What actually upset the Modi applecart

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What actually upset the Modi applecart

Tuesday, 11 June 2024 | Prafull Goradia

What actually upset the Modi applecart

There is a long list of people-centric achievements, both at home and abroad, that defines Modi 2.0. But then, public perception inexplicably turned against him

What would Prime Minister Narendra Modi be feeling? So little recognition for doing so much! Why? Did he err somewhere to have endured the reduction to 240 seats from the erstwhile 303? Was aspiring for his country to join the First World by 2047 wrong? Or was promising that Bharat would enlarge its GDP to be the third largest in the world before long, a mistake? Or introducing the GST, which laid the foundation of transforming the national economy? Indirect tax collection is rising and reducing the transport time by 40 per cent. Isn’t that a gift to the economy?

Maybe asking for beyond 400 was misunderstood as having already won the election and therefore no pressing need to go out to cast one’s vote, especially when the weather is very hot. Perhaps the schedule of seven phases of voting was phased out over too long a period of 43 days, enough time for possible mischief. Some might have resented the abrogation of Article 370, but the economy of Jammu & Kashmir has prospered substantially.

Modi’s Government over the last 10 years has pulled out some 25 crore out of poverty. Whatever was given to them was directly to the individuals, not through village headmen. According to the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, only 15 paise of a rupee reached the poor people, while 85 paise were eaten away by the middlemen. Such corruption significantly explained the contemptuous expression coined by the Nehruvian acolytes “Hindu rate of growth”. India’s economists used to proudly claim that 40 per cent of the Indian economy was black or ‘informal’ and 60 per cent was white or ‘formal’.

The back of this black economy began to be broken on the night of November 8, 2016, when Modi demonetised `1,000 and `500 currency notes. The measure was not confided even to his Finance Minister for the sake of secrecy. Public opinion in India was divided down the middle; those who lost money condemned the measure. Those who did not lose, praised the move as having taught the tax evaders a lesson.

What most people did not know was that a former regime was getting Indian currency notes printed by the same supplier who printed Pakistan’s and Bangladesh’s currency notes as well. These neighbours could thus import India goods without spending any foreign exchange, in fact any money, except the purchase price of the fake notes.

Until this demonetisation, our neighbours were financially comfortable. Not long after November 8, 2016, news came that Pakistan was moving towards shambles. Later, we had to loan Bangladesh $9.5 billion. One cannot deny there is still black money in the economy today, but at least half the original quantum is gone. Implementation of GST and digitalisation has also helped in this objective.

White money is wealth that can be invested, lent out; it can be used for expanding the economy. Black money, on the other hand, is largely unproductive and, in private hands, a source of fear from thieves and income tax raids. It cannot be lent with confidence or even a minimal lack of worry.

Do all these deserve only 240 seats? This is indeed a painful question. While voting, many Hindus forgot that it is this Government and this Supreme Court that enabled them to see the magnificent temple of Shri Ram Lalla at Ayodhya become a reality, considering five centuries had run their course since Mughal invader Babar’s henchman Mir Baqi had destroyed the original temple that had immortalised Shri Ramjanmabhoomi. The splendid new temple has been built in the flash of a year. This was a revival, recovery and replacement of a lost temple and civilisational ethos.

This Government has also made history dance. I doubt whether any religion has enabled another religion to build its place of worship in its own country. This Government has been able to charm the Sultan of Abu Dhabi to donate 27 acres of land on the main highway to Dubai for Hindus to build a grand temple in what most Muslims would consider a violation of the forbidding of butparasti or idol worship. This was the Sultan’s celestial endeavour to atone for all the temples desecrated in India over the centuries. As a wag put it, this was a magnificent reconciliation that should have gifted, as it were, a thousand seats. All Hindus should pray for having overlooked this unique sacrifice on behalf of Islam.

The only excuse that can hold was yet another omission, like many others. Only two days ago, an acquaintance from Lucknow dropped in to explain why the Lok Sabha seat that contains Ayodhya was lost. A number of shops and houses was demolished to broaden the main street. Compensation was offered, although at the old rates.

With the rapid construction of the temple, real estate prices went up much faster than expected. As a result, the old rates seemed like peanuts and, therefore, unacceptable to the old-time residents and shopkeepers. Meanwhile, lakhs of pilgrims had come, gone and enriched the shopkeepers, who weren’t really short of money. In the process, they not only protested but also voted for the opposite side. When asked by journalists what they gained by voting against the temple, they had no answer.

(The writer is a well-known columnist, an author and a former member of the Rajya Sabha; views are personal)

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