Is Modi the political leader that India needs?

(The article first appeared on LinkedIn on 26th October 2017. Here is the link to the article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/modi-political-leader-india-needs-yash-pratap-singh/?published=t)

As the GDP figures for the Q1 of the current financial year were released two months back and the macroeconomic growth of Indian economy slumped to 5.7%, we started witnessing scathing criticisms about the Modi government. The obvious scapegoats were ‘Demonetization’ and ‘Goods and Service Tax (GST)’. Most economists and policymakers would argue that GST was long overdue and necessary structural reform. Yet, ‘GST’ was used as a tool to criticize the incumbent. Things got even messier and loud when Yashwant Sinha, a senior BJP leader, and former Union Minister for Finance, wrote a strongly worded opinion piece in The Indian Express. To revive the economy government decided on a recapitalization package which would recapitalize the banks and boost infrastructure development.

Among all this debates and discussions, the lion’s share of which was criticism and pessimism towards the government especially Mr. Modi, it is but natural to ask: ‘Why is Modi facing criticism for the Indian Economy?’ ‘Can he really deliver?’ There could be several arguments and answers to the above question. India is facing something called as the ‘revolution of rising expectations’ (a theory propounded by Alexis de Tocqueville, whose ‘Democracy in America’ I had read while attending a course on Crowds and Mobs and Paradox of Indian Democracy — especially for the concept of ‘tyranny of the majority’).

India post economic liberalization witnessed an increase in growth which was catalyzed and augmented by various other policies and reforms. The penetration and accessibility of technologies (such as Smartphones, internet etc.) further brought greater awareness and freedom.

In some sense, Modi’s spectacular victory in 2014 was an expected and natural consequence of this ‘rising hope’ and’revolution of rising expectation’.

The middle class was expanding, the class mobility was increasing and people had a natural urge and aspirations for improvised living standards, better opportunities for growth (primarily economic growth), etc. And these aspirations possess a characteristic of ‘urgency’. The demographic bulge is increasing the pressure of these expectations and urgency.

The continuous faith shown by the electorate in the ‘development’ manifesto of Modi is a testimony to these expectations. Be it the State of Uttar Pradesh or Haryana; the major rhetoric and issue have been of development. The question now is whether the government is equipped to handle these expectations? The other important aspect is whether it is sustainable?

On the issue of sustainability? Can we sustain the expanding consumption? How many more vehicles can we add on the road? How much water can we extract from already lowered and non-replenished groundwater tables and drying rivers? How many green areas can we usurp for infrastructure development? How much natural resources can we consume to generate power and meet energy demands? etc. The risen expectations of improved living standards and better economic opportunities would stress the environment and resources. Climate Change is a testament that we cannot continue without keeping environment balanced. I believe that the government has a vision on this. They are focused on long-term reforms such as Swach Bharat, generating more energy from renewable sources, not destroying the green cover, work towards access to water and prevent it from being polluted and wasted etc. Despite all this, a lot needs to be done and more awareness needs to be spread.People are witnessing the rise in temperatures in urban areas and yet many of them are so careless about things such as cleanliness, spreading greenery, judiciously using water resources, being power efficient etc.

On being equipped to tackle this challenge, I believe the most important focus area would be ‘education’. The government has been on an expansion mode in order to build capacity to handle the huge demand in the education sector. Still, a lot more seriousness is required in this area. In an information age such as ours, it is an imperative to teach students the ‘how to learn methodology’, ‘adaptive leadership’, ‘innovation’, ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘analytical and lateral thinking skills’ more than the normal pedagogy of feeding information essential to one’s education domain. I believe with initiatives such as Atal Innovation Mission we are in the right direction but there is a need for more to improve the basic school education and improvise the quality of higher education sector. Right kind of education is the most important thing that would handle the ‘rising expectation’, though paradoxically, education and freedom at the first place are a vital reason for this revolution.

I have meandered a lot. Let me come to the title question. Is Modi the political leader that India needs? I have been wondering about this myself and oscillating between alternate viewpoints. While reading media reports in several leading dailies it appears that things are not good and we are increasingly witnessing a centralization, impulsive decision making without preparations, etc. Thinking about it and talking to people, I realize that people still believe Mr. Modi to be the reformer that Indian politics requires. To be honest, I really don’t know the answer. But there is one thing that tilts me to the latter viewpoint.

Modi is charismatic and has the ability to charm the masses. He enjoys popular support despite his policies eschewing populism of the previous regimes.

Despite the hiccups of both ‘demonetization’ and ‘GST’ people have not resorted to any sort of protest. He still remains the most popular leader in India. It is difficult to imagine any other face who could have done this. It is his charisma and ability that he has somehow made Swach Bharat, a household name and not just an initiative that would fade away. The churn of expectation and urgency of it is a reality but Modi is an antidote to that. It is just another paradox of Indian democracy that Modi who became the Prime Minister by fuelling this ‘rising expectation’ and ‘hope’ is the same person who has the ability to control and curb it to become troublesome. With this line of reasoning, it seems, as of now, it is Modi which India needs as its political leader.

Jai Hind !!

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I attempt to write on topics and questions that interest me. I have written other articles on LinkedIn as well, the links of which are attached below.

  1. A primer for the first job for undergraduates | 28th June 2017
  2. Making a case for increased alumni-student interaction | 29th June 2017
  3. Adopting the right leadership and management practices | 04th July 2017
  4. Perceptions Matter in Career Growth | 14th July 2017
  5. Dear Class of 2017, the baton is with you….. | 03rd August 2017
  6. Amalthea: An ongoing journey, a tradition suitably internalized and going strong….. | 22nd October 2017

You can connect with me on Twitter(@ypsYash), LinkedIn, Medium and Facebook.