A Year of Headlines & Speeches

By Cleofato A Coutinho
08 May 2015 11:56 IST

In a few days from now, the central government shall complete a year in office. The mandate is for five years, but one year is certainly good time to take stock of the direction in which the government is heading and whether it can fulfill the promises. After building up huge expectations of the country, in the area of good governance, accountability, good economics and bringing back illegal money stacked aboard the central government resembles a poor mirror image of the previous government. It has precious little to show in any of the areas. The government has only attempted to wipe out the stamp of Nehru from the national psyche while appropriating national leaders like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and reducing Mahatma Gandhi to a cleanliness icon.

The buildup of  Narendra Modi to the centre stage from a regional platform was possible due to support of eminent persons like Arun Shourie  and Ram Jethmalani, both performing ministers in the Vaijpayee cabinet and known for their razor  sharp intellect who minced no words in calling ‘a spade a spade’. Both are highly critical of the way the government has functioned particularly on the economic front and black money issues closes to their hearts.

The passing of the controversial National Judicial Appointment Commission, insurance, mining and the coal bills is only silver lining in lack luster functioning. The greater devolution of money to the states would certainly empower the states giving greater flexibility of utilizing the resources and enhancing efficiency. Devolution of more resources to the states is certainly welcome. The economic survey presented at the budget time this year shows inflation having come down, foreign portfolio having stabilized and economy growing with the crude oil prices having declined more than 50% since the new government took over in May 2015. The oil price fell from 110 dollars per barrel to around 57 dollars per barrel. (The common man however did not get the benefit due to hike in excise duties on petrol and diesel)  The declining of the oil prices has been a boon to the government as oil import bill has drastically come down and the pressure to provide subsidies to the oil companies has been reduced with the oil companies mopping up thousands of crores of additional revenues. But, look at the performance of the government. It appears the government has not been able to build up on these lucky breaks.  As the government announces various projects in their endeavour of show casing their results Arun Shourie puts the same to be management of headlines rather than putting polices in place.   But how can policies in place in case when the government is unsure of what its what to achieve, While attempting to portray a different picture?

What the government promised is Amartya Sen’s social security and Jagdish Bhagwati’s growth. They promised the moon and now that is said what they said is election time Jumla.  Which way the government is taking us can be noticed from the reduction in corporate taxes from 30% to 25% which benefit (to the tune of eight thousands crores) shall be available to selected constituencies like yoga gurus, off shore fund managers shall benefit to the extent of (About Rs. 8, 00, 00,000 crores)   while mopping up additional revenues of Rs. 23,000/- crores through increased indirect taxes which burden will certainly be on the common man.

There can be no two opinions that the present government politically ‘right’ approach cannot function without being complemented by foreign investment and as Arun Shourie puts it ‘the investors require stability and credibility’. Economics, politics and society are not mutually exclusive. If investments has to grow social and political climate has to be conducive. On the social front the second line leaders are selling late by playing the polarizing game through issues like ‘ghar wapasi’, ‘love jihad’, ‘beef ban’ and attack on religious institutions of minorities with monumental silence from the first line leadership who have tasted the fruits of a polarized polity.

With manufacturing sector failing to take off, investors and farmers in distress, the government is busy manipulating constitution in its endeavour to show a pro industry image as though land acquisition has been the only alibi for its one year of non performance. The Prime Minister’s Jan Dan Yojana and Swaach Bharat Abhiyan provided the headlines at the time the schemes were launched. They have remained on the paper they are printed on. In the critical areas of governance there are number of disturbing areas that need a mention. The promulgation of ordinance and closing the Rajya Sabha session only to repromulgate the ordinance is a clear manipulation of a constitutional provision. Lecturing the Supreme Court judges over five star activist getting reliefs is a clear case of threatening the judges. The government came to power by harvesting the civil society’s movement on accountability has done very little in providing to the country the much hyped accountability mechanism called the ‘Lokayukta’.  The nongovernmental organizations like green peace foundation and hundreds of such organizations which have been working a ground level in opposing the government on various issues are facing closure of their activities  with enforcement directorate and other departments unleashing a reign of terror.

But the performance of the prime minister has been excellent. If 15th August address from the ramparts of Red Fort caught the imagination of the people, the monogrammed suit while standing by the side of president Obama on 26th January showed the other side of our Prime Minister. The prime minister’s performance at Madision square garden in New York, Allphones arena in Sidney and recently in Toronto Canada has provided the country and the NRI community with a diet of speeches-not heard of since the days of Indira Gandhi. How long can the country survive on such diet?


Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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