ASSESSMENT OF 30 MONTHS: BJP HAS DOMESTIC PUBLIC SUPPORT

Many analysts (unlike the Opposition parties) have rated the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party government, led by Narendra Modi, after around 30 months in office at 70 per cent or higher. During his tenure, Modi has demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of governance, administrative skills, and of what he wants to achieve. The early interference by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu extremists has been toned down. The anti-cow-slaughter and anti-Muslim brigades are less active after a period of serious violence. The promise to abrogate Article 370 on Kashmir in the Constitution and drafting a uniform civil code has thankfully made no progress.

But this does not imply, according to S L Rao, former Director General, National Council of Applied Economic Research, that there is a change in the BJP’s philosophy. Rao assesses the success or otherwise of Prime Minister Modi’s 30 months in other areas as well.

Foreign policy achievements have been mixed

His foreign policy achievements have ben mixed. Modi’s overuse to Pakistan yielded little and rations with the neighbour are the worst in 30 months. Similar is the case with China whose encouragement to Pakistan and to its terror groups has kept the pot boiling. Relations with South Asia including Afghanistan have made positive progress. But Nepal and Sri Lanka continue to be close to China. Modi’s pro-US tilt has annoyed Russia and with President Trump in saddle, his Asia Pacific initiative to restrict China is under scrutiny. However, relations with Japan have improved and his initiatives in the Middle East ((the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) are baring fruit.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have promised more investment, gas supplies and cooperation against terror. The reaching out to NRIs in the United States of America, United Kingdom and the Middle East, as well as ethnic Indians in Fiji and the African countries have brought in investments and visitors.

The states with Opposition parties in power show poor Centre-state relations although Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh show far less hostility. The northeastern states are getting more attention as promised, with infrastructure and the possible opening of the river route via Bangladesh. The battle against Maoists in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere continues.

Black money and corruption
Promises to fight black money and corruption have made progress. No major corruption has been found yet. The agreements to revise the double taxation avoidance treaties with Mauritius among other small nations, and the revision in terms of investment inflows from Singapore have reduced the laundering of black money. Amnesty for a while to black money and demonetization appear to have brought in substantially more tax revenues. Local polls suggest that the masses welcome demonetization.

Development and economic growth
Rationalization and convergence among the ministries have made some progress (power combined with renewable energy and coal). But there is little indication of transforming the administrative services whose mindset and litany of rules foster corruption.

With slogans like ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’, digitization of government records, simplification of procedures, more freedom to spend on programmes by state governments action has been initiated. There is a continuing boom in start-ups. But the promise to create jobs for our youth is still a dream, with relatively jobless growth. Skilling India seems to have little results to show. But the promise that Indian businesses will thrive seems to be happening, although it is a continuation of earlier trends.

Economic growth might slow down by 0.5 per cent this year because of the loss of black money in the system but will recover. Inflation is down as are interest rates. Improvement in bank credit, more investment inflows and infrastructural spending should stimulate manufacturing output. These will stimulate both the growth of the economy and jobs.

Social and environment audits were promised, but little has been delivered. Education and health services have received little attention and education is in decline.

The BJP had promised to build India through more irrigation and roads than the United Progressive Alliance had achieved. The pace of road construction has improved. The Mihir Shah report on a national water policy is under study and could revolutionize the approach to rivers and groundwater.

The Jan Dhan Yojana (financial inclusion in rural areas through opening if bank accounts) led to the coverage of over 80 per cent of the population. Most bank accounts have zero balances, many were misused to legitimize demonetized currencies. However, banking is to enable benefits to be transferred directly to the beneficiaries. This is a complex task and will take much time. It has begun and will over time save vast sums of social spending and also more funds will reach the right people. The Swachh Bharat (clean India) programme has attracted much money from “socially responsible” corporates. There has been a big surge in the building of toilets.

The federal structure is thwarted by frequent Central interference in the governance of states; imposition of Presidents Rule in some stats had damaged BJP’s political credentials. Fiscal federalism has made progress in the 2016 budget. However, the government has failed to expand the judiciary and improve its facilities, and is engaged in confrontations with it on such matters.

In conclusions, Rao states there is little hostile public outcry and the BJP has great domestic public support.