Sunday 15 March 2015

For Modi, ‘gradual’ means 150, ‘normal’ 350 (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.
The Modi reforms will begin to manifest themselves in earnest in 2015, reach reasonable maturity in 2017 and ensure double digit growth from around 2019.
Why did the inhabitants of a small island off the coast of France conquer three-fourths of the globe, ensuring that English became the international link language, now spoken in some form or the other by over a billion people? It was not the Monarchy, which was responsible for such success so much as the lack of control of that institution over so great a part of the life of the ordinary citizen. A millennium ago, the people of what is now known as the United Kingdom clawed back from their rulers a significant slice of liberty from the control of the aristocracy, so much so that since the 15th century, individuals regarded themselves as free to explore the globe and more often than not, ensure their control over diverse parts of it, always in the name of the Sovereign. More than any other characteristic of governance in the UK, it was the personal liberty and initiative enjoyed by its citizens which propelled them to individual acts of scientific, literary and geographical discovery. What a contrast to the European Union, where the eurocrats in Brussels seek to codify and to control. But for the fact that potential competitors such as China and India have regimes even more restrictive of initiative than the EU, that grouping would be heading down the growth ladder even faster than is the case at present.
The people of Gujarat are among the most entrepreneurial in Asia, and in Chief Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi they found a CEO, who allowed them to be, and who sought to facilitate rather than to control. A recent issue of a well regarded magazine carries several lengthy essays on why the expected "Modi Revolution" will take place in slow motion, if at all, by arguing that sloth, rather than speed, is in the nature and chemistry of the Indian people. Among the essays was a debunking of perceptions of Modi as a downsizer of governmental power, arguing instead that what was needed were still greater powers to the state. As for changes in the mechanics of governance, these should be at the periphery and never at the core. Should the magazine be correct in its assessment of Prime Minister Modi's system of governance, it will be safe to predict that the BJP would be lucky to get 150 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, besides losing in both Bihar in 2015 and UP in 2017. The reason is that the type of society which the authors of the magazine's essayists claim is in India, no longer exists. Both young and old wish to see substantial changes, and rapidly rather than over decades, the way the gradualist school assumes. The BJP secured a majority on the promise of substantial change effected with despatch, and voters warmed to Modi on the premise that he could deliver on both.
This columnist regards himself as having a viewpoint independent of party fixations, but from 2006 has seen Modi as the individual best suited to overcome and indeed remove the disabilities of the colonial system of governance in India. The Gujarat politician gives every sign of appreciating the fact that not simply the people of Gujarat but the population of the entire country has within it the genes of entrepreneurship and imagination needed to transform India, if only the dead hand of the bureaucracy were removed from their backs. Unlike the essayists in the magazine cited, he took seriously Narendra Modi's promise of "Minimum Government and Maximum Governance", and sees the 365-day period till 25 May 2015 as a learning experience for the Prime Minister, before he finally begins to turn his energies towards the dismantling of the colonial system of governance, which reduced the share of the subcontinent from 24% of global GDP to 1% within 150 years of 1820. If this view be correct, then the Modi reforms will begin to manifest themselves in earnest in 2015, reach reasonable maturity in 2017 and ensure double digit growth from around 2019, the year when the BJP should get 350 Lok Sabha seats (if Modi runs the government as Modi). In contrast, were the gradualist and incrementalist school to have its way, the tally would fall to the vicinity of 150. Those who fail to understand the magnitude of the change in attitudes of the Indian people over the past two decades continue to talk and act in a gradualist manner may unwittingly be setting the stage for an electoral meltdown.
In contrast, most are confident that PM Modi will function in the same innovative and brisk way as CM Modi did, because he understands that the times call for transparency in governance and for a ruthless pruning of the powers of the national capital over state projects, and that of the state capitals over district projects. Why should every power plant or even institution of excellence, not to mention environment approvals, necessitate frequent visits to Delhi? Why should those elected to zilla parishads have to come to state capitals to get sanctioned projects that they are best equipped to understand and to handle? And why should there be 10,001 ways of sending a citizen to jail rather than just 101?
Why should only those who were once or who are still in government be given positions of responsibility rather than the broader society, which in contrast to government is registering success rather than failure? Let it be admitted that this columnist is firmly in the company of those who believe that in the months and years ahead, the tribune of change, Narendra Modi rather than the predicted gradualist will emerge, a Prime Minister who through the changes he effects will free the people from the coils of red tape so that this country can once again be by 2024 at the latest what it was in 1980, the equal of China in GDP.

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