With the electoral interim budget, the bugle has been blown for the Lok Sabha 2019 campaign. Though a budget cannot win over or convert all voters to your side, a feel good budget was needed to start the campaign on the right note. While the interim budget tackled the key constituency of small and marginal farmers, unorganised labour earning less than 15,000 per month and lower middle class and youth tax payers, this interim budget was just the icing on the cake. Modi government is not fighting the 2019 elections on just the budgetory announcements.
Here are the fifteen reasons why Modi deserves a second term,
- Brought the economy back from the precipice: The Indian economy was considered as one among the fragile five back in May 2014. The UPA II government had been an unmitigated disaster with every concerned party looting like there was no tomorrow. They knew that they were not coming back. Modi ran the campaign asking to be prime minister unlike Indian politicians who won’t reveal that they wanted the coveted post. Growth rate was falling, inflation especially food inflation was rising rampantly. Cut to five years later, the economy is doing well despite global slowdown. In fact India has been the fastest growing major economy in the last two years overtaking China. Inflation is just above 2% and growth is projected at around 7.2%. There were a lot of things done by Modi that caused this turnaround. Many of the points are covered below.
- Resusticating the banking system: The banking system was wrecked by UPA II government through their phone a friend facility. Promoters of companies got loans like never before. They built up capacities for which demand was never going to match 5-10 years later. In fact the money was so cheaply available from the banks that many businessmen took loans to build non-core businesses. The bad loans were ever-greened to avoid them coming up as Non Performing Assets (NPAs) in the bank books. Banks suffered due to mounting NPAs and their capacity to lend was severely hampered. Small businesses found that the credit tap was had died up. It was from here that the Modi government along with the RBI forced audit of the bank loans and the staggering amount of Bank NPAs came out of the closet.
Banks has to write these bad loans off which was kind of letting the poison out of the body. Many scams like the PNB scam came to light because of this review. The Indian Bankruptcy Code (IBC) was legislated and the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) was tasked to handle the bad loans issue. Major loans accounts were handed to the NCLT and many of these cases have been solved or on the verge of resolution. But recovery of bad loans (in some cases with minimum or no hair cuts) is not the true benefit of IBC. The actual benefit is that the promoters are worried that if they don’t pay back the loan on time, they would lose their business in the ensuing insolvency proceedings. Promotors are pleading to the banks to not refer their case to NCLT and payment of loans has picked up. Moot point is that bad loan recovery has been institutionalised by the Modi govt and the RBI in the form of IBC.
- Cleaning up process of allocation of resources: UPA goverment lost their credibility due to the massive corruption in the auction of national resources like coal mines, 2G spectrum and 3G spectrum etc. Coal mines were distributed like chocolates to small kids. Similarly 2G spectrum was given to companies like Unitech and Balwas etc which were not even in the business of telecommunication. Supreme court threw the challenge to the Modi government immediately by cancelling the allocation of coal mines. The challenge was converted to opportunity by Modi government by re-auctioning the coal mines througha trandsparent auction process. Similar auction process was used for telecom spectrum as well.
- Bridging governance deficit of several decades: Modi government had to cover several gaps in governance in mundane areas like providing sanitation coverage which was just 45% in 2014. Modi was probably the first prime minister who spoke about toilets. Swach Bharat andolan first targeted this lack of toilets which provided better health, security and dignity to people especially women. Modi government electrified the 17,000 unelectrified villages and Saubhagya yojana is on track to electrify almost all the willing unelectrified houses in India. Jan Dhan scheme corrected the omission of poor citizens from the bankign system. The PSU banks which were complaining about unprofitable zero balance accounts have realised the benefits from these. Bank accounts enabled providing health and accident insurance, creating of credit history necessary for getting bank credit. PM Awas yojana has helped build 1.5 crore houses for the poor and is marching towards fulfilling the assurance of shelter for all by 2020. PM Ujjwala Yojana has helped 6 crore poor households get gas cylinders for smoke free cooking. This was a major revolution towards empowering women and the scheme will fulfill it’s target of 8 crore gas connections in the next two years.
- Health for all: Modi government has unleashed a revolution in healthcare. Government took several steps like opening approx 3600+ Jan Aushadi stores across the country that provide cheaper generic medicine or lowering the cost of coronary stents and knee implants by upto 70%, to make them affordable for the common man (and woman). Mission Indradhanush that involved giving vaccination for deadly diseases liek Rubella, Japanese Encephalitis (the disease the wrecked Gorakhpur but now brought largely under control), Rotavirus etc. to children under the age of two years as well as pregnant women. However, the most far reaching reform has been Ayushman Bharat scheme that provides free medical care upto 5 lakhs on an yearly basis to ten crore poor families viz. approx 40 crore poorest citizens of the country as per the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC). This scheme covered routine procedures like cataract and ceasarean section to complex procedure like heart by-pass suregery or cancer treatment. In the first 135 days of the scheme, more than 10 lakh patients have benefitted from free treatment. This scheme could be a benchmark for world governments with World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and philantrophist billionaire Bill Gates have praised the scheme. Ayushman Bharat will also augment capacity in the private medical facilities as approx 60% patients have availed the facilities in private hospitals.
- Road and railway infrastructure augmented: This is one area where not much needs to be written about. The efforts of Nitin Gadkari as surface transport minsiter has got the pace of highway construction from 2 km/day to 27 km/day. Many of the marquee highway projects have been completed in the last two years. Village road network has been augmented like never before. One of the key success of Gadkari has been able to raise resources from outside the budget allocation. All pending highway projects were financially resolved or terminated after review. Innovation like Hybrid annuity model helped financially close a lot of projects.Railways has seen a huge leap under Mr. Suresh Prabhu earlier and followed by Mr. Piyush Goyal. Many North East states came on the railway map for the first time due to efforts of the Modi government. Railway electrification has been quickened and bottlenecks in railway network like at Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction (formerly Mughalsarai) have been resolved. Semi High Speed trains like the “Made in India” Train 18 are sure to revolutionize railway travel. Bullet train route planned between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will add another feather in the cap of Indian railways. Cleaniness of stations and facilities to call for cleaning coach from a running train have made railways a bit user friendly.
- Internal Security and hard pursuit of terrorists: It has been nearly four and half years of no bomb blasts or terrorist attacks in any major cities outside J&K and Punjab. This success can be attributed to Shri Rajnath Singh and Mr. Kiren Rijiju. Given the five blasts per year history of UPA in almost all states of India, this is a welcome change. Intelligence apparatus has been improved a lot. NSA Ajit Doval has played a huge role behind the scenes. Also there has been hard pursuit of terrorists in J&K, elimination of naxals in the red corridor (which has shrunk dramatically). The government has given a free hand to the army to eliminate terrorists. The commander post of terrorist posts like Hizbul Mujahiddin and Lashkar have seen the incumbent last a few days or a month at best before being eliminated. Th highlight undoubtedly has been the surgical strike in PoK and Myanmar. India had earlier done local strikes with a kilometer of enemy territory. But the surgical strike after Uri and the one in Myanmar was done far deeper in enemy territory and with devastating effect. While the Indian army always had the capability to strike in the enemy territory, but the Modi government allowed them to plan and strike as they deemed fit.
- Common citizen files high with UDAN: Aviation was always considered as a mode of travel for the rich or a sector plagued by severl scams in the UPA years. NDA government has been able to create an explosion in traffic to small cities via the Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme. It connected approx 100 under utilised airports via short 1 hour flights. Half the tickets on each flight are subsidised under UDAN at Rs. 2,500 for a flight duration no longer than 1 hour. This is helping grow business in small towns or improve tourist footfalls in locations like Hampi or temple towns like Shirdi. Government has been able to steer clear of any scams and has not gone out of it’s way to protect private airlines like UPA.
- Augmenting tax to GDP ratio and low inflation: UPA II regime towards it’s end game had 11% inflation and 4% growth. Modi government worked to heal the economy first and then make it stronger. The current growth rate is 7.2% and inflation is just above 2% (within the 4% tolerance level given to the RBI Monetary Policy Committee. Steps like the much maligned demonetization and GST have helped take direct income tax collection from 6.38 lakh crore (FY 2013-14) to 12 lakh crore (FY 2018-19). New indirect tax regime in form of GST is successfully stabilising and the monthly average collection is improving to 95,000 crore and is expected to strengthen further. India has the best tax to GDP of it’s history ever. Less inflation means more savings for the household. The interim budget sweetner helped 80% personal income tax payers earning upto 7-8 lakh per annum to pay zero income tax.
- 10% reservation for Economically Weaker sections: Providing 10% economic reservation in educational institutions and government jobs to the economically weaker families among the Hindu upper castes and unreserved people of other religion is a step in the right direction. This was done without touching the 50% reservation for SC/ST and OBC communities. The real deal is the reservation in government and private educational institutions will help poor children among the unreserved communities. Getting into college of choice will help make themselves eligible for government or lucrative private sector jobs. I had suggested a 20% quota on economically weaker criteria with sub category wrt population. Govt has given 10% quota but has done a good start.
- Rise of the renewables: Modi government has been relentless in it’s pursuit to achieve 225 GW of renewable energy by 2022. In fact the target was revised upwards from the intital 175 GW, as government has nearly achieved 75 GW renewable energy with additional 40 GW capacity in various stages of completion. Bulk of this is from solar energy followed by wind energy. Modi led the world at the Paris accord and along with France started the International Solar alliance. This leadership on containing climate change has been applauded by many experts and governments. With India targetting to migrate totally to electric vehicles by 2030, renewable energy is at the heart of this change. After all there is no use of driving an electric non polluting vehicle, if the electricity that powers it is generated from a highly polluting coal fired power plant. Initial steps like huge procurement of electric cars by government departments and planning on electric charging capacity have already started. Already the impact of electrical scooties is beginning to be visible on the ground.
- Clean rivers and cities: Modi government had started the Namami Gange plan with much fanfare and from the current news reports it seems the efforts are bearing fruits. Most of the polluting businesses have been made to start treatment of waste before discharge in the Ganga. City sewage is being increasingly routed to the sewage treatment plants instead of dumping it directly in the river. Zero sewage discharge in Ganga in Varanasi is planned from Nov 2018.
- MUDRA gives wings to entreprenuers: In a country where the debate has been over jobs or the lack of it, MUDRA scheme has been a revelation. There have been around 12 crore beneficiaries mostly poor people who took loans from 50,000 to 10 lakh. Many of these beneficiaries were earlier forced to take money from private moneylenders who would fleece them. The success of MUDRA scheme has been the inclusion of Microfinance institutions (MFI) who have been efficient than banks in lending under MUDRA. This is giving rise to a neo middle class through a revolution whose effects would be visible after 5-10 years.
- Space program firing on all cylinders: Modi government has enhanced support to the space program with the Gaganyaan plananing to send an Indian on the moon by 2021. Government has approved 10,000 crore as the budget for this manned mission. ISRO has had a good run under the Modi government with a plethora of satellites launched including those for foreign countries. The unmanned missions to the moon and Mars have been very successful and have whetted ISRO’s appetite for more.
- Muscular foreign policy: India’s foreign policy has been a stark improvement from the UPA years. Modi through his foreign travels (much criticised but proven to be successful), Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, General VK Singh and Mr. MJ Akbar (before demitting office) have done stellar work. India’s soft power has mnaifested through International Yoga Day, helping foreign governments (including US) to evacuate citizens from the Middle East or providng aid, infrastructure to war torn countries like Afghanistan. The Chabahar port and planned connectivity to Afghanistan through the port has demolished the string of pearls that China was planning to build around India. The extradition of economic offenders like Christian Michel, Rajiv Saxena and Deepak Talwar have been extradited from the UAE. Very soon Vijay Mallya would join the infamous list as his extradition has been formally signed by the UK Home Secretary. This has been possible due to the exemplary diplomacy by Modi government. Imagine US, Russia, Syria, UAE, Saudi, Egypt and Israel who are antagonistic with each other, are all friendly with India. India has finally started punching above it’s weight as indicated by Saudi oil minister.
In concusion while there have been certain misses by the Modi government like on education, smart cities etc., but the hits more than out number such failures. Larger point is that Modi has proved his intent (niyat) to run a clean and proactive government. With many of Modi’s schemes planned to culminate by August 2022 (75 th year of independence), I would strongly urge giving another term to Modi. Modi government has earned my vote in Lok Sabha 2019 for sure.