The country’s mood from despair has transformed into hope and aspirations. Good governance and good economics have been blended with good politics. The result of this has been that the BJP is more confident, its geographical base has become much bigger, its social base has expanded and its winnability has hugely increased, states Arun Jaitley, in this opinion piece, for Different Truths.
The NDA Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completed four years in office. Today it enters its fifth year in office. The preceding ten years of the UPA rule had unquestionably witnessed the most corrupt Government since Independence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi created transparent systems through legislative and institutional changes which have given this country a scam-free governance. Unlike the UPA, the Prime Minister is the natural leader of both his party and the nation. We have witnessed a journey from indecisiveness to clarity and decisiveness. India has transformed from being a part of the “fragile five” to the “bright spot” on the global economic scene. A regime of policy paralysis has been transformed into one of decisions and actions. India, which was on the verge of becoming a “basket case” has today been transformed into the fastest growing major economy in the world and is likely to hold that position in the years to come.
The country’s mood from despair has transformed into hope and aspirations. Good governance and good economics have been blended with good politics. The result of this has been that the BJP is more confident, its geographical base has become much bigger, its social base has expanded and its winnability has hugely increased. The Congress is in desperation without the perks of office. From the dominant party of Indian politics, it is moving towards the “fringe”, its political positions are not of a mainstream party but one usually adopted by “fringe” organisations.
Prime Minister Modi has institutionalised a system where discretions have been eliminated. Discretions lead to abuse of power because they can be misused. Allocations of contracts, natural resources, spectrum and other Government largesse which were being distributed through discretions, are now allocated through a market mechanism. Laws have been changed. Leaders of the industry are no longer seen repeatedly visiting the South Block, the North Block or the Udyog Bhawan. Environmental clearance files don’t pile up. FIPB has been abolished.
For cleaning up the economy, India has to transform from a tax non-compliant society to a tax-compliant society. The enactment and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, the impact of demonetisation, effective tax compliance are all steps against black money, steps which are formalising the Indian economy. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has changed the lender-creditor relationship. The creditors no longer have to chase the debtors. If you cannot pay your creditors, you have to exit through a statutory mechanism.
For the first time in history, the poor and the marginalised are holding bank accounts as part of the world’s largest financial inclusion programme. The MUDRA Yojana has made cheaper credit available to the weak and the marginalised. The biggest beneficiaries of this have been women, SC/ST, minorities and other weaker sections. Rural roads with a hugely increased expenditure are a success story. That every village must be connected with road and electricity, affordable rural housing, toilets and gas connections in all homes, are intended to change the quality of life in villages.
During the UPA Government, India had fallen off the global radar. In its initial years when the world economy was booming, India grew on the strength of global tailwinds. When the global situation became challenging, the UPA’s decisiveness and performance collapsed. The last two years of the UPA had witnessed substantially lower growth rates. From the very first year of NDA, India is the world’s fastest-growing major economy with the highest GDP growth rates. This is also the global projection for the next few years.
During the NDA years, Revised Estimates of expenditure were always been higher than Budget Estimates. The UPA provided India in its last years an inflation figure up to 9 percent and at one stage even crossed into double digits. The NDA has tried to contain inflation and on most occasions has remained within the target of 3 to 4 percent. The poor economic management of the UPA resulted in the high cost of borrowing for the Centre and the State Governments. The bond yields had touched an incredible 9.12 percent in April 2014. We have been, on an average, able to contain it between 6 to 7 percent with a low of 6.3 percent on one occasion and rarely in the 7 percent range only when global factors impacted either the currency or the crude prices.
From the last year of the UPA, the infrastructure expenditure to this year has increased by 134 percent during the current year. The Congress President must remember that taxes don’t go into the pocket of the Government. They go back to the people for better infrastructure, better social sector expenditure and poverty reduction programmes. The social sector expenditure has seen a substantial increase by both the Central and the State Governments. The road sector programmes have witnessed a 189 percent increase between the last year of the UPA and the current year of the present Government. Resources are transferred to the States with 42 percent devolution of taxes, Finance Commission grants, and assistance through the CSS schemes. Notwithstanding the perpetual grumbling, last year of the UPA witnessed Rs.5,15,302/- being transferred to the States. This year the proposed transfer is 145 percent higher and will be at 12,62,935/- crores. This is over and above what the States earn from the GST where they have been constitutionally protected with a 14 percent annual increase. The States independently levy their own taxes. Institutional changes thus being enacted and implemented are putting the Indian economy on a far stronger wicket.
As we enter the fifth year of the Government, the NDA’s priorities are clear. This will be our year of consolidation of the policies and programmes which we have implemented. In our Prime Minister, we have a strong leader with a mass appeal. His capacity to change India’s destiny is globally recognised. His insistence on integrity, his infatigable capacity to work, his clarity of policy and direction, his boldness in taking steps in larger national interest gives the NDA a natural political advantage. Clarity and credibility are hallmarks of the NDA Government.
To rule a large country like India through coalitions is possible but the nucleus of a coalition has to be stable. It must have a large size, an ideologically defined position and a vested interest in honest governance. A federal front is a failed idea. It was experimented under Charan Singh, Chandrasekhar and by the United Front Government between 1996 and 1998. Such a front with its contradictions, sooner or later, loses its balance and equilibrium. Remembering 1996-98 as perhaps one of the worst period of governance, the aspirational India which today occupies the high table in the world shall never accept an idea which has repeatedly failed.
History teaches us this lesson. Aspirational societies with vibrant democracies do not invite anarchy. A strong nation and the requirements of good governance abhor anarchy. The political agenda for the debate this year appropriately will be Prime Minister “Modi versus an anarchist combination”. The 2014 election conclusively established that in the New India chemistry will score over arithmetic when it comes to deciding the country’s destiny.
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