Today could well be the first day of the next 10 years of Narendra Modi. The massive win secured by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general elections could, in all probability, lay the groundwork for Modi’s stay at 7, Race Course Road for the next decade.
There are solid reasons for this scenario to unfold in New Delhi, the prime one being that Modi has been able to not only decimate the Congress party but also ensure that the re-growth curve is going to be so steep that five years are too few to get its mojo back, especially if the party leader continues to be its vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Unless the Modi government does something monumentally disastrous, there is nothing to stop him from occupying the PM’s position for the next 10 years. Pic/PTI
However, the more important reason for an upcoming ‘Modi Decade’ would be let’s make a broad assumption here that the BJP or NDA government is going to follow up on promises made during the run-up to the elections. This is not easily achievable, given the complexities of running a nation are different than running a state.
Nevertheless, to his credit, Modi never wavered from the ‘development’ agenda and not once did he step into the slippery slope of Hindutva, the plank that most of his detractors expected him to run on, or at least articulate in some manner.
He is also helped by the fact that there isn’t a single national party to challenge the BJP at the Centre. The Aam Aadmi Party has been able to make inroads into only Punjab, and nowhere else; not even in Delhi where it was in power for 49 days after winning close to 30 assembly seats last December.
The rest of the parties are led by regional satraps who have shown no inclination to even attempt anything on the national stage. Let’s get back to the Congress a bit. The Gandhi family is the nucleus of the party around which subatomic particles rotate.
But just like the great physicist Werner Heisenberg told us about how you cannot predict with any degree of certainty the location of a particle if the momentum is known and vice-versa, similarly, the underlings in the party have no idea of what is likely to happen just as observers don’t.
That uncertainty has translated into a massive loss of confidence in the party’s ability to provide a stable government. The complex nature of quantum mechanics can easily be juxtaposed onto the Congress, and you wouldn’t know the difference. The party even projected Rahul’s younger sister Priyanka as the Higgs Boson or the God particle.
That, too, did not help. And like inside an atom, there is a lot of empty space inside the Congress. It is going to take a really long time to fill that empty space. Therefore, unless the Modi government does something monumentally disastrous, there is nothing to stop him from occupying the PM’s position for the next 10 years.
Within the BJP itself, there isn’t anyone who could challenge Modi. Lal Krishna Advani may still harbour hopes of becoming prime minister, but it is best to ignore his fantasies in the current party setup. Having said, Modi’s challenges are many, and the first may begin next month — the onset of a below-average rainfall as predicted by meteorologists based on the El Nino effect.
Then there is a huge economic mess left by the UPA — the burgeoning fiscal deficit, the flawed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and an overall policy paralysis. On the human side, there is the under-dispute Right to Education.
On international matters are India’s equation with its neighbours in South Asia and with China, its relations with the European Union and the United States, and also with South-east Asia and Japan. The biggest challenge for Modi and his government, though, would be the domestic growth rate.
It has been stagnating, and over many of the last three years, the quarterly Index of Industrial Production has been consistently falling, holding back the manufacturing sector and therefore resulting in massive job losses, overall gloom and loss of confidence.
Given its majority in Parliament, changing the scenario and regaining that confidence with some robust policy decisions should not be a tough task, especially for Modi, whose has a rather forceful personality.
To his credit, Modi, in a space of two speeches last evening, changed from being a BJP candidate and behaving like a self-centred politician to talking like a prospective prime minister.
If his advisors are on target, they would do well to tell him to remain on course with the manifesto and the promises made. After all, it is easy to lose track when you are in exalted positions.
Sachin Kalbag is editor, mid-day. He is @sachinkalbag on Twitter