India : What Future Holds viz General Elections 2019?by Opinion Express May 20, 2019 0 comments
The economic challenges are far tougher this time and real euphoria will be when the new leadership surmounts them
Every election has its own takeaway and this, too, has one, certainly beyond the noise of violence, rhetoric, bigotry and raging passion. It is that of the silent voter, who has zipped up his choices close to his chest and has become extremely individualist than classist about what works best for him, what he has got, not got, likely to get. He values a leadership which can deliver without the encumbrances of the usual tropes of caste, colour or wave and be practicalist about forging a new character of India going into the next decade. Leaving aside parties, for the voter this has been a normal and emotionless general election in a long, long time with no discernible wave, pro or anti-establishment, and where choices will be weighed purely on issues. Hence, there’s a return of good old uncertainty that makes the wait for May 23 that much longer and exciting. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi does return, with a reduced tally or otherwise, it will certainly not be with the saviour halo of 2014. For a campaign, which was marred by more questions than answers, where every official machinery seemed to be orchestrated to the ruling dispensation’s comfort, and which plunged to the desperation of polarising the voter not only on religion but on a nation’s flawed past versus the undone present, he will be carrying a notional albatross around his neck. It would be a grace period for him to actually do something progressive and inclusive once he knows the verdict is on his side and the insecurity of endearing himself to the masses is gone. If it is the Congress-backed federal front which manages to stave him off, it will need to get off the anti-Modi referendum mode, search for a cohesive leader and get down to transacting the business of governance. Even as a grand Opposition bloc that fails to make a mark, it has to be a responsible alternative that can match issues with solutions. No matter who occupies which side of the Treasury benches, both will have to give up catcalls and be extremely performance-oriented.
For the challenges are many, the primary one being economic with an oil crisis looming ahead following the US-Iran standoff, India losing immunity from sanctions and the world economy going into a sluggish slump. Ideal conditions for a test of leadership indeed. If the new government passes it and restores market stability, that will merit greater euphoria. Unlike 2014, when international crude oil prices had dipped, this time procuring alternative oil supplies to hold prices is a real challenge considering a reduction of imports from Iran would also mean losing the benefits that came with them. Then it has to deal with the US-induced arm-twisting called protectionism. Trade tariffs can undo any kind of diplomatic headway made so far and imbalanced trade deficits, particularly with China, are a matter of concern. More than promises that Modi could afford in 2014 to demonstrate a policy shift, this time either he or the alternative leader has to implement what each promised in the manifestoes and hit the ground running, particularly with regard to creating jobs, ameliorating farm distress and reshaping the contours of the agricultural economy. In fact, agrarian reforms could very well present a stand-out opportunity for the new regime. It would be better for anybody to not be too ambitious about announcing mega or populist projects for they bring in unexpected pressures of time-bound deliveries that are dependent on too many variables. Besides, there is a slowdown on consumption and demand. Scalable and realistic growth targets should be the focus than what is predicted or expected. The saving grace for India is that even amid a global recessionary wave, its growth rate by most agencies has been predicted to be around seven per cent against the global figure of 3.5 per cent. Transparency in bank operations, especially after the series of scams, is a priority. Just as there has to be a semblance of institutional autonomy, which over the last five years, has been compromised by power play. Internationally, India has to play smart between humouring the US and negotiating new talk points with China. At home, whichever front comes to power has to attempt a social cohesion of disparate allies rather than imposing a monolithic egoism. That in itself will be a corrective check and balance. Finally, there’s a bipartisan systemic momentum in policies but true leadership knows how to make a virtue or vice of it. Let’s hope for the former.
Courtesy: The Pioneer