The hits and misses of Modi's 100 days
Modi is widely perceived to be squeaky clean financially, and that no member of his family has profited from his position as prime minister.
It has been close to 100 days since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, scored an overwhelming victory over the Opposition, mainly the Indian National Congress party in India. It was an even more resounding win than in the 2014 general elections. Later, Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress president, thereby taking responsibility for his party's defeat. But so dependent has the Congress become on the Nehru/Gandhi family that it has not been able to elect a replacement. In other democratic countries, even a narrow defeat leads to that person's withdrawal from any leadership role.
In the US, look at what happened to both Al Gore and Hilary Clinton after they lost the presidential election by a whisker. Or the UK where the once formidable Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, was rejected by her party and another leader elected after Thatcher was considered a liability. Not in India, however. Why doesn't the Congress turn to somebody else who might be able to perform better? There is no shortage of talent. I can think of three persons who would fill the bill: Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, and Sachin Pilot.
Leaving the Nehru/Gandhi family and the leadership issue aside, how has the Modi government performed?
First, the bad news. And it was the headline of most major Indian newspapers recently - India's gross domestic product (GDP), which is the best indication of economic growth, has fallen to an abysmal five per cent in the last few months, the lowest in six years. In fact, the Dr Manmohan Singh-led government in its eight years in power had a higher GDP growth rate than the Modi government since it has been at the helm. India's key manufacturing sector has gone downhill, and agricultural growth has turned weak. A recession looms ahead, with the once-buoyant Indian stock market causing investors considerable grief. A great deal of foreign direct investment (FDI) has left the country, waiting for better times.
Moving from economics to politics, even what was hailed as a master stroke, the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir a special status, is now being widely questioned. The Indian government says these measures are 'temporary'. We will have to wait and watch. So, what is the good news about the Modi government's second term in power? Basically, it's what brought it to power in the first place in 2014. Modi is widely perceived to be squeaky clean financially, and that no member of his family has profited from his position as prime minister. No major scams have taken place under his watch. Most Indians also admire Modi's rags-to-riches story.
There are other, more positive achievements of the present government that need to be highlighted. The "Clean India" drive has certainly improved public sanitation in the country. Reviled by tourists as a 'dirty place' where people commonly defecate in the open, there has been an image makeover for the better in recent years. The infrastructure, too, has improved immeasurably, with regular power supply and electricity coming to most villages. The road network has become more extensive, telecommunication connectivity now covers far more Indians than before. These are all crucial for India's overall development and were not earlier given the priority they deserved.
However, the real test for the government will soon come. It is likely to be, first, in Kashmir, which is at present in a state of what can only be described as 'suspended animation'. Could there be explosive protests once normalcy is restored? That is the main fear for those watching the scenario unfold. Then, there is the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak. It falls on November 12.
A corridor lies between the Sikh temple where the Guru was born (on the Indian side of the border), to where he died, a short distance away (on the Pakistani side). Both countries are committed to ensure a safe and sanitised corridor for the tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of Sikh pilgrims from India and abroad, who are expected to flock into India, wanting undertake the pilgrimage from one Sikh temple to the other. It poses a huge security challenge for both India and Pakistan. But it also provides an opportunity to bring the countries closer together, after a prolonged period of confrontation and tension.
Rahul Singh is a former editor of Khaleej Times