By Vijay Sanghvi
Sketching contemporary events form a historical perspective always stirs a hornet’s nest-inviting strong reactions and powerful refutations. Self-interests tend to disbelieve historical interpretations of events caused by or benefits accrued to them. The growing dissatisfaction of the middle class with the present regime as it failed to reap a rich harvest of advantages from the promised rapid economic growth tells a different story. The elite class was invariably the exclusive beneficiary of the economic development. It expected NaMo would deliver more to them. Instead, they find he was overcrowding markets with new entrants.
The first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru adopted the Soviet model for economic development. In it, the commanding heights of public sector eliminated scope for participation of private individuals except the manipulators of the system. His social welfare schemes were by nature of throwing crumbs at some sections, the deprived and the Dalit. But they were kept on the institutional door steps.Nehru had no measure of the prevalence of poverty was proved in 1963, the Third Five Year Plan with the eruption of controversy in parliament that compelled the government to define the poverty line. But it did not change the direction of the economic development to make poor fight their circumstances. The successive regimes continued the same model of development, often using it to lure vote banks.
For six decades nearly third of population remained in abyss of poverty as they were fed with free bread rather than motivate them to work to earn their bread. Management of scarcity mentality was much more profitable politics than co0nverting in to a system of surplus through rapid activation of more Indians. Dependents have herd mentality but economically better off tend to act independently. Even Green revolution ended up in enrichment of big farmers, 12 per cent of peasantry controlling 80 marketable surplus of agro products though impression was etched that it was for benefit of entire farm sector Corruption born of plethora of restrictive legislations added further deformities to deny even rights to sections that did not grease the greedy palms.
In 1992, the Rao regime partially opened doors to enable a small part of the lower class to move into the upper strata as economic institutions gave them opportunity to participate in the economic activities. The growth rate tripled with loosening of the stranglehold of bureaucratic controls. The Success of few Indians in other systems gave inspiration to many to follow their footsteps. The Man Mohan Singh era relapsed into old conservative politics in the second tranche to push the economy to an unending slump for three years. As Sharad Pawar pointed out in his book ‘At my Terms’ the National Advisory Council had overtaken the structure to impose decisions that slowed down the economic growth. Significant resources were diverted to creating vote banks.
Charity was again the chief instrument for elimination of poverty but making poor more dependent on crumbs than work and fight. Narendra Modi inherited the economy suffering from paralysis of decisions at the top level.
A debate will continue in present times over intentions of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his initiatives for correcting the deformities. However, he decisively chalked out a new path of inspiring everyone to fight their circumstance and end the era of freee services. Everyone need to pay for the services received was his motto.
He chose to initiate ideas of long gestation nature, but his targets were clear. He deliberately chose the deprived and the Dalit to be the targets for improvement. They were denied not only socio-economic justice but also facilities to improve their abilities. The education system was devised not to assist them to rise above the secondary grades. He touched upon the sensitive issue of lack of skills that education did not impart. Without skills, they have no hopes of better life. He ignited lights of hope in their hearts by pointing out the tremendous potential for them outside India as most aged countries have demanded for skilled young hands to operate their machines as their citizens are unable to perform the task due to advanced age.
He introduced social and health security for them through his innovative schemes of opening bank accounts to ensure accident insurance. Never before, any regime thought of unorganized sector for the social security coverage. In 18 months, he offered microscopic except words of allurement to invite foreign capital to the middle class that craved for more benefits having voted for him. In the end, most families realized that not only they had nothing was given but their existence in the economic institutions was becoming intolerable. Their easy access to powers that are was not only closed on the pretext of ridding corruption from the system, but it also allowed overcrowding of more sharers of benefits.
This was a strange phenomenon as the middle class was the traditional vote bank of the party he heads in the government. Yet he put them in a quandary from where they can not complain too much. His agenda, for the Lok Sabha election and also later on, did not gel with the conservative class living on firm belief of the cultural supremacy of the class for ages. Was he deliberately ignoring them to replace them as his vote bank was the question in several minds but none ready to publicly air. The traditional thinking in the party was caught up in two twists. His agenda has achieved a miracle of a clear majority for the party under him. It came after two unsuccessful efforts to win over the masses. The Dalit and the deprived stayed out of its ambit and the minorities never even attempted to come closer. Yet his agenda renders the old formula irrelevant.
The dilemma was reflected in the unseasonal eruption of incidents of communal tensions that ensured the defeat of his method in the Bihar battle. The educated young among the deprived and the Dalit may have looked up to him with new hope but were terrified of losing what they had gained so far by voting the upper class to power. NaMo suffered more from internal confusion than from his opponents on the other side. NaMo had to bid for time to get the courage to challenge his domestic detractors. Thus, the year 2016 became a decisive factor in his career.
His opponents may not accept that he has outsmarted them all. He laid the foundations for the end of the imperial domination of Indian affairs to pave a way for other classes to take over as was predicted by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia in 1966. If you cannot defeat them join them and lick them was the strategy apparent in his achievement.