Faced with Aggressive Opposition, Faster Execution of Ideas to be Modi's Real Test in Year Two
The golden principle of a vibrant democracy is that the Opposition should have its say and the government must have a way. During the first year of the Modi government, this rule has been violated with a vengeance. Narendra Modi sped into 7 Race Course, powered by a massive mandate from the people of India. His mission, model and mantra were fully endorsed by the voters who gave him 282 Lok Sabha seats. So, it isn’t unfair or unreasonable on his part to demand a full say in the governance of the nation. But has he been able to? The corrosive confrontations between the PM and the Opposition make it apparent that Modi has been denied his right to govern according to the manifesto on which he rode to power, obliterating his opponents. His admirers claim that in every state, a frustrated opposition led by the Congress obstructs the NDA government. Modi has ensured relatively corruption-free governance. He has taken India’s global acceptability on a vertical trajectory. The nation is much more stable—politically and economically—than during the vulnerable and venal decades that had excoriated the national morale.
The entire Opposition has become politically schizophrenic—on one hand stalling important legislation in both Houses of Parliament and on the other, moaning about the denial of their right to be heard. The truth, however, lies in between. It is quite evident that 365 days of Modi Raj not only redefined the style of governance but also the role of the Opposition in a single party rule after almost 25 years.
It is true that the NDA government in its attempt to deliver more than it had promised rushed through various decisions without taking the collective opposition into confidence. Some ministers also acted like provocatively posturing Chanticleers in Parliament, which the Opposition perceived as demonstrating the arrogance of power. For example, the latter wanted legislation on land and general sales tax to be reviewed by a parliamentary panel, but the government was determined to ram through both the Bills in a hurry. On the whole, it managed to do much business despite a determined Opposition ready to thwart it at every stage.
The government decided to celebrate its first anniversary with unprecedented savoir faire by fielding its glossiest faces and using every medium available to raise the octaves of its achievement anthem. Never before has since Independence any administration spent so much of energy and time in propagating its performance like Team Modi did in less than a week. For the Prime Minister, it was a time for showcasing his inimitable identity and unique stamp on democracy and governance. But for the Opposition, it has been an uphill task to stop his implacable juggernaut from advancing on its agenda. This is the first time since the indomitable and imperious Indira Gandhi governed the country that the entire Opposition has realised that the incumbent Prime Minister poses a real political danger not just to individuals but also to their ideologies. If in the 1970s and 80s, anti-Indiraism united parties from the extreme Left to extreme Right, Moditva has forced all non-BJP parties to forget or sink their differences and fight Modiology. It is precisely this fear, which led to all the factions of the Janata Parivar to dine and shine together to plan a merger. It is for the first time that even politically genetic enemies like the Left and Mamata Banerjee were forced to forge a tactical alliance in Parliament to prevent the NDA government from completing its legislative business. It’s Modi, with his speed and substance, who the Opposition is really afraid of. Even the Congress compromised on its various stands on major policy issues just to keep the Opposition glued together. For example, the top leadership of the party favoured supporting the GST Bill. The younger generation, however, prevailed upon the old warhorses to take an aggressive stance against Modi and in turn protect opposition unity. Modi’s one year in office has also laid the ground for a major realignment of politics, which may eventually lead to the weakening of multi-party electoral conflicts and forming a broadly twin-ideology-led political formation. Naturally the right of Centre forces will be led by Modi and the opposite factions would rally around Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik. In fact, nationwide opposition to the amended Land Bill cutting across political lines is an indicator that any controversial policy initiative by the government can lead to an ideological confrontation and force the NDA to do course corrections. Even the BJP’s master strategists and their moles couldn’t burke the Opposition’s new united avatar.
If Modi has risen in stature nationally and internationally through his mobility and agility, even the Opposition, which was desperately demoralised after the 2014 General Elections, made its presence felt and regained its lost voice. Samajwadi senapati Mulayam Singh, with just five Lok Sabha MPs, became a rallying figure for all anti-Modi forces. In addition, the Congress, which couldn’t win enough seats to even claim the office of the Leader of the Opposition, also sussed out many chinks in Modi’s armour. According to many Congress leaders, it was Modi’s rising hold and consolidation over national politics, which compelled Rahul to go for a metamorphic makeover in demeanour and delivery.
The second anniversary of the Modi government, however, would be much more interesting. By then, Modi would have faced the crucial Bihar Assembly elections and the economy would either have recovered from its current not-so-good feel situation or sunk further into ‘bure din’. Many of his major initiatives like pension schemes, Jan Dhan Yojna, Swachh Bharat and infrastructure development would come under greater scrutiny by analysts. Additionally, Year Two will be tougher for Modi to showcase any fresh innovations since the implementation of the existing ones hasn’t yet shifted from first gear. If a united Opposition is able to defeat the BJP in Bihar, it would also raise questions about the invincibility of the party and further encourage the fence-sitters to jump to where the grass seems greener. For the next 365 days, the Opposition is going to adopt the strategy to stick the ‘pro-rich government’ label on the ruling party. Modi’s detractors will continue to charge him with promoting crony capitalism in the country. The BJP cadres expect the PM to redefine the meaning of economic growth. He and his team have spoken a lot about ensuring ease in doing business in India. From now on, perhaps, Modi will talk about how to create more demand and put more money in the hands of the poor and middle class so that the manufacturing sector can bounce back from its moribund melancholy. Rather than talking about lowering lending interest rates for the corporates, Modi’s second year will be tested on how much more will he be able to do for the poor as well as his core constituents.
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