It was the change India had to have. The General Elections of 2014 saw the BJP-led NDA party storm into government. With the Congress party seemingly bereft of any ideas and failing to connect with the people of India, the country welcomed the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi gushingly.
More than half way through his term, Modi seems to continue to capture the imagination of the voters, if the recent state elections are any indication. His BJP has just scored an emphatic win in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh. And this on the back of forming government in its own right in Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam and Manipur.
BJP is also in an alliance with PDP to form its first coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir. Other states where it has triumphed include Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Goa. The BJP has also fared well in municipal and local council elections in a number of other states.
For his report card, PM Modi will be scoring an A, missing out on the highest grade of A+ because of his silence on a number of secular issues. More on that later.
He did not have a high bar to cross when he came to power. Congress looked rudderless with Manmohan Singh as prime minister. The deep linkages of the party to the Gandhi dynasty kept it (and continues to keep it) a hostage to the glory of days past. Modi, with his charismatic public oratory skills and image management, presented as a leader looking to the future rather than wallowing in the past. Modi was perceived to be decisive and bold.
Both these perceptions have proven to be true.
Demonetisation and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax have been hailed as major achievements. While the jury was out about the effect of demonetisation on the masses, the verdict of the election polls in UP, where BJP stormed into power, seems to have proved the acceptance of the public for this endeavour to fight corruption and black money. The introduction of a GST is also meant to be a game changer which will add value to the economy.
Regarding foreign affairs, Modi has been accused of excessive international travel. However, India’s ties with the US and Russia, along with Europe and Australia, are probably at their strongest. While relations with Pakistan are still frosty, India is on the charm offensive with its other neighbours such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Against China, India has held its own. It has been public about why it believes that China’s One Belt One Road initiative is exploitative, colonial in its lack of transparency and the way it created unsustainable debt in “partner” countries, and caused environmental damage.
Where the Modi government loses some of its halo though, is its inability to keep law and order in the communal issues of India. Attacks against Muslims and Dalits have increased. Vigilante groups aimed at maximum violence have risen in areas such as Love Jihad (also called Romeo Jihad) and Cow Protection (Gau Raksha).
Modi needs to take a more vocal position against the barbaric acts of these vigilante groups who use religion against the people of India. The Sangh Parivar needs to be called out for these violent activities against certain sections of the people.
India heads to the General Elections again in 2019; it will be good if PM Modi can enter the field with an A+ grade.