February 21, 2020
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Define India First...

Modi is a creature of the RSS ideological hothouse where only intellectual bonsais can grow.

Define India First...

Narendra Modi’s is as complete a vision as I have seen for a while. But it will only be building castles in the air until the question of resources is addressed. Resources will have to be mostly generated internally which means more taxation and/or better revenue collection efficiency and transfer of subsidy sums to capital investment. It will also mean running our utilities and psus to make profits. Unfortunately, there’s not a thought on this.

Mr Modi and his team think that since the allegedly high rates of inc­ome tax are the root cause of corruption, what is actually a relatively low incidence must be made lower. Also, the idea that small teams can deliver with greater speed and efficiency is an old one. My problem is that PMs and CMs have too little time and too little expertise to micromanage long-term and giant projects. There is a deeper disease at play, and Modi still has no ideas on how to treat that.

To get a consensus on labour reforms and land acquisition, his party needs to evolve an internal consensus first. Any national scheme requires national consensus. We have many areas in which we have policy consensus. For instance, it is agreed that manufacturing should account for a bigger share of the GDP, yet there is contradictory consensus on not having labour reforms. Modi also makes no mention of the foreign investment reg­ime he favours. His RSS mentors and ideologues like Gurumurthy abhor foreign capital. While FDI might be a small component in overall investment, it plays a critical role in exports and technology absorption.

Also, the discourse on policy, so essential for a democracy, never happens in India. The BJP is as guilty on this as others. Our intensely adversarial politics tends, by its very nature, to preclude consensus. The problem with Modi is that he is a creature of the RSS ideological hothouse where only intellectual bonsais can grow. He is sworn to the establishment of a Hindu rashtra and is a full-time RSS apparatchik. Vajpayee and Advani outgrew their RSS moo­r­ings and got out of its straitjacket and imbibed liberal ideas. They treated the RSS with bemused disdain.

Modi has shown no inclination on creating a more inclusive, just and harmonious society. He sees change just in economic terms, in terms of roads and buildings, power generation and industrial output. But people, while wanting growth, want to retain their collective and individual identities too, they want justice and equality and, above all, they want their freedom. Modi has no vision on this. The India First slogan is just an attempt to steamroll all these ideals with the deadweight of narrow nationalism. To arrive at a notion of India First, he must define India first. To me, his India First is just a cloak for a Hindu rashtra that he will define with his limited vision.

The author is chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives; E-mail your columnist: mohanguru AT gmail.com

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