The time for campaigning is over. The elections have been won last year. The government needs to now plan implementation of its economic agenda – and build confidence to get the country to the growth it deserves.
There is a certain hubris that drives the government. The hubris borne out of the belief that they – and they alone - know the best. And, this knowledge is derived from the belief that they are the best positioned to save the country – spiritually, morally, and economically because their ideological moorings are the strongest. Furthermore, their unshaken belief that everyone else has nefarious interests designed to drive India to her knees, makes the BJP ruling layer incredibly thin skinned when it comes to jumping to the defence of their actions. And, of course since their actions are aimed at protecting the nation, any criticism can only be sedition, or an attack on ‘us’.
The problem with this kind of unshakeable self-belief fuelled sanctimoniousness is that while it appeals to the core audience, it is kind of sounds discordant and acrimonious to most others. For example, the pronouncement of CM Adityanath that chanting Azaadi would be considered sedition is not just ludicrous in light of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, but also the best way of propelling youngsters to shout more ‘azaadi’ chants. Or the constant jibes of Amit Shah on the ‘tukde tukde’ gang, which a RTI to his own department revealed does not exist. While all this may seem like everyday political jousting, and part of the 5-year election campaigning that seems to pervade our system – this kind of knee-jerk, wounded, ‘we-know-best’ response falls flat when it comes to dealing with the economy.
Recently, Jeff Bezos visited India to announce a $1 billion investment. Washington Post, owned by Bezos, has been critical about the government. In various op-ed’s and articles, the Post has been critical of most aspects of governance – from law and order breakdown and lynching, to demonetisation and the handling of the economy. The government’s response to one of the world’s largest investors was an icy cold shoulder. No one senior in the government met the head of Amazon, to entice him into even larger investments and commitments to India. To compound the matter were the comments by Piyush Goyal, who said that the investment was
“no big favour”. And, while people like Bezos invest in India because of her great market potential, and it is not a favour, the minister should have known better than seem to be unwelcoming of foreign investment. While Goyal later withdrew the remark, you really cannot unsay things.
It is this kind of pugilistic arrogance that seems to suggest that the government is not willing to talk, not just with protestors on the streets, but also with international funders, investors, and banks. The chant of “all is well” followed by the chorus of “we are on the path to become a $5 trillion economy” might satisfy the devout, but it is not going to cut any ice with hardnosed bankers with calculators for hearts.
While the government and its representatives should be out there in the capital cities where international banks and funding institutes are present, and lobby, cajole and impress – they are sitting in India taking pot-shots at people exercising their fundamental rights. While the government should have been engaging with Gita Gopinath, the Indian-born head of the IMF, and presenting their plans there seems to be little in the way of influencing people. There is a severe crisis of perception if the Indian government projects us growing at a trajectory to reach $5 trillion, and the IMF significantly downgrades growth projections and expresses its doubt at meeting that target anytime soon.
The government needs to get its act place. PM Narendra Modi’s charm and networking can only get them so far, the remaining ministers have to pull their weight. They cannot be seen as being contemptuous to international investment, or start fluttering like pigeons, every time someone criticises government actions. No other government in a democratically elected space seems as thin skinned and bothered about what others say, as our government. And that is not doing it any good. The time for campaigning is over. The elections have been won last year. The government needs to now plan the implementation of its economic agenda – and build confidence to get the country to the growth it deserves.
Harini Calamur writes on politics, gender and her areas of interest are the intersection of technology, media, and audiences.
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