Making and withdrawing policies; a flip flop style of Modi government
New Delhi: A fundamental
problem with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his back office is that they’re
project driven, not the policy driven. In last 15 months the biggest political
defeat of the NDA government was not when the BJP won only three out 70 seats
in the Delhi assembly elections. It was when the government realised it could
not sell the `land bill’ to the farmers of India or even to its own
constituencies. Just a year after winning 282 seats in the Lok Sabha and an
unambiguous mandate to rule, it is surprising to see that the same political
leaders are, now, not doing a very good job of assessing the mood of people
Take the current case
of the Draft National Encryption Policy released on Monday evening. The
government’s plan was to access all encrypted information, including personal
emails, messages on WhatsApp or even data stored on a private business server.
The government proposed that for at least 90 days, web and net users should
make these available to security agencies if required, in text form. It also
wanted everyone to hand over their encryption keys to the government.
By Tuesday afternoon,
the government had backtracked. Telecom Minister Ravishankar Prasad announced a
withdrawal of the draft policy saying the government would place it in public
domain again after reworking some of the “expressions” that were giving rise to
The question to ask: Is
the Modi government taking policy decisions without thinking them through or
without proper consultations and then being forced to backtrack?
explanation for government’s flip-flops could be that it reflects a certain
aspect of Indian democracy, that the government is showing sensitivity to
public criticism – especially on issues which concern the Indian youth, a
constituency that took Modi to Race Course Road (the residence of the PM).
After Anna Hazare’s
2011 andolan at Jantar Mantar and the support it had from younger people, no
government in New Delhi can take the youth lightly. The real slide of UPA-2
began with Anna’s movement against corruption and not by any street level
mobilisation of BJP.
As Hindutva voices rise
to higher decibels, street protests against the government have also risen. The
robust fight put up by FTII students against the appointment of Gajendra
Chauhan as chairman of the institute and the furious debate over the mutton ban
are two such instances.
Currently, Modi enjoys
the support of the centrist and right wing youth but many others are not enamoured
of the BJP. Amit Shah calls them the “new development vote”.
However, a more serious
issue behind the government’s lack of coherence is the perceptible difference
in the agenda of its prime minister, BJP ministers, leaders, the party and the
RSS – the mentor of all of them.
Prime Minister Modi is
in a difficult position. After coming to power, he needed his stature to grow,
to lend credibility to the government. However, Modi finds that a `pro
corporate’ label has been attached to him and affects his image. So the PM is
trying to be a “PM of poor Indians”.
Actions speak louder
than posturing and Modi is taking contradictory actions in handling the poor
and issues related to the poor. For example, the Modi government wants fewer
people dependent on farm land but at same time he has increased MNREGA daily
wages from Rs.100 to Rs 150. Both ideas can’t work simultaneously.
Another problem: BJP
leaders are in complete awe of Modi and his clout with saffron voters so junior
leaders in the party do not air their views. One does not hear Rajnath Singh
and Sushma Swaraj air their opinions. And, the RSS is clearly calling the shots
as Amit Shah has unconditional respect for the parent organization and in no
mood to question it or counter it.
In such a situation, issues
like the land acquisition bill, GST, beef ban, control over the web, etc.,
witness pulls and pushes once they come out into the public domain. The land
bill was shelved only because the RSS opposed it and later, the party’s
committee headed by Satpal Malik found that the overwhelming number of
representations was against it.
In fact, a close study
of the trajectory of the land bill shows that the Modi government demonstrated
timidity in withdrawing the bill but was still wise enough to withdraw it.
The Congress had hit
the jackpot with the land bill but lost the opportunity to encash it. In every
retreat, Modi and Amit Shah have cut their losses before they lose their vote
However, this is not
the best way to govern a complex nation. One major fundamental problem with PM
Modi and his back office is that they’re project driven, not the policy driven.
In matters of policy-making it is showing a major deficiency. Modi’s class is
not doing its homework. (With inputs from agencies)