Prime Minister Narendra Modi has got down to work on his governance agenda for 2019-2024 term, immediately after getting re-elected to office. One of the main reasons for his stupendous victory in Lok Sabha 2019 election were the 21 crore odd “labharthis” or beneficiaries of central government schemes. The schemes that played a main part in this victory were Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (free LPG cooking gas connection), PM Awas Yojana (subsidy for building house in rural and urban areas) and Saubhagya Yojana (electrification of each willing household), Swach Bharat (sanitation coverage increased to 80% plus by building toilets) and MUDRA Yojana (micro loans to small businesses not covered under formal credit).
Many of the beneficiaries are women, OBC, Scheduled Castes and Tribes and minorities. In addition, the income tax relief for tax payers whose taxable income is up to 5 lakhs and 10% reservation for economically Weaker sections (among the general category) too helped in urban areas. The listlessness of the opposition too helped the BJP to romp home.
The BJP led by Narendra Modi has a chance to transform the country in the next five years and win a record third term in 2024. The five themes that could deliver victory in the Lok Sabha 2024 elections are as follows,
- Water Resource Management: Any development or issue related to water is going to be highlighted, in the coming five years. India is already facing the effects of climate change which is resulting in less rainfall in many areas. Parts of Central, Western and Southern India are facing severe drought. Temperatures across the country are rising with every passing year resulting in dry spells. Drinking water availability is indeed a big challenge in the coming years. Piped water to every household in the country by 2024 is a flagship promise of Modi government. A water resources ministry has been constituted under Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Lot of river linking projects are expected to kick off in these five years. Namami Gange project is expected to show a lot more progress and this program could get extended to other major rivers across the country. Expect a lot of developments on the topic of water in the next five years. Modi government and BJP led state governments are promising that the next generation will not face drought. If they fulfill their word to a large extent, this would be a mighty impressive achievement.
- Healthcare sector revolution: Modi government has started with good initiatives in the healthcare sector in the last few years with programs like Mission Indradhanush (increased vaccination cover for all kids), reduction in price of life saving drugs and prosthetic implants and the major launch of Ayushman Bharat scheme. The Ayushman Bharat scheme which assures five lakh rupees of hospitalization expenses per annum to approx 10 crore families, has been in operation for the last one year. About 25 lakh poor patients have availed cashless treatment in public and private hospitals empanelled with the scheme. The scheme is being praised across the world already and Modi had promised before the election that the scheme will be extended to more people. This scheme has the potential to rapidly reduce poverty across the country. This scheme would enable creation of public and private medical centers, especially in semi urban and rural areas. The government should focus on increasing the number of medical seats to meet the demand for qualified doctors and medical staff. This could be an important legacy of Narendra Modi.
- Job creation and credible jobs data: With the demographic dividend that India enjoys, creating jobs for citizens of workable age is an urgent requirement. With a changing economy the nature of jobs is also changing. Government jobs can no longer satisfy the requirement of generating enough new jobs. Private sector has to generate jobs in manufacturing and service sectors. The “Make in India” program has to show exponential growth in creating jobs. The attitude of Indians towards jobs have to be changed. Indians prefer a permanent post of peon in a government office earning 15,000 per month, over a Swiggy delivery guy job that pays 30,000 per month. Also it is a reality that micro loans like MUDRA cannot be a complete substitute to creating jobs. The jobs data provided by NSSO or CMIE in this country is incomplete. India needs a comprehensive jobs numbers that capture a lot more businesses, like the US Payroll numbers. Focus on faster formalization of economy is needed so that the jobs data can be accurate. Knowing the real extent of unemployment will help the government take focussed measures to tackle these issues.
- Completion of promises linked to 2022: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has linked a lot of his schemes/ promises to the year 2022, which marks the 75th year of independence. Completion of major infrastructure projects across the country and use of waterways for passenger and freight traffic etc are many of the projects linked to 2022. The bullet train route between Mumbai and Ahmedabad might not meet the target due to delay in land acquisition, but expect Modi to aggressively follow-up on the completion of such projects in his monthly review meetings. Major metro railway projects across various cities are slated to be functional by 2022. This will create a transport revolution in major cities across the country. Doubling of farmer income by 2022 is a major promise made by the Modi government. While some steps have been taken to help farmers improve productivity and get fair price, a lot needs to be done in this regard. As Modi does not believe in shortcuts like increasing Minimum Support Price (MSP) of crops every year, the objective would have to be achieved by doing the hard yards. Providing better irrigation facilities and educating farmers on use of cash crops/ increasing productivity would help achieve these objectives.
- Better tax administration: The smooth introduction of GST and broadening of tax base have been the major achievements of Modi 1.0 government. Though the economy has currently hit a rough patch due to local as well as global issues. The government has a good chance to reduce with the direct and indirect tax rates at the start of their tenure. This could help kick off the consumption due to extra disposable income in the hands of tax payers. GST collections have topped 1 lakh crore consecutively for two months. This provides comfort to the government to reduce the GST slabs for many items. Also the government has promised to exempt taxable income up to 5 lakhs per annum. Moderate tax rates can fuel a consumption boom in India. Modi govt should keep a very ambitious target for direct and indirect tax (GST) collection.
Good results in these five broad areas could further help Narendra Modi further expand the neo middle class that he is attempting to create. The growth of this neo middle class holds the promise to fasten India’s movement towards a developed nation.