The choice — the repeat of 2014-24 or throwback to 1989-98?
S Gurumurthy, Chairman, VIF

Modi is the first and only Prime Minister to place before the people a long term vision for the nation and the world—that of a developed India by 2047.

There are four main issues in the ensuing elections. One, a government which will be stable for the next five years like the previous 10 years. Two, a leader who will not only survive in power but deliver development and national security like Modi did in the last 10 years. Three, an Indian leader who will provide global leadership and protect core national interests in the world like Modi did. The alternative to Modi is the INDI Alliance, which has turned fratricidal. It needs no political scientist to say that the INDI Alliance cannot imagine to provide a stable government. And its alternative to Modi is no one and certainly none better. The final issue before the people is whether the polls will repeat the Modi decade or throw the nation back to the decade long past, 1989-98. The country had lost the feel of a stable government and strong leader till Modi arrived on the scene 10 years ago. He demonstrated in his two terms what a stable government and strong leader can do to the country and contribute to the world.

Modi 1.0

In his first term, Modi had to take head on the disastrous outcome of the 10-year misrule by the government led by the Congress and revive the national economy. Each decision he had to take was painful. He boldly cancelled the 2G and coal licences granted by the previous government for blatantly corrupt reasons, auctioned those licences and raked in huge revenues to the treasury. His bold move to root out crony capitalism won the confidence of the investors within and outside. He had to take on the huge non-performing loans of the banks. Former Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan admitted that bad loans were caused by the reckless lending during the Congress regime. Stung by bad loans, banks could not lend, affecting all businesses. Modi recapitalised the banks, pulled them back from near bankruptcy and energised them to lend. Without waiting for them to begin lending, he devised the state guaranteed Mudra small loans to over 130 million tiny businesses, which saved and boosted the self-employed sector. In his first term, he overcame most of the deep-rooted economic problems created by the previous regime.

He took on terrorism by counter-terror measures unheard of in India. He ordered surgical strikes across borders and stunned a nuclear Pakistan with an open-ended policy of nuclear strike, unlike India. The world largely approved India’s new cross-border counter-terror policy. Overcoming the psychological resistance of India against any proactive action against China—ever active on the border—Modi ordered the army to enter the Chinese side in Doklam and destroy installations that threatened Indian security in the North East. The move stunned China and won the admiration of the West in particular. He also put down Left-wing terrorism with an iron hand.

Modi, the Chanakya, entered into a shocking, strategic political alliance with Mehbooba Mufti, a soft separatist leader in Kashmir, using her lust for power and got the Centre to penetrate into the J&K administration, which was till then beyond its reach. Later, he pulled down her government and imposed Central rule, which paved the way for revocation of the special status of Kashmir in his second term. Modi also expanded the political footprint of the BJP and transformed it into a huge national force, including in the North East, which was a victim of insurgency and separatism for decades. He addressed the problems of the long neglected North East by his development-centric approach. He ordered his ministers to go to the North East and stay there overnight. Tens of ministers made over 250 visits. He himself went there dozens of times and brought about unthinkable development of the region. Result, the North East people became firmly integrated with the mainstream India and the BJP emerged as the dominant political force in the North East.

Modi 2.0

Modi’s second term was more challenging than the first with the global pandemic striking India hard. In the past, India would wait for the West to invent a vaccine, to import when they decided to export. Indians would suffer the deadly diseases till then. When Modi announced India would make its swadeshi vaccine, the world laughed and his domestic opponents mocked him. He refused to import the vaccine made by the West and waited for the domestic efforts to succeed. India succeeded in making not one but two swadeshi vaccines. He double-vaccinated 110 crore people more efficiently than the advanced US with one-fourth of our population. The Indian fatalities were far low at 5.3 lakh while the US tally was 1.2 million. Going by the US infection-fatality ratio, 45 crore Indians should have been infected against 4.5 crore, and 45 lakh would have died against 5.3 lakh! India supplied vaccines to needy nations at affordable prices, which won the admiration of the world. Result, while the leading economies of the US and China have still not recovered from the Covid impact, India recovered fast, emerging as the brightest spot and the fastest growing economy. As India emerged as a significant influencer in global affairs, its capacity to act strategically to protect its vital interests also rose.

When the Ukraine war broke out, Modi took the high risk policy of strategic neutrality, which was in effect pro-Russia. His strategic and risky decision to import Russian oil eroded the effect of US sanctions against Russia and annoyed the US. With his high stature and close relations with the leaders of France, Australia, Italy and Japan and also the Muslim powers in West Asia, he moderated and managed the angst of the US. Had Modi not decided to buy Russian oil, global oil prices could have touched the roof and the world economy, already down with Covid, would have landed in irretrievable depression. India’s Ukraine stand inspired the rise of the middle powers, which started the erosion of the hegemonic powers. When the Ukraine issue was at its peak, Modi assumed the G20 leadership and transformed what was an elite club confined to five star hotels into a mass movement with over 250 people-to-people meetings all over India. This changed the complexion of G20 and made the next leader Brazil wondering whether it can repeat India’s efforts!

As spectacular as his global level performance, or even more, are his achievements in the domestic front. He abrogated the special status provision under Article 370 in the Constitution, which had co-opted Pakistan as a claimant for Kashmir for 75 years and internationalised the issue. Modi snuffed out Pakistan from Kashmir by the stroke of Indian Parliament’s pen with not a bullet fired. He turned Kashmir into a haven of peace and development with the tourist inflow last year touching 3.5 crore, the highest ever. He reduced Pakistan into a footnote in India-related issues. He boldly passed the Citizenship law amendment to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist, Jains and Jews persecuted in Islamic Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – fulfilling the promise that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel had made, which even Marxists and Mammohan Singh wanted done but did not do.

He resolved the centuries-old Ram Janmabhoomi issue by democratic and judicial procedures and cleared the historic backlog that repeatedly set Hindu-Muslim relations on fire. He did it through a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court ordering the construction of the Ram Mandir. Muslims who were against the temple, too, welcomed it. Modi did the Pran Pratishtha of the temple, which virtually became a symbol of national integration symbolising the diversity of India. By this most comprehensive solution, he put a fullstop to the most fiery Hindu-Muslim issue dating back to the days of Aurangzeb. He has also begun implementing the common civil code, a 72-year-long pending mandate of the Constitution, urged by the Supreme Court several times — which no government had the guts to touch. The list is too long to be exhaustive.

Vision for 2047

Modi is the first and only Prime Minister to place before the people a long term vision for the nation and the world—that of a developed India by 2047. Modi’s visions is not based on any wishful thinking. It is based on sound logic and calculations. By 2027, India will surpass Germany and Japan and become the world’s third-largest economy. The Western world that engaged and promoted China at India’s expense is decoupling from it rapidly. The US Congress has enacted a law to end all supply chain links with China in defence and security supplies, which will transform the current China Plus One policy into China Minus. This opens up huge possibilities for India to replace China in the global supply chain. On the other hand, if as is now expected, Russia wins the Ukraine war, India will emerge as the only democratic nation that holds the US-West on the one hand and its foe Russia on the other. India will be the one nation that can help avoid a new Cold War in a world that would otherwise be as divided as in the 1950s and 1960s.

This is what Modi offers. What has the INDI Alliance got to offer?

Throwback to 1989-98?

The INDI Alliance whose sole aim is to defeat Modi whom it had named as its adversary, started off in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and in the euphoria of the stunning victory of the Congress in Karnataka in May last. It virtually petered out after the Congress tasted a massive defeat in the three northern state elections in December last. Nitish Kumar, who first forged the INDI Alliance, got disgusted and joined the adversary Modi. Mamata Banerjee threw the Congress out in Bengal. Communists fight the Congress everywhere, including in Kerala. Congress threw the Communists out in Telangana. No seer is needed to say that the INDI Alliance is less likely to be a repeat of the 2004-14 UPA rule and more likely to be a recall of 1989-98.

The choice before the people is clear: To repeat Modi who promises to make India the third world’s largest economy and make the country developed by 2047 or to get thrown back to the long forgotten decade of half-a-dozen prime ministers and four elections, which alone the INDI Alliance can promise.

Published in New Indian Express on 14th April 2024.

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