation enhanced. Who thinks that happens without a whole lot of preparation? Despite being less than fluent at English and pretty rustic in his ways, he connects with the rich and the powerful of the world because they see a kindred spirit: a driven workaholic working for something more than his immediate needs.
This is the man the world sees. A hard working guy working to improve his country. I don’t know what the critics think his motives are, but this much is true. He is a hard working man, working to leave his country better off.
Not necessarily because he is a Messiah, or a selfless worker. Not just as a patriotic citizen, but as a leader with a large ego. Ego, a sense of self worth, a spirit to leave a mark, is a sine-qua-non of a leader. A guy who wants to be remembered. This guy wants that. Because of his ego. And here, unlike the late Mrs Gandhi, this works in our favor. Hopefully.
Because there lies the problem too. The assessment of the whole government seems like a job review of a certain N D Modi. From his inspired ideas to his monogrammed suit, this is Modi Sarkar, a top heavy system. I believe the bottom up systems last longer, are less dependent on individual honesty/zeal, and just better. I don’t trust the babus to stay as disciplined once there is a change at top. I expect greed and malaise leading to corruption at high levels again, unless…..
Unless the man at the top takes charge of building a second line. A credible second line with popular base that will one day replace him. Thankfully there is no genetic heir.
And the more intangible part of a legacy would be the policies and institutions created. Jan Dhan is a great way to reach the pocket of the poorest and bypass the corrupt machinery. But Swachh Bharat needs more than just volunteerism. It needs a system. Clean Ganga is headed in the right direction because of commissioning of hundreds of waste water treatment plants on cities draining into Ganga. We need to make this universal.
I could go on, but the issues are myriad, and so are the solutions. It’s the job of a leader to pick not only the right solution, but also the right issues to focus on. For the rest, you have a team. Expand it if you need, and use it, Mr Modi. This was a good start. Make it better, make it last. Otherwise your legacy won’t.