On 26 May, the NDA/BJP government completed three years in office. The performance of any government should be evaluated on five standard parameters. These five indicators are – internal security, state of the economy, international relations, social cohesion, and interface with other institutions.
The situation is precarious on the internal security front, as exemplified by the disarray in Jammu and Kashmir. The coalition government between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and BJP has turned out to be a non-starter. Nothing reflects it better than the drastic fall in voting percentages from 66.5 percent in the Assembly elections in October 2014 to a measly 7 percent in the Parliamentary by-election in the summer of 2017.
It stresses the profound disaffection of the Kashmiri populace. That the Election Commission is incapable of even conducting a Parliamentary by-election in Anantnag underlines the grim reality of the valley.
The reason for the unremitting stone-pelting is due to the fact that the PDP took help from the Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir and other pro-independence/pro-autonomy/ splittist and even Pakistan-leaning organisations to keep the BJP away from power, and then conveniently formed a coalition government with it.
These separatists then mobilised their supporters and other instruments of street power to demonstrate their angst at what they considered a grand betrayal by the PDP. The central government, surrounded by a facade of muscularity, has come up with rather ham-handed attempts to surmount an ever-worsening security situation, and in the process, Kashmir has gone belly-up.
Thorny Internal Security Issues
The almost juvenile attempt to glorify a certain Major in the Indian Army, who at best can be credited with a certain unorthodox ingenuity – albeit completely injudicious – to try and retrieve his besieged personnel from a rather dangerous situation, just goes to demonstrate how the government is grasping at straws. If the part-time defence minister of India feels that there is a war-like situation in Kashmir, it begs the question; How has the government allowed things to come to such a pass?
At the same time, the central government has failed to enunciate a strategy to combat, contain, and eliminate the scourge of Maoist violence in the hinterland of India, even as casualties among uniformed men continue to mount due to ambushes and skirmishes.
Left Wing Extremism requires a broad spectrum approach but the NDA/BJP@3 is covering up its inadequacies by pursuing academicians who may have a certain ideological inclination but are being pigeonholed and persecuted today as an overground fifth column.
Mum on Naga Peace Accord
In the North-East, the spectre of a fictional Naga Peace Accord, now repackaged as a Framework Agreement, stares you in the face. It was touted as the antidote to extinguish the oldest insurgency in that part of India.
Concluded on 3 August 2014 with much ballyhoo, the pact has evaporated into the stratosphere much like the ‘ten heads for one head’ bombast on Pakistan that was the staple of Prime Minister Modi’s malignant pre-general election rhetoric.
Bad News for Economy
The Indian economy is up a creek without a paddle. Five facts from the monthly report released by the Department of Economic Affairs narrate their own saga. In 2015-16, the rate of GDP growth was 7.9 percent, by 2016-17 it has dipped to 7.1 percent.
The Index of Industrial Production clocked a growth rate of 2.6 percent between April- February 2016. It grew by a mere 0.4 percent for the equivalent period i.e. between April to February of 2016-17, while eight core infrastructure sectors clocked a growth of only 5 percent in March 2017 in sharp relief to 9.3 percent in March 2016.
The Growth of Money Supply on a year-on-year basis (YOY) also declined from a high of 10 percent effective on 31 March 2016 to 7.3 percent as on 31 March 2017. This is but one piece of statistical trivia that demonstrates the deleterious effect of demonetisation on the Indian economy.
Last but not least, the Dollar that stood at Rs 58.57 on 17 May 2014 has ascended by Rs 5.46 in just three years and was transacting at Rs 64.03 on 17 May 2017.
The import of this slovenly macro-economic disarray is that India is now captive to both joblessness and economic stagnation. One data point illustrates this realism poignantly.
Between 2009 to 2011 as India’s GDP galloped at an average of 8.5%, (corresponding to a growth of 10.5% if computed on current GDP calculation indices), despite the global meltdown of 2008, the Indian organised sector was, on average, creating 9.5 lakh new jobs every year.
In the past two years, 2015 and 2016, the average employment generation has plummeted to less than 2 lakh jobs a year. This is less than 25 percent of the annual employment generated before 2011.
In other words, job creation under Modi@3 has shrunk by 75 percent and the government puts out inane advertisements claiming Saath Hai, Vishwas Hai, Ho Raha Vikas Hai.
Either the government is delusional or has lost the plot, for even a blind man can see that this emperor has no clothes.
Botch-Ups on the Foreign Policy Front
On the front of international relations, the latest OBOR (One Belt One Road) summit in Bejing has laid bare India’s stunning loneliness. Notwithstanding a lawful prerogative that one of the components of OBOR – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – infringes on India’s sovereignty, the ‘Modi@3’ government was unable to take along even a single nation, with the only exception of Bhutan.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, the government has tied itself in knots as a result of repeated backflips, volte-faces and cartwheels every two months.
It does have a view on the implications vis-a-vis India on the implosions within the European Union. Latin/South America and Africa have all but dropped off the map. There has been no fillip to India’s quest for the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. The effort to get into the Nuclear Suppliers Group can qualify as a superlative for the expression “botch-up”.
Social Tensions Across the Country
It is on the vital question of social cohesion that this government has inflicted long-term damage to India. Principally because people holding the highest office of the land have nothing but contempt for the founding vision of India and the tenets of the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. They apparently want to reorder the moderate and multicultural reality of India into a majoritarian hegemony.
What is being played out reminds one of the philosophical battle that had shaken India seven decades back, when on 3 June 1947, the division of India into two separate dominions – Pakistan and India – became an unfortunate reality.
The ideologues of the current government believe that if ‘religious partition’ could not be implemented in its essence in 1947 – ie: India for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims – it should be done now by transforming India into a majoritarian theocracy.
The instruments being used are mass communalism masquerading as nationalism, cow vigilantes being let loose especially on the minorities, creative freedom being proscribed, freedom of speech and expression being brutally crushed and the demonisation of the other by a hysterical right-wing co-opted media. The Rule of Law has been replaced by the audacity of the lumpens. Nothing exemplifies it better than the public lynchings in Jharkhand and other places in the country.
Not only are these crimes being committed but they are being brazenly propagated to instill terror in the hearts of those who oppose this descent into open-state-sponsored mayhem. India is staring into the eyes of another pogrom as its soul screams for mercy.
Another unfortunate dimension is the persecution of Dalits by those belonging to upper castes that has convulsed Uttar Pradesh, and the continuing physical and verbal violence against them even in universities and colleges across the country. What the Prime Minister does not realise is that he is skidding on a slippery slope and the consequences would be portentous for India.
Fiddling with Institutions of Democracy
Finally the last few years have been characterised by bitter rancor with higher judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court. The government has publicly reneged on appointing a Lokpal despite the law being in place for over three years now.
The recurrent subversion of opposition governments by foul means, like in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand, and the undermining of the electoral essence in Goa and Manipur are primary examples.
Respect for the institutions of democracy has been tossed into the dustbin in pursuit of grabbing power. Ladies and gentlemen, the worst is yet to come, so fasten your seatbelts, wait and watch.
(The writer is a lawyer and a former minister. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington DC. He tweets @manishtewari. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)