The Modi government has completed eight momentous years in power which is coinciding with the country entering its 75 years of its independence, a period which the government is celebrating as “Amrit Kal”.
Addressing the nation on the occasion of India’s Independence Day in 2021, Prime Minister Modi said, “The country is entering the 75th year of independence and the journey from here till 100 years of independence is the ‘nectar of India’s creation’. This goal has to be achieved with ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas’.”
The challenges that the country faced during the previous governments like “policy paralysis”, contradictions in the formulation of policies, lack of transparency in functioning, lack of ability to implement schemes on the ground, leakage in beneficiaries’ dividends, lack of public trust in the government, have been deftly weeded out by the Narendra Modi government.
While the government has taken steps for the welfare of the poor, it has also ensured an ease of doing for the business world. In the midst of the challenge of Covid, free ration was made available to a large number of the unprivileged which could not have been possible without the country’s food grain producing capacity.
India’s nationwide vaccination programme, which was successfully implemented despite massive challenges, is one of the brightest examples of government’s efficiency and intent. The digital revolution that the government has been undertaking since May 2014 has helped the government in transparent policy formulations ensuring multiple works are being done simultaneously without any conflict. The Modi government has also exhibited efficiency in communicating to the public the complete information of the work the government is undertaking and that which it has completed.
Modi’s governance model works with clarity on two questions—“what to do” and “how to do”. People working closely with Modi say he never asks “can this be done”, but always works in the spirit of “how can it not be done”. It has to be accepted that this vision, that Modi has laid out for the next 25 years, cannot just be described as the vision of this government, because when 100 years of independence will be completed, then it is quite possible that the party, the structure, the people that will be in power 25 years down the line, will be different from today.
Therefore, it has to be called the vision of the country, rather than terming it as a vision of the government. It is thus necessary to consider what the challenges are in the way of moving forward towards such a far-reaching goal. There is also a need for collective brainstorming on whether the country is ready for the necessary changes to take the giant leap.
There are three big challenges facing the country. First, the attempts to create instability in the country. Second, the lack of progress with a constructive agree-disagree form of dialogue towards epoch-making reforms. Third, not being able to differentiate between opposition to the government and opposition to the country. If the country has to move forward with a big vision for the next 25 years, then these three challenges will have to be overcome.
The first step to tackling these challenges is to understand that these problems are not like an aberration routinely faced by a party or government, but have become persistent for the country. Therefore, there is a need to avoid making the mistake of considering it as a challenge to the government or a party. The challenges are being faced by the nation.
In 2019, when Narendra Modi returned to power with a thumping majority, even the dissenting groups accepted that Modi has passed the ultimate test in a democracy–the public’s scrutiny. That 2014 was no fluke as the public had reposed their faith in Modi. In the face of Modi’s rising popularity post 2019, the tendency of dialogue and expressing disagreement in the opposition camp has been on the wane. What has replaced it is the tendency to disrupt.
There are concerted efforts being made to create instability and unrest for the sake of protest. Instead of rational discussions, opposition to the reforms made by the government started increasing in the spirit of “Only I am right”. We have seen that there have been violent upheavals over the reforms in agricultural laws. Even murders were committed in the name of “peaceful protests”. The roads leading to the national capital were blocked for over a year leading to economic losses worth crores, but despite the protests, the opposition failed to point out what exactly was wrong in the provisions of the agricultural laws. The same is now being seen in the case of the Agnipath scheme against which protests are being held and public properties being destroyed despite the government clarifying each and every unfounded doubt.
In a country the size of India, it is not possible everyone will agree on one thing. There are bound to be varying views, but there was no discussion on that. There was just a din created by the opposition demanding no debate, but withdrawal of the laws. The incident has set a trend that is being used to derail reforms.
When election campaigns start, political parties take their manifestos to the people and seek votes on the basis of the promises made in the vision documents. People elect leaders giving them the mandate to form governments and implement policies. In such a situation, it is the moral duty of the parties to implement the manifesto.
Everyone has a right to disagree with the policies of the government, but the basis of the disagreement with government policies cannot be differences with the party. Opposing decisions taken in the interest of the country on the basis of party differences will prove to be a huge hindrance in the development of India in the next 25 years.
Feeling of insecurity, injustice and marginalisation are common. Democratic societies have their ways of addressing them. Protests, therefore, are important but we have to think to what extent a protest can go.
Slogans like “Sir Tan Se Juda” have no place in a modern and vibrant democracy. Stone pelting, arson and road blockades running into years over every issue and perceived hurt will stand in the way of the country’s development over the next 25 years. The practice is particularly dangerous because it leaves scope for external forces to disrupt order in the country. As a rising economic power, we cannot avert our eyes to the forces that are at work to derail our progress.
We should think with a cool mind that the international objection to the recent “statement” after which stones were pelted in many parts of the country came from Qatar. But the same country from which the objection came issued a decree against people who demonstrated against the said statement to leave the country. This is enough for us to understand that even Qatar cannot afford to disrupt life through protests. The world of the 21st century doesn’t call for violence, riots and medieval punishments. This world is a world of reason, debate and dialogue. Therefore, when India completes 100 years of independence, where it will be depends on what the country learns to do to overcome the three challenges. Narendra Modi may have envisioned the next 25 years, but the country will have to do the work of fulfilling it.
The author is associated with the BJP think tank Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.
There are three big challenges facing the country. First, the attempts to create instability in the country. Second, the lack of progress with a constructive agree-disagree form of dialogue towards epoch-making reforms. Third, not being able to differentiate between opposition to the government and opposition to the country. If the country has to move forward with a big vision for the next 25 years, then these three challenges will have to be overcome. When India completes 100 years of independence, where it will be depends on what the country learns to do to overcome the three challenges.