Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar the challenges & constraints of Modi-fied India

Narendra Modi riding the high wave of popularity has made it to 7-Race Course with a majority beyond expectations. Sangh Parivar cultural nationalistic form carries many traits of Aryan supremacy pronounced in ‘Third Reich’ another name of Nazi Germany. How would it affect secularism emphasized in Indian constitution remains to be seen? Not that the trounced and traumatized congress had ever safeguarded secularism apart from paying lip service to it, as Rajinder Sachar commission has laid down beyond any shade of doubt. 

BJP has put a question mark over ‘Muslim Personal Law’ and already battered ‘Article 370’. Congress leaders over years have emphasized rendering article 370 to the state of an empty shell. Vis-à-vis minorities in India, as well as in its pronounced approach to disputed J&K, Congress has virtually done all that BJP proposes to do. On both counts Congress is one up on Sangh Parivar. Larger political questions would take time to evolve and be commented upon. What could be Modi’s options in his developmental drive [Vikas in vernacular] he is so fond of pronouncing? Given the state of Indian economy, he has very few economic tools to work with, whatever the level of his pronounced sincerity. He will realize, sooner than later, the existent constraints.  And the challenging situation, he is face to face with. The overall picture is far from rosy.  

Indian fiscal 2014-15 with an outlay of 17.63 trillion rupees is already operative. Modi is committed to Vikas and heightened geopolitical security. These are two contradictory scenarios. Security hikes are capital intensive enterprises, leaving little for Vikas.  Vis-a-vis security vigil too, outgoing congress has hardly left anything undone. With defence outlay of 2.24 trillion, ensuring geopolitical security, it absorbs 12.70% of budget. That translates to spending every eighth rupee on defence. The total outlay still falls far short of addressing Modi’s Vikas, as it has to cater to food and energy security. Total spending on food, fertilizers and fuel subsidies is 2.05 trillion. Combined with 2.24 trillion of defence outlay, it adds up to 4.29 trillion, roughly one fourth of the budget. All these figures show an increase from fiscal 2013-14, where in total outlay of 16.65 trillion, defence allocation amounted to 2.04 trillion rupees, food and energy subsidies amounted to 2.44 trillion rupees, added up, it made 4.48 trillion rupees.

In 2013-14, rural development allocation was approximately 892 billion rupees, barely one third of defence allocation; it might have marginally hiked in fiscal 2014-15. The question however remains–could India hope to reduce the recently reported 82 percent defecating in open, obviously devoid of latrines in places where they live. India cannot but subsidize food, fertilizers, given that approximately 58 percent are placed in lower economic strata. This stratum would hardly afford food at market prices. And to keep the wheels of economy moving by subsidizing energy is another sector, where any Indian administration cannot afford to take the foot off accelerator.  

Problems galore in energy sector, a British Petroleum study expects a two third rise in Indian energy demand from the present 224,000 MW to approximately 375,000 MW. With dwindling fossil fuel reserves, Indian imports are increasing, that means a hike in fuel bill. The west and central Asian energy fields are near the Indian peninsula, and could be tapped with a friendly Pakistan by India’s side. However, Indian reluctance to be Pakistan dependent in any way is adding to pressures in energy sector. Earlier, a deal was on cards between India, Pakistan and Iran. American pressure to keep away from any deal with Iran added to inherent fear of remaining Pakistan dependent in as vital a concern as energy led to an aborted deal.  Importing energy through sea lanes involves higher costs than a gas pipeline through the landmass. Thus energy issues too are conflict resolution linked…conflicts India is reluctant to resolve. Here, Modi’s masculine approach might add to existent strains.       

Sangh Parivar has generated enough fear on India facing a twin enemy on her borders-China and Pakistan, enhanced with the projection that two might be working in tandem against India. The question remains—how much of an effort is the country prepared to make or has attempted to make to lower the hostility on her borders? Modi’s masculine approach hardly promises pragmatism, hence his Vikas drive will remain cash starved. Modi can hardly afford to raise taxes in order to feed financial reserves. His corporate driven high profile campaign would lead to—you scratch my back, I shall scratch yours. Corporate sector funding carries promises of tax rebates, even tax holidays in instances. An added factor is slow moving corrupt bureaucracy, given to red-tape and promoting bureaucratic power and privilege. 

Given mostly stagnant bureaucratic order, FDI is nowhere what Chinese attract. China might not be a heaven of morality, reports of corruption do emanate from that country, however investors are far from being scared. And more or less even Chinese growth promises socio-political stability compared to the lop-sided one of India, which breeds Naxalism. Besides India’s soft politico-diplomatic underbelly with trouble on periphery–in Kashmir and northeast hardly promises stability, which a country of India’s size should aim for. Modi in days to come would find a lot, he would find tough to reverse.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]