Celebrated essayist Francis Bacon said that “a wise man will make more opportunities than he finds” because a normal man is content with the opportunities that he gets — but a wise man has to make more opportunities than he finds.
It was 26 May 2014 when Narendra Modi took over as the 15th Prime Minister of India, riding a wave sweeping the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party had won 282 seats. With its allies in the National Democratic Alliance, the total tally was 336 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha, the strongest mandate since 1984 elections, raising tremendous expectations. This was the first ever swearing-in of an Indian Prime Minister to be attended by heads of SAARC countries — though Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and President of Sri Lanka Mahindra Rajapaksa faced strong opposition in India and their own countries.
To mark two years, the Centre for Media Studies has conducted a survey which suggests that Modi’s performance as prime minister is liked by a vast majority (62 percent). A big majority (70 percent) wishes him to continue as Prime Minister for another five-year term. Modi’s initiatives to improve administration and the country’s image globally have received a big thumbs up from a majority of people. The survey encompassed 15 states and covered both the rural and urban communities. Former Secretary General of Lok Sabha Subhash C Kashyap, who released the survey findings, observed that “image of the Prime Minister is very high and his performance is being liked by a vast majority.”
Top performing ministers
In the assessment of Union Ministries, Railways scored the top ranking followed by Finance and External Affairs. Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Suresh Prabhu and Manohar Parrikar are the top five performers. Public perception of Modi government is of corruption-free governance, a successful cleanliness drive named Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, excellent global rapport and a positive dialogue with Pakistan.
Shourie tears into Modi again
However, in a 40-minute interview with Karan Thapar for “To The Point” programme, Arun Shourie, a Cabinet Minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government who has drifted away from BJP, analysed the two years of Modi government as one-man presidential government that is dangerous for India. Shourie warned that over the next three years, he expected a more systematic attempt to curb civil liberties and an increase in decentralised intimidation, besides choking of inconvenient voices. Shourie accused the prime minister of narcissism, which he described as both self-love to an exaggerated extent and insecurity — and Machiavellism, which meant that he exploits events to his benefit. The former minister, who has criticised Modi in the past also, said that the PM’s attitude to people is to use and throw them. He treats people like paper napkins and is remorseless, he alleged.
Shourie saw a clear line of logic linking Ghar Wapsi, Love Jihad, beef ban, the campaign against anti-nationalism, the focus on Bharat Mata ki jai and the students’ protests. This was deliberately orchestrated by the government. He described as unconstitutional the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. Shourie was sharply critical of Modi’s handling of relations with Pakistan, saying we have made fools of ourselves in the eyes of Pakistan. Earlier also Arun Shourie had contended that Modi government believes that managing economy means managing the headlines and that people had started recalling the days of former prime minister Manmohan Singh. He had said that the way to characterise policies of the government is — Congress plus a cow, since policies are the same.
However, Modi is upbeat over the positive image of his government and asked his ministers and the BJP chief Amit Shah to prepare a list of the achievements of their ministries so that the good work can be publicised, including programmes like the Jan Dhan Yojana, Deen Dayal Gram Jyoti Yojana, LPG ‘Give it Up’, Crop Insurance Scheme, Digital India, Swachh Bharat Mission, Mudra Yojana, StartUp India and Stand Up India. We take a closer look at two years of the Modi government.
By and large, the Modi government has remained free from corruption. The government has shown how it could run the country with minimum government and maximum governance. It has just 23 cabinet ministers and 23 ministers of state as against 71 of in the UPA regime. The government has been able to send a strong message to Pakistan over terrorism. During his maiden visit to the United States as Prime Minister, Modi had held meetings with a galaxy of American corporate executives including those from Boeing, PepsiCo, Google, KKR and General Electric. He had assured American corporate honchos of tax stability and friendlier business environment back. The Make in India pitch, huge Japanese investment and top executives visiting India —Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) — point to the success of the programme. Under Jan Dhan Yojana for financial inclusion, crores bank accounts were opened.
The government rightly abandoned the Planning Commission, which had lost its raison d’etre. It came up with the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
On foreign affairs, the President’s visit to Vietnam resulted in India extending $100 million export credit for defence deals. Talks with China led to discussions on finding a solution with mutual consent to reduce the hostilities between the neighbours. The Defence Cooperation agreement with the US had been extended by 10 years. A deal with Australia has been struck for more fuel, while talks with Japan have advanced to the final levels. China and the US have agreed to cooperate with civil nuclear deals. Hydroelectric project agreement has been signed with Bhutan that will also assist in flood control and irrigation.
Some unanswered questions
All said and done , some questions remain. Is Modi’s China policy of charming the dragon wrong? Would it not encourage China to claim that Kashmir is not a bilateral but a trilateral issue with Beijing being the third party? Is government’s claim of 7.6 percent growth exaggerated? Why had this government failed to appeal against the acquittal of Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini in the Agusta Westland helicopter deal? The two-year-old Modi government would have to answer these unanswered questions.
Modi has to live up to his image of 56” chest, a sign of political machismo!