Happy birthday and hello reality

It is time to say Happy one-year birthday to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government this week. Huge celebrations are planned all of this week by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and justifiably so. They have the largest mandate in history and have had a remarkably stress and scandal free one year in office.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai in Delhi, ahead of the BJP’s huge celebrations. Pic/PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai in Delhi, ahead of the BJP’s huge celebrations. Pic/PTI

A honeymoon period for any government usually lasts for a couple of months when the prime minister and his council of ministers are given the benefit of doubt and treated with kid gloves by the media. Depending on the actions of the government, this period lasts a maximum of six to eight months. This time however it is stretching beyond the normal period, if one is to believe all the surveys conducted by media houses.

There are some opinion pieces in the print media warning the BJP government about their inadequacies and mistakes, and in TV debates a few economists and policy wonks warn of hubris of the prime minister and his immediate colleagues. However, by and large there seems to be a general consensus that the warm glow of victory of 2014 still envelops the party and government. The learning curve that comes with backlash after mistakes, has not begun.

The commentary has by and large been effusive and gushing. The last two years of UPA-2 were marked with discontent and dismay of the Indian story having lost its way. The people and the media were looking for a different story to tell. That optimism was reflected in the mandate given to the BJP and the resultant media coverage.

The negative press the prime minister and his team is getting is very, very minimal compared to his predecessors. Indian industry, which had backed him to the hilt, is getting impatient and that is reflected in off the record murmurs. India Inc. still backs its poster-boy. But nowhere is there hostility or opposition to government decisions, not even to ‘tax terrorism’ that some have accused this government of. If the finance minister is making mistakes, then people are willing to wait for him to realise it rather than tell him.

The debates on television on One Year of Modi Government are raucous and meaningless, with talking heads from political parties yelling at each other about who is a bigger loser. The hostility on open display only shows up the arrogance of one side and the desperation on the other. Neither comes out smelling like roses.

Political parties opposing the BJP have come up with scathing op-eds and report cards, not to miss sound bites on the one year of Modi government. Laloo Yadav even went to the extent of saying that the catastrophic earthquake was a result of the unholy work of the BJP government. Okay then.

In the cacophony that the political parties are creating, well meaning advice is getting drowned out. Many erudite policy wonks have written that the tremendous goodwill that came Mr Modi’s way would evaporate soon if jobs are not created and prices of commodities do not come down. Thousands of jobs have to be created in the next two years, because the last two years of the term would be too late.

Arun Jaitley said on Saturday, “In the past one year inflation has been under control to a great extent...Overall inflation situation has been much better than it has been in the past one decade.” So here’s the thing. People don’t understand “overall”. People will not compare rate of inflation. That economists do. People will compare their current monthly household budget to last month’s or six months ago. And then conclude on your success rate. Right now the approval rating is based on hope, not really achievements.

And there is nothing really in terms of obstacle for the BJP, other than the mere technicality of Rajya Sabha numbers. The Congress Party is not ‘rejuvenated’ after the Big Bang return of Rahul Gandhi. His padh yatras, pithy statements in Lok Sabha, sound bites about suit-boot sarkar have not shaken the rank and cadre of his own party. Just a few chosen few around the VP are feeling chuffed. The rest are despondent and not hopeful.

The BJP should value its good fortune that it barely has an opposition to battle with. Rather than be complacent, bask in this situation, and ridicule Rahul Gandhi, it is prudent to work on the economy. Year two has to be about reviving manufacturing and creating jobs. And controlling price rise.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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