4 years of Modi sarkar: Hits, misses and the road to 2019
The Narendra Modi government completes four years in office on May 26, Several promises such as a corruption-free regime, 10 million jobs a year and doubling farm incomes by 2022 were the promises made by the government.
This is a crucial year for the Modi government as it faces an important election in 2019. There would be lots of measures, promises and also course correction ahead of the general elections when it would try and retain power against a joint opposition.
The themes this year would be 48 months vs 48 years. With the tagline 48 months vs 48 years (Congress rule), the government would showcase its achievements and also speak about its clean track-record. The no-corruption track record would be a key area that the government would focus on during its fourth-anniversary celebrations.
Faster delivery of schemes and speedy development will also be the focus. The government would also stress on the number of jobs it has created to tackle the problem of unemployment in the past four years.
The government would showcase would its power programme. The government would highlight its achievement of providing electricity connections to all villages. Pushing road construction to 28 kilometers a day and free gas connection would also be showcased in the list of achievements.
A key area of focus for the Modi government would be agriculture as the farmer support is crucial to its election prospects. The ministry in focus would be the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. The BJP has roped in its Kisan Morcha members to further spread the word around about the work it has been doing for the farmer sector.
The BJP would say that it has ensured minimum losses to farmers apart from which it would highlight its budget allocation for fertilizer and urea. Another area that the government is expected to play up is the proposed investment of Rs 40,000 crore to revive the defunct fertilizer units in Gorakhpur, Sindri, Talcher, Ramagundam and Barauni.
GST: Despite being in the works for more than 10 years, the Modi government went ahead and introduced the GST in July 2017. The initial few months witnessed some turbulent times owing to implementation glitches, but at the end of it, GST altered the country's indirect tax regime for the better.
Foreign policy: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited 53 countries. Although his critics say that a big deal was made of these visits, Modi has managed to make significant strides with countries such as China and the resolution to the Doklam standoff is testimony to this. The problem that continues is Pakistan. The Pakistan Army and its generals are pushing for violence especially in the Kashmir area and despite all efforts by Modi, the policy on Pakistan has not been something to tom-tom about.
The Economic Offenders Bill: Under severe criticism for its handling of persons like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, the Modi government approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill. The Bill that came into force in April would apply with retrospective effect. he Bill states that the properties of those fleeing the country will be confiscated in cases involving more than Rs 100 crore. A draft of the Bill was circulated in May last year seeking comments from all stakeholders.
No corruption: There have been no serious charges of corruption against the Modi government. The UPA was embroiled in controversy with one scam after another hitting the headlines. The opposition has made several charges, but most of them have not stuck. Overall the Modi government has been free from charges of corruption.
What did not:
Demonetisation: This was meant to be a big decision aimed at curbing black money. This decision ended up sucking out 86 percent of the currency in circulation. It was also aimed at curbing the menace of fake currency. The results at the end of it were not a desired one. The unaccounted wealth which was to go out of the system came back with hoarders riding pillion on poor Indians who acted as mules and filled up their Jan Dhan accounts. The problem of fake currency too was not curbed as the seamsters found new ways to replicate the new currency.
Make in India: This was a much-touted programme by the Modi government. It was meant to boost local manufacturing and create new skills. According to a status report on Start Up India, only 74 startups had been identified to receive tax benefits as of January first week. India's trade deficit with China remains skewed in the latter's favour by a ratio of 4:1.
Bad loans: Bad debts now more than 9 trillion continue to haunt the government. Although this was an inherited problem, the Modi government bore the brunt of the same. The government had implemented a massive 2.11 trillion recapitalization plan last year to keep the public sector banks afloat, but it was overshadowed after the Punjab National Bank fraud involving Rs 13,000 crore broke out.
Agriculture: This is one of the key worries for the government. The focus this year would entirely on this sector. If one compares India's real GDP growth to expansion of its farm sector, the latter has consistently lagged the former since 2012. The 2018 pre-budget Economic Survey notes that on account of climate change, farm incomes could see a further 25% decline in the long term. The writing of this problem was on the wall when over 20,000 farmers converged on the streets of Mumbai demanding a complete farm loan waiver. The problem in this sector is rampant in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
The road ahead:
In the year ahead the Modi government would look to implement the Direct Tax Code which would introduce new tax slabs and cap the corporate tax at 25 percent. This would bring a big cheer to the middle class by reducing their actual tax outgo and also make corporate houses more competitive by reducing their tax liability. This would help the BJP reap rich benefits in 2019.
An urgent facelift in terms of infrastructure would also be on the cards. The first signs was when Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train. Despite the criticism, Modi aimed at underscoring that infrastructure needed a major facelift.
The 2018 Economic Survey says India faces a $526 billion infrastructure investment gap by 2040. In October last year, the government had said it planned to build 83,000 km of roads at a cost of Rs 7 trillion. Railways, power and ports are the other major infrastructure sectors where the government will invest to boost the economy.
The job sector is another worry for the Modi government. In almost all surveys that were conducted ahead of the recently concluded assembly elections, Jobs was a concern that many had raised. If it manages to set this right, it would prove to be a major trump card in 2019. In 2014 during the campaign, Modi said that he would create 10 million jobs a year, but ended up creating less than a million in the past four years. The 2018 budge was expected to announce a national employment policy, but it did not happen. This year the government may put in place such a policy to focus on the employment sector.