[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]P[/dropcap]rime Minister Narendra Modi is fond of report cards. His campaign speeches are testimony to this fact. Most times he asks voters to politely demand report card from incumbent governments especially those of non-BJP state governments. At times, like during Bihar election campaign last year, he even berated voters to insist on report card from the Nitish Kumar Government. Now that BJP has completed half its term at the center, a report card is warranted.
Subsidy reform has began in earnest with government claiming that more than one million LPG customers have voluntarily given up their subsidy which in turn has been reallocated to the poor.
What grade can be awarded to the central government at the end of its half term? Judged on its performance, it might be deemed above average but an introspection of its legislative agenda and a comparison against party Manifesto will certainly earn it the wrath of voters and is insufficient to even to muster a pass grade.
Thus far, Demonetization has been the biggest and boldest decision of the government. When the announcement was first made in the month of November, it was deemed necessary in the government’s fight against corruption. By the time exchange of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 ended on 30th December, government had shifted the goal post to tweak the aim as an exercise to reduce cash transactions and transform India to a more digital economy. In between there was many stated benefits like ending terror financing and counterfeiting by enemies. Over the six week period shady bankers, corrupt bureaucrats, inept finance ministry officials and a lax Central Bank employees combined with tardy implementation derailed the exercise that had massive public support from beginning to end. The hit to the rural economy as well as the battering of workers in the informal sector left many disgruntled and disappointed with the entire exercise.
What is also missing thus far in the Government’s fight against corruption is its stark failure to successfully prosecute the looters during the ten year rule of United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Participants in the 2G, Coalgate and numerous other scams including the escape of Mr. Vijay Mallya are a blot. The biggest accomplishment thus far has been that it is scandal free and in itself has brought great succor to voters.
Also, amending tax treaties with Mauritius, Cyprus and Singapore to end round tripping of funds along with the successful auction of spectrum and coal mines have been big positives. Subsidy reform has began in earnest with government claiming that more than one million LPG customers have voluntarily given up their subsidy which in turn has been reallocated to the poor. Opening of more than 25 Crore Jan Dhan Accounts, raising foreign equity cap in sectors including Defense and the completion of selection of hundred cities for the Smart City Project have been some of the key accomplishments.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n hindsight, the legislative agenda of the government too has raised doubts over its efficacy on governance. Even after discounting for parliamentary disruptions, more than two years were spent on completing the unfinished business of UPA. Land Reform bill became a dud due to the majority of opposition in Rajya Sabha. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy law of 2016 is yet to be tested while the all important Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in its current form is hideous to say the least. Four slabs with numerous exemptions, continued imposition of Cess and contentious tax administration have left many questioning the real benefits of such a bill.
The upcoming budget might yet be the final opportunity for the government to address the many deficiencies of the last two and a half years before the focus shifts to next general election.
Ministry of Railways has been another major disappointment. There has been no end to the many accidents and loss of life during the current administration. Improvements in services both at stations as well as onboard have been found wanting and has been a major disappointment for customers. Make in India, Skill India and Startup India, although started with much fanfare, has seen enthusiasm waning due to dismal job creation.
Many pledges of “Sab ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas” 2014 election manifesto remains untouched. Measures towards Inclusive and Sustainable Development, Productive Youth, Involved Women, Globally Competitive Economy, Flourishing Agriculture– and the more difficult ones like Uniform Civil Code and Institutional Reforms remain untouched. But the most disheartening has been the failure to deliver on the pre-election pledge of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. Many understood and concluded this to mean the government’s intention to privatize and letting go of many of the unproductive and loss making government owned enterprises. That the government is yet to announce a plan towards meeting this goal itself is a damning indictment on the legislative agenda.
The upcoming budget might yet be the final opportunity for the government to address the many deficiencies of the last two and a half years before the focus shifts to next general election. It’s time to move from symbolic reforms and completing the unfinished agenda of UPA to real reforms. Anything less than a path breaking budget will raise enormous questions about the current government returning with an absolute majority the next time around.
- Biggest Economic Accomplishment – Ending Crony Capitalism - December 13, 2019
- Mr. Rahul Gandhi must first become a Chief Minister - April 4, 2019
- How Congress lost Karnataka - May 15, 2018