Wednesday, May 28, 2014

India Modified!!

“India Modified!” screamed a newspaper headline the day after the election results got announced, bringing down the curtains on one of the biggest and costliest democratic exercises in the world. This was just the start, or rather the culmination of months of over-the-top coverage of the elections by our increasingly partisan electronic, and to an extent, print media. Through these months, the media has taken on various hues and shades in vilifying the hapless foot-firmly-in-mouth Congress leadership and at the same time, falling over each other in promoting BJP, or rather, the Modi persona, with as much vigor as possible. Getting into the right and wrong of it is pointless, and indeed, not the purpose of this article, but the associated hyberbole did make for amusing viewing at times for the country’s vast populace, ensuring no doubt a serious gain in the TRP ratings of the channels. This was reality TV at its best! All said and done, we have a new government in place now, one to which we have given a clear mandate, a mandate to take our country out of the doldrums we find ourselves in, owing in so small measure to the apathetic and paralysed government for the last 2 terms. The pattern of voting has been distinct, and to any politically inclined person, a very interesting case study. For the first time in 3 decades, the elections have achieved the kind of unification no other force or event in the country (barring perhaps a world cup win, or a war with Pakistan, or watching Arnab shout like a raging bull in a China shop on TV at 9 PM) can ever hope to achieve. State after state, constituency after constituency, people fed up with the horrific misrule of the last government as well as the strange vagaries of coalition politics, have come out in huge numbers and voted unequivocally for one party- BJP and one man-Modi. They almost seem to be saying- enough of this nonsense! We are giving you a strong verdict, go ahead and take us out of this mess! This election has seen some mind-boggling results- BJP getting vast majority of seats in Assam (where it has never been a force), sweeping across UP, breaking through the complex caste and class based politics in India’s political focus state, emerging as a potential force in Didi’s citadel Bengal (again, where it has never had any presence) and so on. In a complex country like ours, where elections are mostly about local issues, this time people seem to have voted for a national change- a veritable tsunami of anti-incumbency sweeping across the land! Narendra Modi is a very astute politician, and probably one of the best image managers in the country at present, or at least his team is! He had identified the winds of discontent against the Congress quite early, and launched into a ferocious no-holds barred attack, both the timing and the pitch of which were perfect! This was the best example of marketing one can give to students- the identification of the target segment was bang on, so was the need identification and the resultant pitch, epitomized by the “acche din aane wale hain” campaign, which is exactly what people of this country want to believe at this point! Of course, it also helps that he has a record of good governance and performance to show, it only increases the confidence of the electorate on him. The early noises have all been positive and inspire hope. The stress on minimum government and maximum governance, the diplomatic masterstroke of inviting all the SAARC leaders to the swearing-in, the lean cabinet structure. Good signs, as of now. However, in India, we have a peculiar problem. We have always believed in demi-gods, we always want to believe that there will be someone who will come one day and rid us of our misery. The responsibility is always someone else’s, and never ours. The state, the government, the prime minister, the authorities, the organization, the hierarchy, so on and so forth. We ourselves usually come last in the order of accountability, because that is typically the most difficult thing to do. Thus, we see ridiculous images on the so-called national television of Modi in a superhero avatar, with a spectre on his head, with songs of devotion playing in the background! We have anchors eating out of Modi’s hands, competing with each other in the dumbness category and asking questions to the new cabinet ministers, “acche din kab aane wale hain?” Expectations have already reached the moon, and very fast will reach the stars, in a way that is unfair even to Modi himself. There are positives to look ahead to- a strong mandate, no pesky allies to hold the policy making back, a strong leader, a team that looks good at least on paper, and so on. However, we would do well to remember there is no magic wand, and the people have voted for one man, and not anyone else, or any party in particular. Plus, there is also BJPs’ famous infighting to contend with. There is lot of hope, and a lot of anticipation- basically because of the utter resignation scripted by the last government. However, with some bit of cautious optimism, and a hopefully more sensible media, we may yet see the fruition of the slogan coined for the elections! The wishlist is huge and so are the problems plaguing the economy currently- the ever- rising inflation figures, the rising oil prices, reduction in industrial index and consequent reduction in job creation, the infrastructural issues like roads, power and water, and so on. However, it would not be wise to take on all these issues together. I personally have a prioritized wishlist of three areas for the new government to look at (it is not as if the government is going to consult me on the policy matters, but that’s one of the advantages of living in a democratic country!)- improving infrastructure like constructing more flyovers and better quality roads across our major cities as well as pushing the metro rail projects for all the major cities to quick completion, as well as improving last-mile connectivity with the remotest of villages, easing the norms of setting up new businesses- both large and MSMEs- in the country, which should include re-looking at the archaic and cumbersome laws governing currently, including the labour laws, and keeping environment on the forefront of all policy decisions. Enough and more number of cities across the world have come up in a way that takes more from our environment than it gives back, and I see no reason to follow that model. Development need not necessarily be at the cost of environment, they can co-exist and a way needs to be found for that. Of course, the number of areas to look into and the complexity cannot be described in one article, and there are people more equipped than myself who are entrusted with the job. However, all said and done, there is no doubt that this is a definitive time in our country’s history, and history has given us a chance at redemption, and whatever be the policies of the new government , and the extent of success and failures in executing the same, one thing is certain- its going to be an interesting time ahead for all of us! And to the new government, all I can say is Godspeed!