By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, September 2, 2017: In 2014, with the background of a scandal dominated political economy in the country with growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slowing down, high inflation and falling value of rupee in an environment of listless deficit governance, the new government comprising political parties with rightist proclivity and fundamentalist religious ideology came to power with a promise of future era of “good days”.

The new government assured employment opportunity for the young people described as “demographic dividend”, freeing the nation of corruption with return of black money stashed away in foreign banks by crediting of Rs 15 lakh in the individual account, bringing tough handling at the borders and extirpating terrorism.

Although popular verdict was described by media as almost land slide, within less than a year, voters in Delhi gave a different message by electing a young party led an equally young man who had earlier cut short his surprise mandate within less than two months of remaining in power.

This election not only wiped out the grand old party, once led by Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Azad, who claimed for decades that it had delivered to the people of India independence from foreign imperial and colonial rule and hence enjoyed legitimacy to power, it also brought ignoble shame to the newly elected regime at the centre also vanquishing their party under its very nose.

Again within less than two years in Bihar with a newly created grand coalition of parties including generally discredited party of Bihar whose strongman has been disqualified to contest an election although the party ruled the beleaguered State for a long period, and the grand old party, also generally accused of hereditary leadership as if it is unique to it, re-established that their joint endeavour and strength can keep the newly emerging rightist forces and non-secular outfits at bay although it was associated with party of the government in power led by some one having ambition of national level leadership.

Again, after a year or so despite Chit Fund scandals and highly publicised investigations by central agencies, the election went in favour of the ruling regional party in West Bengal led by the lady who had in the past served as a member of the cabinet of the same group of political parties when they were in power in New Delhi in their previous incarnation.

Interestingly, in south communists and leftists had their usual sway in Kerala as the people there were unruffled by what happened elsewhere. The most surprising alliance was a joint venture between the party ruling at the centre and the local indigenous political party in J&K.

Pundits and analysts were simply befuddled when result swung in favour of the ruling regime at the centre in the recent election in UP after an expected victory in Assam a year earlier. The ruling party managed to retain power in Goa and took over Manipur although many questioned the means adopted. Of course, everything is fair in love and war, and some may now say, also in politics.

The sensitive border State, Arunachal Pradesh changed its leadership many times within the same sort of people even changing party affiliation lock stock and barrel within which period an ex-Chief Minister committed suicide and a Governor unceremoniously removed following judicial verdict setting aside central rule based on his recommendations. Meanwhile, the ruling party at the centre, BJP swept assembly polls in Haryana and Uttarakhand. Amidst all these happenings despite now prevailing “wave theory”, Punjab perhaps proved the doctrine of “anti-incumbency”.

Ironically, there was reversal of relationship among the parties in coalition in Bihar. The supremo of the ruling regime decided to align his party with ruling regime in centre for the election of the President and soon after this development, his government in the State has partnered the party in power in the centre.

With arrival of newly elected government in the centre, came the programmes, campaigns, clarion calls and exhortations described by various names and abbreviations. Make in India, Swatchha Bharat, Digital India, Start Up India and Stand Up India, Jan Dhan, Mudra and NITI Ayog and Smart Cities are manifestations of the new dispensation although some of them could be called as “old wine in new bottle” by unfavourable critics.

Besides, there were apex level visits to as many as 60 countries from South to North America, from Europe to Australia, from Africa to Middle East and from Asia to Pacific island either under “look east policy”, in the name of “blue economy” or under BRICS umbrella, or under G-20 banner, or to lure the non-resident Indians for investment in their home land of their parents and grand parents with untrammelled speeches having magical effect on the enthralled audience, or to establish contacts with the Indians faraway in the Pacific or Indian Oceans long forgotten in the mainland.

Tirade against black money and corruption began by requiring people to voluntarily disclose their ill-gotten money apart from usual searches, seizures and investigations, arrests and detentions some leading to disruption of marriage ceremonies and suicides of the whole family, and ultimately these cavalcades culminated in demonetization of currency of high denominations while introducing even higher denomination currency. How much money came back to the banks is still opaque and whether more money came in is a speculation.

Hawkish electronic media showed long ques in cities, towns and even semi-urban centres. Whether it was a “short-term pain for a long-term gain” or not, only future will tell. Although economists including a Nobel laureate predicted deceleration of economy their y were peremptorily dismissed.
“Hard work prevailed against Harvard”, it was stated. It seems now RBI, the country’s central bank and SBI, the nation’s principal public sector bank and the country’s statistician have great apprehensions about the country’s rate of projected economic growth, although they were conspicuous by their silence following late night decision based on “hard work” for the so-called “long-term gain” and elimination of parallel economy and stamping out terrorism.

Whether this historic decision was also intended to stop terrorism and not to paralyse the money power of the political rivals as some critics alleged, and whether it really served the purpose, future only will say. Nevertheless, one does not find any conspicuous waning of terrorist activities either in the ill-fated Kashmir bedevilled by more than quarter century of cross-border terrorism or in the interior Chhatishgarh where scores of hapless security personnel were decimated.

Hoarding of even higher denomination currencies have been recently detected belying the paean of success of demonetization. About elimination of corruption, common man or businessman can only aver. That there is no high-level corruption as some commentators claim, the future will say as in the previous regime during the first term no skeleton had come out of the cupboard.

Exchange of fire across the so-called ceasefire line goes unabated taking lives of valiant soldiers of the country and innocent citizens of local area notwithstanding much publicized “surgical strike” after a surprise flight of fancy to the heart of the “enemy territory” hailed as “historic”.

From the promise of bullet train made over the swings of reverie, almost as a birthday gift, there was possibility of exchange of bullets across the mountains until recently thanks to the latest news. The “comrade” of decades proposes to sell arms to the enemy and arranges military exercise with the enemy not far from the borders. The only super power that sent seventh fleet to save dismemberment of our enemy some 45 years ago agrees now to sell military hardware at an unknown cost and there was no global bidding for it. The maverick leading the super power blows some time hot and sometime cold at us and at our enemy even if we rush to embrace it. So much to the glory of diplomacy.

Hirakund Express derailment

Railways have seen repeated fatal accidents although there is talk of high speed train coming from the nation of rising sun at what cost is unknown.Claim that efficiency in management is improving with WIFI and Google havenot impressed many as in the earlier dispensation an erstwhile Minister, now much maligned, was hailed as a great manager, and to such an extent that Harvard was supposed to have invited him to give lectures at the management school.

Non-performing assets of banks have crippled the economy with no sign of any domestic investment of high order from “crony” capitalists who are constantly looking for ratecuts, more of tax incentives and amendment to land acquisition law with no concern for social or national responsibility although there are plethora of summit level praises of policies, programmes, and prophecies in all conferences, conventions, conclaves, meetings and roundtables.

Make in India is as elusive as Start Up India. Stand Up India is yet to take-off and Digital India despite its best intention is confronted with massive fraudulence affecting the accounts of ordinary people being a global scourge, and how vibrant or feckless is Jan Dhan is known by bankers’ revelations that they pay money from their pockets to keep the accounts current. For people, fortunately the inflation is not high thanks to low international oil price caused by abundance of shale oil in the global market.

Spectres of scandals are haunting the bureaucracy in India with mandarins unsure of what would be forthcoming if they give advice or take decision. Can the top leader at the apex level take all decisions on all the crucial matters however charismatic, iconic, optimistic, committed, dedicated, dynamic, hardworking and honest one may be, even if there are well-meaning advisors in the autarkic cabal?

Theatrical speeches from pulpits will carry the day. Gullible people may deliver their ballots but programmes will not deliver result. No wonder there are no jobs, more so under the avowed policy of “minimum government and maximum governance”.

How smart will be cities will depend upon flow of funds. With fiscal deficit, falling export, sickness among banks and unlikelihood of international financing with global economy in stagnation smart cities will perhaps remain a dream and unsmart cities will grow.

In this background law and order is such that murders, gang rape, molestation of women including in the premises of keepers of peace catch the headlines of media daily. The result of slogan “Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao” an excellent endeavour like Swatchha Bharat will be known only after the next census although meanwhile the media reports show no respect, no security, and no safety for women in work place, public transport and homes and even young girls are subjected to inhuman and barbaric treatment.

What food one would take is decided by street hoodlums masquerading as protectors of holy cow. The profession of people doing certain business for generations perhaps over several millennia is subject to the vagaries of moods of these self-styled vigilante group. Certain caste or community of people are under constant shadow of fear of death. When a so-called Guru is convicted of rape there are riots in support of the convict resulting in heavy losses of human lives while the administration looks other way. Condemnation to this kind of anarchy comes from the throne never on time but when it is out of control with possible backlash on the image of the ruler.

How clean is India one should ask the tourists coming from abroad and how clean is the holy Ganga one should ask the pilgrims.Meanwhile, a highly respected Governor of RBI, an Attorney General of choice and Vice-Chairman of NITI Ayog specially brought from foreign academia decided to quit.

Is it the “promised land” which “Moses” of India showed to the people? Have the happy days come, and will Ache Din ever come? Such is the bricolage of politics of the country, viewing from political kaleidoscope one wonders, does it really make any difference as to who comes to power and remains in power for how long?