Has Modi managed to deliver the image of a clean and honest government? As India heads towards the results for the 2019 general elections, Professor Umesh Sharma and Dr Mukesh Garg analyse what lies ahead, and what needs to be left behind
India, the world’s largest democracy in the world is voting to choose its next government. But we feel that corruption and national security remains one of the key issues in the 2019 general elections in India. In very basic terms, nationalism is love towards one’s own country. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) governments in India have been led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Damodar Modi who were considered promoters of honest and nationalist government due to their perceived tone against corruption and actual actions taken to reduce corruption in the country. The efforts of the current prime minister of India towards delivering an honest government would have a widespread effect on the country’s masses.
While the image of the United Progresive Alliance (UPA) government of ten years was tarnished by numerous financial scams, the image of the government under PM Modi is considered one that introduced several policy changes to curb corruption at all levels. Most of the scams were actually unearthed and culprits brought to justice under the current NDA government. India’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score issued by Transparency International significantly improved from 31 (out of 100) in 2011 under non-NDA Government to 40 in 2017 and 41 in 2018 when the NDA government was on the helm (Transparency International, 2019). This shows that at the macro level, the public perceived that corruption has declined in the public sector during the regime of the NDA Government. This is a result of government’s policies of direct bank transfer to the beneficiaries of various subsidies, removing the need of a middle man, providing single window clearance to start a business in India, and tax reforms like Goods and Services Tax (GST) to curb the circulation of black money.
However, there are strong doubts about any elected government to run the country if its leaders fail to show their devotion to their country through their words and their actions. We cannot understand how some political leaders currently sitting in the opposition in the Parliament of India, not only fail to show their nationalism, but they can go to the extent of colluding with perpetrators of the country. The irony is we even elect them! Two incidents are worthy of reporting here. The first incident took place in the Capital of India at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) a few years ago, where some students protested against the Supreme Court’s decision to hang a terrorist. The students used anti-national slogans. We can understand that India is a free country and everyone has a right to his or her views. However, support by any political party to such student activists is appalling.
The leader of Aam Admi Party, Mr Arvind Kejriwal, was the first leader to jump at the opportunity to support the anti-national student movement at JNU. The second incident occurred during the India-China conflict in Doklam. Most readers would be aware that the Doklam crisis brought India and China close to a war-like situation which lasted for over 50 days. It was during this conflict the leader of one of the oldest political party, Mr Rahul Gandhi, visited the Chinese consulate. No one knows what the motive of Mr Gandhi’s visit to the Chinese consulate during such tense times was. Surprisingly the news media in India did not have enough courage to ask tough questions of the leader at that time. The readers might be aware of the recent comments made by these and many other leaders in the opposition party (e.g. Mamta Banerjee) who questioned surgical strikes by the Indian army. It is possible that some politicians and news reporters don’t want to give the credit of the action by the military to the political party in power. However, we need to be careful about what are we questioning; as sometimes we can end up demoralising the army of the nation. All parties of a country should be on the same page when it’s the question about nationalism. Please don’t make the hostile nations (Pakistan and China) laugh at us.
The second critical point about the Indian political system is about dynasty or familyvad in politics. Unfortunately, the Indian political system has been plagued by a dynasty system. Here are a few names which are primarily into politics because they were born in a family of politicians. The list starts with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi; Akhilesh Yadav and many cousins and uncles; Tejashwi Yadav and many of his siblings and his mum; Gowda, his son and his grandsons; and many more. Is it possible that familyvad has given us inferior leaders?
The answer is “yes” to a considerable extent. Consider, if all great cricketers insisted that their sons should play for India what would happen to the Indian cricket team? Think about Sunil Gavaskar’s son opening in the 2019 World Cup. Think about Sachin’s son playing for India. They are good cricketers but not good enough to play for India. The dynastic system has prevented great leaders from emerging from the parties and taking the nation forward.
Several important initiatives were taken by the current NDA government to curb corruption in the country. The most prominent among them is Adhaar card, the introduction of national identity card, an opening of free bank accounts for the majority of the country’s population, promote digital transactions, an introduction of goods and services tax (GST) and demonetisation. The current government, on 8 November 2016 declared that the five hundred- and thousand-rupee notes would no longer be legal tender from midnight. This move was taken to reduce the black money circulation and to curb the fake currency used to fund terrorism in the country. The trust of international organisations in the Indian economy increased, resulting in higher foreign investments. These moves supported the government’s objective of reducing corruption and black money circulation.
Overall, on the economic front when we assess overall how the Indian economy has performed and is perceived to perform over the next few years, one should look at the performance of the SENSEX ^BSESN), India’s key stock market index. Since the election of Modi led government in May 2014, the SENSEX has increased from 22,900 points to the current level of 39,000 points, an increase of 70% over a period of five years. This astounding performance of the Indian capital market suggests that the investors have not only shown confidence in the current government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the investors have also benefitted from generating a high return on their investments due to the progressive policies of the current government.