Three years ago in the summer of 2014, Narendra Damodar Modi took the oath of office and secrecy as Prime Minister of India. The Bharatiya Janata Party came to power after a long gap of ten years with a new face and new agenda: Development. People indeed saw hope in Modi and voted him and his party wholeheartedly in the hope of having a prime minister who would indeed bring about a radical change in their lives. Indeed people were tired of the scams of the UPA government and a rather docile prime minister who spoke to them only on the Independence Day and the Republic day. In Modi, they saw a great orator and communicator who talked to them in their own language.
People identified with him, people supported him and of course, believed him. Now that three years are gone it is time to take stock of how the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fared on the expectations of the people.
Indeed, it is not easy to evaluate the work of a prime minister as his work is supported and executed by many others and he cannot be blamed for wrongdoings or lethargy of the system of governance. However, it would be prudent enough to look at the initiatives that were taken by the Modi government with good intentions, whether they bore fruit is another question.
The major achievement of the Modi government has been to mobilize people through his speeches and programs that directly connect with the common man. Be it ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, ‘Digital India’ or ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, the prime minister’s voice finds echo even in the remote corners of the country and that is indeed a big achievement. People may argue whether India is any cleaner now? Well, may be yes may be not, but no one can question the efficacy of the policy decision to make toilets in every home, to sensitize people about hygiene and make them conscious about the need to get their daughters educated.
Similarly, another of Modi’s cherished program of skill development and entrepreneurship for which a new ministry has been created is worth mentioning here. It is also an important step to transform the economy from the rural to urban and provide meaningful employment to the young Indians who are now two-thirds of the total population. Skill development is indeed an extensive programme whose results would not come immediately but a beginning has definitely been made in the right direction.
On the international front, Modi has indeed succeeded in projecting India’s image as an emerging and vibrant nation which is confident and passionate about world peace and harmony. Through International Yoga Day and other such programmes that message has indeed gone out. Modi has also done well to isolate Pakistan on terrorism and got support from international leaders. However, it would be an exaggeration to say that Pakistan has been tamed and the relations are peaceful with the neighbours. Both Pakistan and China are fomenting trouble at the borders. But that is not any government can do much about. One has to take recourse to diplomacy and that is being done by the Modi government.
Next important area to discuss is the economy. That is the gray area the Modi government has not done any significant work in. Though today inflation is under check, rupees is stable against dollar and business sentiment is positive but that may be due to other reasons and not due to the government policies.
The actual outcome of the demonetization drive is yet to be known. The unemployment is on the rise and so is the cost of living despite low inflation. Though the opening of zero balance accounts of the millions of people was in principle a good idea so that the masses could be brought into the banking system but it did not work to the desired extent. The banking system is under pressure. The populist measures of loan waiver and the like not only strain the banking system but also empty the coffers of the government. The money that should have gone for the welfare schemes goes into doling out largesse to woo the electorate.
Similarly, the Prime Minister’s dream of digital India is still much ahead of its time. The whole of India still cannot afford to go digital and cashless. When we say it can be done we forget the vast expanse of the country and the fact that one-third of Indians go to bed without two square meals a day. Owning an ordinary phone, let alone smartphone is a luxury they can hardly afford. Still, digitalisation sounds good. And that is that.
The Modi government thus has no doubt achieved a lot but it has indeed a long way to go to fulfil its promise of inclusive development, “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.”