The Indian economy has tanked to its worst performing levels
The NDA/BJP government’s seven years tenure has been underpinned by a hodgepodge of grandiloquent pronouncements. If one were to obtusely believe the NDA/BJP then India has eradicated the scourge of a parallel economy post demonetisation. Is now “Atmanirbhar” courtesy a new wave of production by the domestic industries that has put an end to excessive foreign dependence. All the “wolf warriors” of the Chinese have been exterminated and the war against the Covid-19 pandemic was won in January 2021 itself in Davos.
The Indian economy has tanked to its worst performing levels. Even pre-pandemic growth had halved to four per cent in 2019-20. In 2013-14, the size of the Indian economy was 1.86 trillion dollars. In 2020-21 it stands at 1.85 trillion dollars. By way of comparison China is a 16.64 trillion economy. All the fundamentals namely savings, consumption investment and employment are severely stressed. The unemployment rate is at a 45-year high. Per capita income is expected to dip by an unprecedented 5.4 per cent, from 1.34 lakh in the previous year to 1.27 lakh in the current year. The Cumulative Fiscal Deficit of the Union government for 2019-20/201-21 is 33.55 lakh crores. With seven of the largest PSUs being valued below par and put on the chopping block, the government now plans to sell the family silver to bridge an unparalleled deficit budget.
It has now become clear how completely hollow all the tall claims of Atmanirbharta were. India now ignominiously depends on foreign assistance to surmount health emergencies. We have even accepted food aid from Kenya. One can but help recall that even in the wake of a cataclysmic tsunami in 2004 Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh refused to accept any foreign relief.
Erosion of institutional integrity has been the hallmark of the NDA/BJP government. From the CBI and the Election Commission to the Reserve Bank of India and even the higher judiciary, all face a crisis of credibility further widening the state-citizen trust deficit. The worst sufferer of this has been the temple of Indian democracy — India’s Parliament. No Indian Prime Minister has ignored Parliament so contemptuously as Prime Minister Modi has.
In order to circumvent Parliament, the NDA/BJP government has often followed the ordinance route. In its seven years the current government has pushed more ordinances than any other government in a five-year term since 1952. Even the number of bills that have been referred to parliamentary committees have shrunk dramatically with zero bills being recommended in 2020. If that was not enough, government found egregious ways of further undermining the remit of Parliament by “classifying” key pieces of legislation as money bills.
All this while the government wallows in quantifying parliament productivity by passing several bills in a single day. What value do these quantifications hold when the essence of democracy, i.e. serious deliberations discussions and questioning of the government on key issues has been severely proscribed.
During the seven years in power the NDA/BJP government has turned the idea of India on its head. This government does not believe in the founding values of the Indian state and has used all means necessary to create a majoritarian ethos.
It started with an assault on the freedom to eat, to dress as you like, to think, to express and most importantly the freedom to live your life without fear or intimidation. With extortionate amount of money being funnelled into building false storylines fundamental freedoms have been systematically subverted.
The anti-CAA protests showed that a small but determined group can speak truth to power. The Prime Minister’s silence on the subsequent Delhi Riots was deafening. When the three farm laws pushed agriculture into the free market without even an iota of concern for the small and marginal farmer the world is witness to the largest and longest peaceful agitation by the farmers.
Throughout the past seven years the government has used all means necessary to rupture the federal structure of the country. A total of nine state governments have been brought down by the BJP using unethical means. By destabilising states ruled by Opposition parties the BJP has time and again demonstrated contempt for the people’s mandate. States have been left to fend for themselves in times of national crises. The recent vaccination fiasco being a striking example.
For the Modi government it is cooperative federalism on paper and a non-operative federalism in reality.
This government had projected itself to be a strong decision-making government, which would accord national security number one priority. But in terms of action the nation has not seen anything substantive. The Naga Accord, is in the doldrums and one knows if it exists or has vanished. Left-wing extremism has grown by leaps and bounds. Maoism and militancy, besides claiming lives of our jawans is also eating into the finances of the country. Mob lynchings and anti-religious conversion laws have attacked the very fundamental of the rights of citizens. Even the abrogation of Article 370 has had little positive impact on Jammu & Kashmir whilst institutionalising a sense of alienation and fear. Overall the government struggled to come to terms with domestic insurgencies, modernising the military and deterring potential threats from Pakistan and China.
The NDA/BJP government’s cynical use of foreign policy as an exercise in personal brand building has had catastrophic consequences for the nation. At the time of writing this article the Chinese haven’t vacated illegally occupied Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh. Any hope of return to status quo ante seems beyond the capacity of the current dispensation now that India has given up its tactical advantage on the Kailash heights. The spirits of Wuhan and Mamallapuram are long dead — a consequence of foreign policy becoming individual centric and being run in an ad-hoc manner rather than based on any strategic coherence.
The government’s dealing with Pakistan in the last seven years has been characterised by U-turns, flip-flops and somersaults. This has precluded any possibility of a nuanced engagement with Islamabad.With India’s rankings across several global indices falling severely, the MEA has gone over the top with the narrative of “interference in the internal democratic processes”, conveniently overlooking that our head of the government had once canvassed for Donald Trump “abki baar Trump sarkar”.
It is evident that the NDA government has failed in maintaining a balance between the United States, Russia, China and the European Union with foreign policy focussing on Modi first and India later.
The last seven years has unfortunately been a cacophony of mendacities. The NDA/BJP government has failed the people of India. The fantasy of “Acche Din” stands eviscerated. Today this country is humming an old Hindi melody albeit under its breath — Koi Lauta De Mera Beeta Hua Din.
The author is a lawyer, Member of Parliament and former Union information and broadcasting minister. The views expressed are personal. Twitter handle @manishtewari.