Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Modi@3: Patience

This month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the third anniversary of his historic election victory, becoming the first PM in 30 years to enjoy an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. Now more than half-way into his term, a lot of supporters and critics are asking questions about what his government has achieved, and what another term for him would mean. A common theme seems to be the tension between the economic right and the social right, both of which are represented in the BJP but rarely see eye to eye (the former used to be with the Congress until Sonia Gandhi all but decimated that wing). The argument seems to be that post-demonetization and upping the ante on cow slaughter, Modi has abandoned the economic right and is pushing through with a social agenda personified by UP CM Yogi Adityanath.

There are several problems with this argument. For, the Modi government has undertaken several economic reforms, including the two top ones: GST and the IBC. These are major economic achievements, and were only possible after Modi's government stabilized the economy from the train wreck that it was when Manmohan Singh left office. Indeed, by wrapping up the Planning Commission and the systems of Five Year Plans, as well as the FIPB more recently, the intent is decidedly on the right. The grouse then appears to be that of speed - the argument being that not enough reforms have been undertaken. This is understandable from an economic perspective, but electorally, it is difficult (but not impossible). Winning a Lok Sabha majority is not enough, you need to shift the ecosystem of the country towards the right, and that is a slow process prone to failure at every step. The fact is, despite the massive mandate of 2014, there is no economic consensus in India, and people want quick results by any which way, which inherently limits the speed of economic reforms. That said, the glass is certainly more than half full.

What the economic right does not seem to appreciate is that they are in a coalition with the social right, and the latter have a much bigger grouse. On issue after issue over the past two decades, the economic right has won - from de-licensing to liberalization to ties with Israel, the economic right has prevailed. They may have not gotten everything that they'd have liked, such as labor reforms or enhanced privatization, but they have achieved a lot from the days of Indira Gandhi. It is the social right that has continuously been at the receiving end since the loss of territory during Partition. What has the social right gotten? The RTE act, balkanization of Hindu society, minority appeasement to the extent of Hindus having to hide their traditions, vicious attacks on Hindu beliefs, state-control and plunder of Hindu temples, legislatively-imposed personal laws... the list is endless. The Nehruvian-state is fundamentally anti-Hindu and depends on appeasing Muslims to sustain itself, despite Partition's promise of ending that. This is the grouse that the social right holds, and they are far more mad that a right-wing government has done next to nothing on any of these issues. Three years since that historic mandate, they have gotten more tokenism than anything else, while a Mamata Banerje splurges on madrassas in Bengal.

Therefore, three years after Modi's election, the economic right should be thankful that they have actually gotten the majority of the reforms. They should also remember that, on their own, they cannot win an election - the coalition of the economic and social right wings alone can deliver a government. And in a coalition, one side reaping all the rewards is not sustainable. Right now, the cultural right has a genuine grouse, and their glass has been emptying since 1947. The economic right needs to be patient and understanding, instead of throwing fits and making threats (as if Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi would do them any good!). 

No comments: