This 15th of August will be the fourth Independence Day with Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister. On August 15, 2014 when a newly elected Narendra Modi delivered his first ever ID address from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort, the country still did not really know how the Modi regime would unfold and how it would go about delivering what the Modi campaign had promised. When Modi devoted much of his address invoking Gandhi and outlining the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, for many Indians he succeeded in crafting a different image for himself, giving the impression that his government would be serious about ensuring a dignified life for the teeming millions.
Three years down the line when Modi will be delivering his fourth ID address this coming 15th of August, his government is now very much a known quantity. The promise of repatriation of black money and the ushering in of Achche Din has long been brushed aside as empty election rhetoric. The two biggest economic measures of the government that have happened so far – demonetization and GST – have both been high on hype, and dubiously low in efficacy. With the RBI Governor not able to give the quantum of scrapped currency received by the banks, and all the claimed benefits of demonetisation (like curb on black money, fake currencies and terrorism) looking clearly exaggerated and misplaced, demonetization now looks like a huge scam that deserves to be probed.
Like demonetization, Modi has also sought to hype up GST as a historic tax reform, a moment of second freedom for India, but one can already see glaring anomalies, rising prices, vanishing jobs and apprehension and anger writ large on the faces of millions of small traders. The government’s high decibel campaigns like ‘Make in India’ have hardly got off the ground, the rate of growth is decelerating, generation of jobs is at an all time low and the agrarian crisis continues to worsen. Apart from using loan waivers as a political card, the government continues to turn a deaf ear to the growing cries of the peasantry for relief and justice. A government which convenes a special midnight session of Parliament to launch GST refuses to hold a special Parliament session to discuss the impact of demonetisation and the plight of the peasantry.
Compounding the economic failure of the government is the growing anarchy on the street with lynch mobs patronised by the Sangh brigade baring their fangs across the country. To divert the people’s attention from its all round utter failure, the Modi government is desperately trying to whip up jingoistic frenzy vis-a-vis Pakistan and China, but the weakness of the government on the foreign policy front too has now become all too evident. Modi failed to raise India’s vital concerns in his talks with the Trump Administration, and his growing hobnobbing with and dependence on the US and Israel can hardly hide India’s increasing isolation from all its immediate neighbours.
The outlook on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Indian Independence therefore appears particularly disturbing. The increasing concentration of power in the hands of a single leader and continuing subversion of institutions and weakening of the system of checks and balances, the growing consolidation of crony capitalism (with Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali group being the latest addition to the crony circuit of mega companies) with the top 1% accounting for nearly 60% of the national wealth, and the proliferation of lynch mobs patronised by the Sangh brigade hold ominous portents for the future of democracy in India. We are reminded of the warnings sounded by Dr. Ambedkar in his address to the last session of the Constituent Assembly on 25 November 1949 when he talked about the danger of democracy giving way to dictatorship.
Even as most of the institutions of democracy including large sections of the mainstream media are proving to be pretty vulnerable, the silver lining to this otherwise dark cloud comes from the courage and determination of the people to fight back and defend democracy with all their might. Across the country, the common people of India are rising in united protests against the dictatorial design of the Modi regime. On the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence, let us renew our pledge to intensify this countryside resistance.