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In 2014, Modi the Government was a collage of endearing images. Bowing to the parliament before entering it, calling himself as a Pradhan Sewak, inviting the leaders of SAARC countries for the swearing in ceremony to reset the relationship with our neighbours and committing to bring back the black money into the accounts of ordinary Indians – he won our hearts. Using digital tools, he invited ideas from citizens, communicated directly through ‘Mann ke Baat’ and celebrated ordinary people who were doing extra ordinary work with Padma Shri. Jan Dhan zero balance accounts, Swatch Bharat and direct money transfers were equally excellent initiatives. He successfully appealed to the conscience of the middle class for surrendering subsidized gas cylinders, revolutionized solar energy through reverse auctioning, introduced dual citizen ship and easy visa on arrival, leveraged Aadhar and make the world notice the soft power of India.
Modi did very well to address issues where the complex problems were well defined and the solutions were straight forward. Quick decision making, administrative push, tangible results in the short term were his formula for success.
With the confidence that success gave him, he decided to take on bigger issues like systemic corruption, single all India tax on goods and services, permanent seat in UN Security Council, abolition of Article 370, agricultural reforms, addressing illegal immigrants and resetting China relations.
These bigger issues were adaptive challenges and not straight forward complex problems. Adaptive challenges involve multiple stakeholders with diverse standpoints and require a long-term view. The leadership required is exactly the opposite of the leadership required to solve complex problems.
How did Modi address these adaptive challenges? To eliminate black money, he demonetized 500- and 1000-rupee notes and made 80% of the currency in circulation redundant. Unorganized sector haemorrhaged. A disproportionate number of small undertakings shut down. Many families slipped below the poverty line. Middle class eroded. Ironically, black money continued to prosper in gold, land and in overseas accounts.
The same disaster happened with GST. With multiple slabs, cumbersome digital processes and trigger-happy Income Tax officers, GST gave a bloody blow to small and medium enterprises.
The surgical strike against Pakistan brought patriotic pride, but without a coherent long term Pak strategy, it was just able to provide fodder for a Bollywood movie. Modi introduced Xi to the swing. Xi has been swinging India since then. Abolishing Article 370 and Agricultural reforms, may be were well intended, but without the participation and ownership of the affected stakeholders, a permanent closure does not seem to be in sight.
Not listening to experts, not placing independent minded people in key institutions, not engaging with difficult stakeholders and not finding common ground – Modi Government has consistently set itself for failure. An honest refection can still help Modi Government to rebound before the next elections.
Instead, Modi, the Government shifted to its new avatar – Modi, the State. Criticism of the government has been equated to criticism of the state. People have been booked for sedition for the silliest of reasons. Every democratic institution is being eroded to strengthen Modi, the State. Appointment of active politicians as hostile Governors, recently retired CJ as Rajya Sabha member, bureaucrats without integrity or credentials as heads of important institutions, eliminating civil society by starving them of funds and their civil liberties, using IT laws to silence citizens and weaponizing police and political cadres – it is Animal Farm revisited. We thought the worst was over when Indira Gandhi was booted out in 1977 after her dangerous courtship with dictatorship. Nothing really changed. It’s just that the hand morphed into a lotus.
One may say there is no alternative to Modi and BJP? One does not want to go back to the dynastic rule of Congress or the violent Left or corrupt and castiest regional parties. So, what do we do? After all we need to elect someone.
There is a reason why our Constitution is silent about political parties. Baba Saheb Ambedkar envisioned a Parliament with 552 Lok Sabha and 250 Rajya Sabha members who are wise enough to provide legislative leadership. He expected that the Lok Sabha members would choose a wise Prime Minister and an executive team and hold them accountable for governance. As citizens let each one of us elect the candidate from our constituency who best represents our democratic values and has an unwavering respect for the citizen and our constitution. We need the collective wisdom of the 802 people to govern our country. As citizens if we elect the right people, they will find a way to work together.
Kanti Gopal Kovvali is a citizen first, change management consultant second and an author third. He can be reached on Kanti.firstname.lastname@example.org
These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.