In the first hundred days of his second innings, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accomplished so much that the party and the country will always remember him as the leader who changed the course of history. His government's actions in the last 100 days, unlike in the first tenure, have been more ideology driven and focus on taking the country to a new league both economically and politically. If his first term was remarkable for path-breaking welfare programmes and economic initiatives like demonetization, GST and realty sector reforms, plus the strategic air strike on Pakistan, the second phase has begun with the scrapping of Article 370, an amendment to anti-terrorism laws, making Triple Talaq unlawful, the mergers of banks and making the farmer-reward yojana universal.
In these hundred days, the Modi government has focused on: assuring the ideological family that the government is committed to implementing the core planks of the party manifesto; fixing the two problem areas of the economy, agriculture and the construction industry, which together account for almost 50 per cent of GDP; and job creation. The Modi Government has widened the scope of Kisan Samman Yojana to all farmers, stepped up the rural housing scheme and road and irrigation projects in the rural sector and delivered a plethora of tax concessions and incentives for the construction industry.
The construction industry, which was languishing for many years after demonetization, RERA and GST, is the second-largest employer in India. The present slowdown and job crunch are directly a consequence of this distress. The construction industry directly impacts more than 150 other sectors and hence the government has been bent on infusing more funds into affordable housing, cheaper loan facilities and streamlining the construction industry. The government has asked all public sector entities to fill up vacancies on a war footing. This has immediately created 2.5 lakh job opportunities.
It is just by chance that Modi Government's completion of its hundred days coincided with India's Moon Mission Two which was only a partial success. But it arguably established the country as the fourth space power on earth. This is a scientific achievement for India, and signalled that under Modi, India is emerging as a world power. Modi wants to take man to the moon in the next three years and also make the Indian GDP worth five trillion dollars. Both are possible but face major impediments. The failure of the soft landing on moon is bound to slow down the ISRO project. The economy needs more efficient handling to unleash the animal spirit, which is absent, at least on the investment front.
Infrastructure building is a major growth area. It is in the safe hands of Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goel. But the one trillion investment needed in the sector has to come also from private sector. Public sector spending has to grow. The government has to become more appreciative and encouraging of wealth creators. A general feeling is that the policies are harsh on people who generate wealth. The economy cannot grow to double digits if the tax regime gets a tag of being hostile to the neo-rich.
In the past hundred days, the drive against corruption has sprinted. Though the government is not directly involved, actions against swindlers and corrupt politicians have large mass appeal. The absence of action on this front in the last five years had raised questions about Modi's sincerity in fighting corruption. The corrupt have to be booked and punished if at all the rhetoric has to gain credibility. Or it will be seen as poll propaganda.
Under Modi, India has emerged a major FDI destination. The trade war between US and China has affected us only marginally.
Containing inflation and keeping it below four per cent has been a major achievement of the Modi Government. But of late, the demand crunch has come to affect growth. A pre-condition for good economics is that people enjoy spending rather than concealing their income. It is the government's duty to create a conducive atmosphere for making life easier. The curbs on currency circulation have adversely affected demand and growth.
With some momentous decisions during his first term as Prime Minister, Modi set the foundation for India's enhanced image in ease of doing business, transparency, freedom from graft and greater compliance to tax. All this and finance sector reforms have put economic fundamentals on a stronger footing. The war on NPA and banking reforms have increased faith in financial institutions. But this has a long way to go. Bankers are equally guilty and corrupt as the NPA story reveals. They too have to come under legal scrutiny.
In the first hundred days, Modi has visited 12 countries. India's sterling performance on the diplomatic front became visible in the aftermath of the strategic air strike on Balakot and the abrogation of Article 370. Pakistan was isolated, India received universal support. This is another feather in Modi's cap.
The improved situation in large parts of Jammu and Kashmir after the removal of Article 370 has further established Modi's image as a mega super-star with the party cadre. Electorally, too, the move has further cemented Modi's position. He was able to gain support even from a large and diverse segment of the opposition including many Congressmen. The beginning thus far has been thunderous on all aspects.
(Dr R. Balashankar is Member, BJP Central Committee on Training, and Committee on Publications and former Convener BJP National Intellectual Cell and former Editor Organiser.)
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