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Narendra modi and the expectations

, September 17, 2014, 0 Comments

narendra modi and the expectations-MarketExpress-inWhat are the qualities an Indian citizen will look forward to having in our Prime Minister. He should be a good administrator. He should be a visionary. He should have a clean record free from corruption and other mal-practices. How does Narendra Modi perform on these counts? Modi has proved himself to be a good administrator during his decade long reign in Gujarat. He has a clean record of being free from corruption. But his record in other matters is a bit tainted. He has been associated with riots in Gujarat and in allegations such as encounter killings and spying on women.

In recent Indian history we had a leader like Sardar Patel who was considered a good administrator. He has been credited for keeping the country united after partition. Our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was known as a visionary. He introduced the concept of economic planning and non alignment which became the pillars of Indian economic and foreign policy, respectively. These concepts were fully relevant for their times though in today’s world they can be considered out of date.

Modi is more like Sardar Patel and less like Nehru. His administrative qualities have been demonstrated but his qualities as a visionary are yet to be established. It can also be noted that Modi’s affinity is more towards Patel and less towards Nehru. While Modi looks upon Patel with great admiration he looks upon Nehru and his policies more with contempt.

Let us have a look at the long term policy initiatives taken by Modi. He advocated the setting up of more IITs and IIMs and 100 smart cities. Where these decisions the most appropriate for the country. Many at the helm of IITs feel that creating new IITs was a retrograde step when many newly created ones have not yet been provided the required infrastructure and when even existing IITs are finding it difficult to recruit qualified faculty. Moreover expansion in the number of IITs can result in reduction in its brand value. As regards creating 100 smart cities one wonders whether it is appropriate trying to turn cities smart by introducing internet based management of their infrastructure before they are provided with basic infrastructure facilities.

Another pet project of Modi was that of starting bullet train services. Though this venture appears to be forward looking and far reaching it remains to be seen whether the bullet train project will turn out to be economically viable or whether it will end up becoming a money losing proposition where the bullet train fares will prove to be costlier than air fares and people of India will find it unaffordable.

The new financial inclusion initiative has been introduced with great fanfare. There is no dispute that all Indians should be provided bank accounts. But introducing the element of insurance and overdraft facilities in the scheme may finally result in a situation where the banks in India (public and private) will find it difficult operating these schemes and many of our rural bank branches will end up becoming sick entities imposing heavy burden on the parent banks and finally result in the creation of more NPAs.

All these schemes – bullet trains, 100 smart cities, new IITs and IIMs, financial inclusion etc may appear to be visionary at first sight. But whether the vision was right or not will only be proved with the passage of time – when the schemes have been in operation for a long time and the results become visible. Thus at this stage it is too early to conclude that Modi is a visionary leader or whether, in fact, he will end up messing up the country’s development prospects.

Narendra Modi has declared abolition of the Planning Commission. He could possibly replace it with a high level think tank comprising of eminent experts or he could set up an institution of low caliber manned primarily by bureaucrats. So far we have not seen the practice of appointing eminent experts in the Modi administration which is almost entirely surviving depending on bureaucratic advice. It needs a great deal of self confidence to appoint an intellectual or expert of high caliber to advice you.

Nehru was an intellectual of a superior kind and he could function with a team of eminent intellectuals and scientists under him. Modi’s style in this regard is yet to be demonstrated. He might rope in great luminaries under him or he may prefer to depend on the bureaucrats. This would largely depend on the caliber of the Prime Minister himself and he is yet to provide a definite clue in this regard.

In my book published in 1985 I had written, “The leader of our nation should have some specific features. He should be free from all types of group bias. He should be sympathetic to the hopes and aspirations of all sections of our community. He should be able to reconcile between the interests of various groups and sub-groups in our country, he should be the leader of the whole nation and should not be a person who identifies himself with a particular community, religious group, or specific economic and social interests.”

Narendra Modi does not identify himself with specific economic and social interests. He is equidistant between agriculture and industry, capital and labour, large and small industry, rich and poor and so on. These are all qualities going to his credit.

But he is seen as a leader of the Hindus. He has done nothing to dispel the doubts in the minds of the public arising from the communal speeches being made by his party-men on a regular basis. He should restrain his party cadre from making communal outbursts every now and then if he has to establish himself as a leader of the whole nation.

On the foreign policy arena he made a good beginning by inviting SAARC leaders to his swearing-in ceremony. But all gains from this move seem to have been wiped out by the turn of events in our relationship with Pakistan. Steps taken by India at the WTO and the recent move by the Commerce Minister not to attend a crucial ASEAN meeting are all indications that India is faltering on the foreign policy front.

Modi is a capable administrator but his capabilities as a visionary can only be tested with the passage to time. The outcome of the bold forward looking initiatives taken on the economic front is largely uncertain. On the foreign policy front many of the moves of the government such as against Pakistan are not very promising. Overenthusiastic supporters who try to make comparison of Modi with Regan and Thatcher may turn out to be disappointed. Only time will tell how history will judge Modi. It is wrong to give him credit for things he is expected to achieve.