Sunday, 26 June, 2022
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Modi floats like a butterfly past problems & makes new promises. But the maths will catch up

Silence on difficult issues is fine as political strategy. But Modi’s expansive spending announcements will have to reconcile with predicted economic trouble.

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When getting into the swing of its seventh year, the Manmohan Singh government was about to be savaged by the Comptroller and Auditor General in successive reports, and would soon lose all sense of purpose (the operative word, if you recall, was paralysis).

At the same stage, the Narendra Modi government is a study in contrast, giving every impression of being in a tearing hurry to deliver. Among the latest set of promises made on Independence Day is a new medical ID card for all citizens, a Rs 100 lakh crore infrastructure programme, optical fibre connectivity for all villages in three years (we may have heard that one before), and a slew of other initiatives almost too exhausting to recount.

A year earlier, fresh from his electoral triumph, Modi had launched the Jal Jeevan Mission (tapwater in all rural households in five years) to match Swachh Bharat’s toiletsand talked of making India a $5-trillion economy within five years. Before that, in the run-up to the elections, he had announced a cash pay-out scheme for farmers and a free medical insurance programme.

There have been plenty of other pronouncements as well: Privatisation of coal mining, a new education policy, lower tax rates for individuals and companies, and a new tax charter, for instance. Along the way, there was the self-reliance thrust for import substitution, now converted into a simultaneous export thrust. It is hard to keep pace with the constant flurry of announcements and their fine print, let alone assess what exactly they amount to.

Also read:PM Modi should know India needs to be a strong country, not just have a strong government

So no one can be in doubt that this government is long on ambition, especially when you consider that it has also been busy with history-making changes in Jammu and Kashmir, and in getting Parliament to pass a contentious law on citizenship. Equally clear, though, is the strange disconnect between the focus of these developmental and political thrusts and the immediate needs of the economy and country.

On the three major subjects of immediate importance, on which the country would like to hear from the prime minister, there is only silence. There is no commitment to increased defence expenditure, urgently needed following the Chinese wake-up call. Or to increased health expenditure, though the continuing surge in the country’s Covid numbers has made India the epicentre of new cases. Meanwhile, the difficulties facing an economy in crisis are left to others to deal with. It does seem odd that the prime minister can talk of subsidised sanitary pads while remaining silent on all of the above.

There is a pattern to this. Modi leaves the difficult issues well alone. When he speaks of them, it is either in denial (like the border situation) or to highlight successes that are only part of a larger story that is worrisome in its totality (as with the Covid crisis). At the same time, Modi is busy making a series of positive announcements that associate him with conferring benefits on ordinary citizens, achieving larger development goals, and effectively leading the government. Sometimes, this means floating like a butterfly past subjects that have become embarrassing — like the forgotten promise of good days (achhe din), double-digit economic growth, and the $5-trillion economy — and shifting the focus to new policy thrusts (like self-reliance, which, it is hoped, will give meaning at last to “Make in India”). On cue, the Orwellian faithful will start a new drumbeat each time.

This is fine as political strategy. In the absence of meaningful interactions with the media, it is also easy to pull off through effective oratory and event management. The medium-term economic strategy to deal with new realities is less clear, given the prospect of slower growth and, therefore, more limited resources in the coming decade. The World Bank says public debt is headed to become nearly 50 per cent greater than the desirable level, two years from now. To keep that in check, or risk a credit downgrade, fiscal policy will have to contract. At some point, the disconnect between this outlook and expansive spending pronouncements will have to be addressed. Because the maths will have to add up.

By Special Arrangement with Business Standard.

Also read:Modi govt is embracing some discarded Congress policies. But they won’t work even now


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  1. Why the print always abuses modi but has nothing to say about any other leader..mamata is runing bengal,no jobs, politicsl murders, corruption, but print stays mum..

  2. When Modi holds back from distributing freebies,every Lutyens pseudo including Rajan or PC or Rajdeep advise for Modi to distribute largess to overcome Corona and not to worry about fiscal deficit..Instead when Modi proposes spending money on constructive forward looking agenda be it defence,Industry or health.,then immediately they start giving lessons on fiscal deficit?

  3. Gotta run to catch up. The world has sped past India in the decades after Independence.

    A doubt: Do I become a “Bakht” when I say this?

    • ‘A doubt: Do I become a “Bakht” when I say this?’

      You are a bahkth, not for saying that ‘Gotta run to catch up. The world has sped past India in the decades after Independence’, but for imagining Modi and his Hindu fascism will help you catch up with the world that has sped past.

      How can a chai wallah with a forged degree and only a pogrom as an achievement, reporting to a paramilitary organisation run by Vedic primitives, make India catch up with the world that has sped past ?

      I said that before 2014. Now all the evidence shows the failure. Just take three. Modi took an economy that achieved 8% growth for 10 years, and reduced it to under 4% – when oil price is $30/b; MMS achieved 8-10% growth when oil was $ 130/b. What kind of incompetent can do this ? Modi’s handling of Covid showed a mixture of incompetence and reliance on Hindu symbolism. As a result, India is one of three countries where the curve is still rising and no one knows when it will peak. The whole of the second term from 2019 was spent on preparing to harass Muslims with NRC and put them in camps, and fighting students and women. So the govt. was unprepared for Covid. Modi was boasting about having a Plus One relationship with China and Xi. When Amit Shah boasted that India will capture Aksai Chin, China gave a kick. Modi kept quiet and issued a pathetic declaration that nothing happened. So you show Hindu bravery fighting Indian students and some women, but when a powerful neighbour kicks, you are meek and submissive. Hindu cowardice was on display.

      And despite these failures, you proudly ‘state Gotta run to catch up. The world has sped past India in the decades after Independence’ as your justification for supporting Modi.

      Therefore you are bhakth, a dumb bhakth, who thinks no one can see through your vain Hindu posturing.

  4. The Modi govt is well capable of fudging their math with a straight face… And the press does not care to check if the math really adds up.. so why should Modi bother?! Besides, there are a couple more mosques to be converted to temples.. a few more riots to be engineered.. some terrorist attacks to be ‘allowed’.. and all will be hunky-dory at the ballot box for the BJP! Why waste time with mundane matters like the economy, which they have no clue about anyway?!!

    • You captured their thinking ! They have a captive market for a couple more mosques to be converted to temples.. a few more riots to be engineered.. some terrorist attacks to be ‘allowed’..

      And if that does not win the ballot box, then they have money to buy defectors.

      This is a formula that is sustainable for some more years.

  5. Right. So what is new?

    Which political party / Government in Independent India have kept promises or been transparent and sincere in Governence?

    Just asking

    • Uncle, with due respect, India had 10% literacy rate at independence (now 80%), 34 was the life expectancy rate (now 69), 1/3 children used to die at birth.

      Point is, we keep missing how far we have come from where we were 70 yrs back. You yourself must have seen the poverty in the society when you were young.

      Can’t we as a nation not even cultivate enough humility to give credit where its due? Claiming that in the last 75 yrs we have done nothing is a whatsapp level, chai-panwadi analysis which is not expected of a retd. colonel.

      • ‘Claiming that in the last 75 yrs we have done nothing is a whatsapp level, chai-panwadi analysis which is not expected of a retd. colonel.’

        You are accurate but too polite !

        I called him a dumb bhakth, a disgrace to the Indian army.

      • Abhibav,

        My comment was not on the whole of Governance. It was on the brand of politics (of a lot of promises). I suppose politics is the same the world over….hence the Q “What is new?” – a whole lot of promises some kept some deferred?


    • ‘Right. So what is new?’

      So you admit Modi has failed, but now the defence is innocent whataboutery. ‘Which political party / Government in Independent India have kept promises or been transparent and sincere in Governence? Just asking’

      The BJP claimed it is a party with a difference. Modi said he would deliver 60 years Congress deevlopment in 60 months.

      The BJP was the Great Hindu Hope for people like you. Now you know it has failed and you are lying in the gutter. But you have nowhere else to go. So you will lie in the gutter and say there is no one else, and if pushed, you will say Modi’s failures are in fact success.

      If you say there is no one else, here is a penetrating question : Why is it a nation of 1 billion Hindus cannot produce better people ?

  6. If he delivers on 10% on his large set of promises on way that is clearly seen by the electorate, that itself will be an achievement in comparison to previous governments.
    Similarly, if he solves 10% of military and economic issues, that will also be an achievement because past governments have done nothing about them.

    That’s why he won and that’s why he’ll continue to win. Collective intellect of Indian electorate is much better than any opinion writer and have always voted for the best available alternative at all times.

    • ‘Similarly, if he solves 10% of military and economic issues, that will also be an achievement because past governments have done nothing about them.’

      He did not solve 10% of either of those issues. He won only because of Hindu communalism. He panders to your psyche. Subramaniam Swamy said they cannot win on development, it is only the Hindu card that wins.

  7. I am perplexed about one aspect of repeated criticisms of the Modi government by the Press. They do it in the passing (even the alleged brave press organizations). As if a person is attempting to swallow bitter medicine. Let’s get this done quickly without much ado. The press is a critic in a flourishing and open society, but it is equally a constructive force intended to hold up a mirror to the society as well as the government. Let’s leave society alone for a moment, and focus on the government. The article lists a significant misses on part of Modi Govt. Fine. So why not put a project meter on the front page of the newspaper/news page/website detailing progress on everything that has been promised by the government stating with the date of the promise along with weekly update notes including weekly mail to the concerned government organizations about the progress and its reply if any. Let the mirror be held properly and for all to see. Stand before the angry bear with courage and conviction. That is the job after all. This sort of hit and run guerilla-style criticism, in my opinion, does nothing more than obfuscate the facts and hide the truth. For all. I am not at all satisfied with this article or those of its genre that are all too freely available in great numbers nowadays all over.

    • The damage done is far greater than the good done. You also know it.

      When you destroy an economy that had grown at 8% , you tackle Covid with clapping and Hindu symbolism, and you spend your time in communal riots and you harass minorities, and you touch China’s feet, and you are unprepared for the Chinese kick, and you keep quiet afterwards , what are the positives that outshine these disasters ?

  8. A fair assessment i would say despite being a modi voter. I think the govts both at state and centre are just waiting for the vaccine. They are trying to look as if they are battling the virus with useless announcements like night curfews or weekend curfews which are not effective. They are just hoping there no high deaths and they just want to deal with the cases as they come by. World over different govts have tried to start eco activity while battling virus and it is now clear that the virus isn’t going anywhere and therefore economies wont work no matter how big a stimulus is given. So i guess PM is waiting for the dust to settle before doing much for the economy that will start the engines of growth again. Anyway only data and time will tell if this will work.

    • ‘i guess PM is waiting for the dust to settle before doing much for the economy that will start the engines of growth again. ‘

      He destroyed the economy before Covid, so why are you pleading diminished responsibility ? He has shown singular incompetence on economy before Covid, handling Covid and China. So what is the basis of thinking that after the dust settles, he will know what to do ?

  9. TNN seems to balanced his strong sickular tendencies with some credit to Modi for his political acumen for managing the difficult issues during last 6 years. If TNN picked defense expenditure and Covid as major areas where Modi failed miserably, then he is on a weak ground. On economy, Modi has primarily failed in forging and executing a strategy for structural transformation of the economy. This seems to be partly due to his own understanding of economics being inadequate but mainly as he did not get the right man for the FMs jobs since 2014. Instead of choosing Arun Shourie or Swamy as FM, he entrusted this job to Arun Jaitley, a fine, erudite person but essentially a status-quoist lawyer who had no vision of what could fundamentally change in the economy. He tried to get best out of the existing system by making marginal changes to improve its efficiency, rather than changing the system itself.

    While Modi has done creditably on many other parameters particularly in the background of lost 10 years MMS under UPA, his legacy will be neither Art 370, CAA-NRC, Ram Mandir, UCC, corruption free government, Surgical Strike-Balakot-Dhoklam-Leh, Ayushman Bharat, JAM etc but structural economic reforms. After 6 years in office, his time is running out and that is the matter of worry. May Ram save India!

  10. Right…. plenty of criticism, but where are your solutions to “all the problems” you are so good at identifying?
    Is it because you don’t have any solutions? Any “half educated” writer can criticize! But it’s meaningless without solutions.

    • Yes absolutely, Mr.Ninan should stop accusing the opposition party leader Modi and start acting like a PM and give answers instead of masquerading as a half educated writer

    • @ Titus,
      Right ….maybe next time you go to the police for help, they will ask you why don’t YOU come up with a solution to solve the crime.Why bother them just shut up and when you have solved the crime ,then go to them. As the persons responsible for crime control Police obviusly have no responsibility and training to think of solving crome without other coming up with SOLUTIONS to help them!

    • Brother,first you have to accept the problem then look for solutions . But if you say “Nobody has come here” then lo behold , the Problem evaporates.
      There is no problem at the ladakh border.

    • Are columnists in charge of running this country or the govt? Andhbhakts like you would hold the opposition, journalists, writers, students and almost anyone else responsible for finding solutions to the countries problems while the govt gets a free pass. Maybe dumb people will buy that argument but not anyone with half a brain.

    • The first step to solving problems is acknowledging their existence. But “half educated” bhakts won’t understand.

    • Why should TNN give a solution free of charge? He will give it if Modi inducts him as an advisor! 🙂 But on a more serious note, why should it be mandatory for one pointing out a problem to also offer a solution? It is entirely fair for one to only put up the problem if he doesn’t himself have a solution. It is OK to hope for someone else to come up with a solution.

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