Atal Bihari Vajpayee gently shook the deeply entrenched stasis in governance through sweeping and path-breaking reforms. Narendra Modi is building Atmanirbhar Bharat on the same foundation
Shashanka Shekhar Panda
Bharatvarsha, over the last seven decades, has suffered immeasurably under the burden of Nehurvian Fabian Socialism and has had to settle for an abjectly sub-optimal and in fact minimalist realization of its true potential. Under the façade of Ram Manohar Lohia’s ideals of “Socialism”, which proved to be a chimera and became a symbolic slogan to milk the electoral cow, dynastic rule instead was perpetuated (by the Nehru-Gandhi and other regional political families such as the Akhilesh Yadav clan in Uttar Pradesh), crony capitalism was encouraged, rampant corruptionwas widespread in land, water and air through innovative methods of rent seeking, kickbacks and commissions, the tweezer grip of the ‘State’ over factors of production was mainstreamed, the consequent criminal inefficiencies of the public sector enterprises (the going joke was that MTNL meant ‘Mera Telephone Nahi Lagega’) was tolerated and bankrolled by the honest taxpayer, brain drain was neglected, reliance on foreign technology was recommended (because, lucrative kickbacks and commissions), low innovation as characterized by low national investment in R&D became the order of the day, a dilapidated health and sanitation infrastructure was conspicuous more by its absence and last but not least, given the Fabian ideological moorings of India’s developmental discourse thanks to Nehru, the nation was culturally deracinated from its ancient ethos and plunged like a square peg into the round hole of the Fabian ideas of the Western construct that were not just anathema to the world’s oldest and continued civilizational roots of Bharat but as a matter of fact militated against it.
Indeed, under the reign of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, pliable and beholden opinion builders, always eager to find a stick with which to beat the followers of Hindu Dharma and thereby subjugate the cultural and dharmic fabric and Civilizational identity of Bharat and in order to deflect the attention from the incompetence of the Marxist-Missionary-Mullah incumbent power matrix, fabricated the term “Hindu Rate of Growth” and popularized it worldwide to demean Her economic prowess and hide the fact that a Hindu Bharat stood at 29% of world GDP in 1021 years ago, i.e. before the Islamic invasion of Bharat.
All that misgovernance tantamounted to clinical destruction of epic proportions and led to the severe national economic crisis of 1991 when PM Narsimha Rao was left with no other viable option but to liberalize the economy.
It was not until Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that the first serious autonomous attempts were made to unseat the Nehruvian (Fabian Socialist) Consensus. Vajpayee gently shook the deeply entrenched stasis in governance through sweeping and path-breaking reforms that still reverberate through the urban, social and economic fabric of India – the Golden Quadrilateral that heralded the infrastructure boom in India which still continues and which in turn spawned the continuing stock market boom, the Indian Electricity Act that was transformational for the comatose and dysfunctional Indian electricity sector deep in financial crises, the E. Sreedharan led design and development of the Delhi Metro that has become a template of excellence in urban transport infrastructure development across India and acknowledged the world over and needless to mention the deft handling of the Indian economy, thereby inoculating it from the economic contagion and shocks of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the headstart given by PM Vajpayee, though punctuated by the scam-a-day ridden misgovernance and policy-paralysis stricken machinations of the Sonia Gandhi led UPA (with Manmohan Singh as the rubber stamp, “accidental” Prime Minister), is being furiously capitalized on. Samajvaadas a slogan has been decidedly upstaged by Vikas and thankfully cultural heritage means much more than just the Taj Mahal (which needless to say is also a case of cultural appropriation in as much that at the heart of architectural marvel lay the then-extant superlative skills of the Bharatiya shilpakaar and shilpakala themselves. It also stands to reason that Taj Mahal is also a shining example of our ancient heritage, considering the Mughals couldn’t accomplish a feat even remotely as magnificent in the entire Middle East and Central Asia itself, the lands from which they generally hailed). A paradigm shift that transcends economy, military, society and culture can now be witnessed. We have a new model of nation-building – it’s the Modi Normal or the Dharmic Consensus in the making. Nehru presided over Sardar Sarovar Dam that was delayed for decades, India is now known for completing the same just like the Saryu Nahar Pariyojana that was delayed for decades and has now been developed under the leadership of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and inaugurated a few days ago by Prime Minister Modi in Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh.
No election before 2014 was ever fought or won on the question of cultural, social, military or economic development or sustainable development goals – SDGs. Now, it’s a common sight for political satraps like Akhilesh Yadav to claim the developmental work of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh or of PM Narendra Modi himself by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty during the election season. The deeply underwhelming and low sanitation infrastructure coverage ratio of 39% in 2014 has hit an absolute 100% in 2020 and is of acceptable standards.
Financial inclusion was moving at snail’s pace till Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. Bharat, which had a banking coverage of 53% of adult population from 1947 to 2014, now stands at approximately 90% banking coverage in just 7 years of the BJP government. The Saubhagya Scheme has ensured that India has moved from 83% household electrification in 2014 to 99.99% electrification in 2021. The Ujala Scheme proved to be a game-changer which reduced the price of LED bulbs by as much as 95%, thus benefiting both the capital as well as the operational cost for the common man while encouraging energy efficiency. The Ujjwala scheme has been another success in project implementation with 8 crore LPG connections distributed to the poor. Households have seen a total of 10 crore LPG connections being disbursed mostly to poor families in just the first 4 years of the BJP government as against 13 crore till 2014, since independence.
Another unprecedented chapter of history is being etched through the Ayushman Bharat Yojana that provides free healthcare to low-income citizens and families that is accounted for by 50% of India’s population. The scheme has seen more than 2.25 cr. beneficiaries already since its launch in 2018. Now, India is progressing to digitize health records through the National Digital Health Mission. This would be a game-changer for access to healthcare, standardization, transparency in and monitoring of health services to patients. It is interesting to note that all these schemes are quintessential “Socialist” schemes and that too at a mega-scale, executed swiftly, transparently without a whiff of scam.
PM Modi has also been confronted by the epoch-making challenge of the global Covid pandemic and as we now know has made short work of it, excelled in such measures as only superlatives may do justice in its description. Not only did PM Modi’s government tamed the pandemic, considering we are statistically significantly lower than most developed nations both in terms of caseload as well as fatalities, India also managed to spring a surprise by doing that which India hasn’t done, at least in the modern sense – we developed the Covid vaccine on our own and not just one but two vaccines, one of which, namely Covaxin was developed by Bharat Biotech as a completely home-grown product. India has given at least one vaccine dose to at least 85% of the adult population.
The unintended and strategically important consequence of this development was that it effectively stymied the attempts of global ‘Big Pharma’ such as Pfizer to sweep the Indian market with their products that would have imaginably and potentially cost India a King’s ransom and that too at the cost of such onerous legal terms and conditions dictated by the ‘Big Pharma’ as would have veritably enfeebled India’s bargaining position on the world stage and would have been perilously humiliating to boot. These events would have given enough political gunpowder in the hands of the Opposition which was already trying its best to derail India’s homegrown vaccination program by batting for ‘Big Pharma’ and then simultaneously spreading vaccination hesitancy.
India’s achievements have taken a global leadership scale with the launch of the International Solar Alliance, that would take on the hitherto unthinkable objective of heralding a truly cooperative global initiative that would be unprecedented in imagination, scale and size – One Sun One World One Grid. Once done, the whole world would be bound in a common electricity grid whereby solar electricity generated in Rajasthan in the day would be transmitted in real-time to New York where it would be night. The ISA is headquartered in India. Spearheaded by DG Emeritus Upendra Tripathy till March 2021 and now by ex-TERI Chief Ajay Mathur, it has grown very fast to include over 100 countries as members, including the USA. Forget India, even the whole world doesn’t have a parallel of the same image as ISA. This organization can add much heft to India’s voice on the global Clean Energy stage.
Another gamechanger for India would be in the shape of GATI-SHAKTI, which endeavours to create a framework for integrated infrastructure project planning, delivery, monitoring and management. This would inject a hitherto absent trait in public works, big and small: proper scheduling and execution. The importance can hardly be overemphasized. Expect substantial savings both in time and monetary costs.
India has also embarked on a very ambitious digital payment infrastructure in 2014. It was mocked infamously by PR Chidambaram. He prophesied its failure, given the constraints (which are a result of the Nehru-Gandhi’s serial, decadal misgovernance). But now we know that the ‘Teapot Boy’ from Vadnagar has succeeded where the Harvard pupil didn’t even have the courage to try. India has pipped even China to notch top honours in the digital payments cyberscape with 25.5 bn transactions in 2020 versus 15 bn. for China, a distant second.
India has also consolidated politically with the annulment of Article 370. The Citizenship Amendment Act is another step towards this political consolidation. Considering the teething opposition to it amongst the Mullah-Missionary-Marxist trifecta, Shri Modi can be assured that he has hit the bull’s eye. Now, NRC needs to be launched at an appropriate time. India needs to stop sounding meek and apologetic for its glorious Hindu past. If anything, the colonial West has a lot to answer for the unabashed exploitation and destruction of the Orient.
An important aspect of the developmental discourse has been focused on cultural rejuvenation. Not only hard power, but soft power is thereby getting a fillip, slowly but surely. The Clean Ganga plan is an incremental success with Asia’s largest sewer drain, the Sisamau Nala being shut down in Kanpur, sewage treatment plants being built in Prayagraj and elsewhere. Ganga is not just a river, to a billion Hindus it is the Mother Goddess which they hold in great reverence. There couldn’t have been a better tribute to the cause of both Dharma and Vikas.
Victory in the bitterly fought battle of Ram Mandir, its consequent development, that of the Kashi Corridor, of Ayodhya, the design of the Ramayana circuit would be other quivers in the arrow of this much needed cultural rejuvenation. Now, justice demands that a rule that has been applied to one reclaimed temple must surely be applied to all temples that were destroyed or usurped to build other religious structures or to be used for other religious purposes. The name of Kashi Gyanwapi Mosque and Mathura Krishnajanmabhoomi are foremost in the imagination of Hindus worldwide.
Even as India makes these giant strides, a word of caution is in order with respect to the battle of narratives. The BJP would do well to assume that the global matrix of Hindu hating complex would mute, dilute and rationalize all the hard achievements of the Modi government. In fact, particularly the cultural rejuvenation programs would hit a sore chord, to put it very mildly. The ‘Deep States’ would respond by fomenting fear, op-eds, columns in the international press to paint the political leadership as macabre ogres, quite literally. The massive media machine of the West can fabricate stories pretty easily to destroy the image of entire nations and who’d know this better than PM Modi himself whose name was maligned in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots and he was declared a pariah by the international press and denied a visa by the US government. If today the world respects India incrementally and heaps prestigious international awards upon PM Modi, it's because PM Modi is steadily augmenting global power and asserting India’s expectations with a light touch.
In the entire smorgasbord of high-octane developmental efforts, social and political, that paves the way to an Atmanirbhar Bharat, the main risk surprisingly still remains the media narrative, both domestic and foreign. Shri Modi must make efforts to control the game of narratives, through favourable infiltration into the international media houses, development of pro-Bharat satellite institutions, think tanks, promoting dharmic minded scholars in order to counter the false narratives, taking a leaf off the effective Chinese playbook.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often quipped with great pride in public rallies that, “Jis pariyojana ka shilanayas hum karenge, uska udghatan bhi hum hi karenge”. The Left Media seems to have not quite noticed that this statement is PM Modi’s way of saying that BJP doesn’t intend to let go of the reign of powers to perpetuity. Read along with Home Minister Amit Shah’s oft-repeated assertion that BJP must work to dominate elections “Panchayat se Parliament tak”, it is evident that both BJP’s heart and head are in the right place – elections and power are not just an end in themselves but a platform to deliver value to build a strong Bharat.