The Modi years


The book is a comprehensive audit of the Narendra Modi regime’s five-year tenure and reveals an all-round failure that is unprecedented in scope and extent.

The electoral victory that propelled Narendra Modi to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014 rested on the innocent-sounding promise of Sabka saath, sabka vikas (with everyone, development for all) that obviously struck a chord with a large section of the people. Five years later, as Modi faces the electorate again, that slogan is strikingly missing from the campaign caravan, a measure of how embarrassing it is for the ruling party to mouth a slogan that now draws attention to its gross multifaceted failures.

The simple truth is that no government in independent India has failed as spectacularly as Modi’s. In part, this arises from measuring performance against promise: the taller the promise, the more spectacular the chances of failure. Modi promised the moon and has not delivered even a morsel. Worse, in a desperate attempt to block access to details or verification of the actual economic performance of his regime, it has concealed a range of data that were always available to Indians on a regular basis or bent them to present itself in a better light.

This book has been perfectly timed. It comes just as Indians prepare to vote in an election that is widely seen as a referendum on the performance of the Modi regime. The very fact that the Sabka saath, sabka vikas slogan is being upstaged by the tale of Modi’s stature as a muscular leader in his current electoral campaign is an admission that the vikas plank has slipped from under his feet.

Edited by a group of young scholars, this book is a compendium of essays on various aspects of the Modi government’s performance. The essays are assembled in three sections: the economy, the performance in terms of a set of socio-economic indicators and governance. The hallmark of each essay is the data, meticulously assembled in tables and charts, which reveal a level of attention to detail at a time when access to data on a range of subjects has been wilfully strangled by the Indian state.

Missing data

One of the most notable features of the book is the remarkable effort the authors made to get around the problem of missing or insufficient data and the imaginative use of proxy data to overcome the problem. Interestingly, the chapters and sections are provocatively titled, generally deriding the tall promises made with apt pointers to the reality of actual performance. Clearly, this is for a popular audience.

The opening chapter in the volume, for instance, takes a slingshot at the Sabka saath, sabka vikas slogan and argues that the Modi regime remained neither “with the people” nor did it promote meaningful vikas. Instead, Rohit Azad, despite being hampered by dodgy gross domestic product numbers, points out that economic growth was better during the first tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime. More importantly, from a social justice perspective, he argues that the gains from economic growth appear to have been more broad-based and equitable, especially during the tenure of the second UPA regime.

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