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Style must accompany substance: A time for transformational leadership

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It is extraordinary how quickly we believe smart slogans. Advertising and marketing are based precisely on the ability to win subscribers and getting them hooked through language and packaging. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has understood this all too well.

When he spoke of ‘aache din’, he struck an immediate chord of empathy through the contrast with the previous four years. Similarly, his call for Swachh Bharat and Digital India resonated across socio-economic classes. People were hooked. This was political marketing at its best. His ‘Make in India’ was cast in a similar mould.

But marketing gurus are also aware that advertising is not a substitute for the product. Consumers look through gimmickry because man cannot live by slogans alone. The unexpected defeat of the Vajpayee government in 2004 that rode on the crest of the ‘India Shining’ wave ought to be a sobering reminder for the government.

After 18 months of Modi’s government, for most Indians, barring the very rich, happy days continue to be illusory. The economy, which is poised to overtake China, and notch 7.5 percent GDP growth rate, owes much to falling oil prices and to a slowing down of the Chinese economy than to any economic reforms that have eased doing business in India. Taxation policies remain opaque and unpredictable and, thus, a clear disincentive for foreign investors. Even the bizarre retrospective tax, promulgated by the previous government, is yet to be amended.

Furthermore, for the aam aadmi, food prices – whether of onions or pulses – continue to rise. Social sector spending has drastically fallen, especially in health and education. At an entirely different level, even the very social fabric of India stands threatened with ministers and political allies making hugely irresponsible statements and indulging in acts of gross intolerance towards minorities, Dalits and dissenters.

While the central government can, most certainly, take the plea that in a federal polity, it cannot be held accountable for everything that happens throughout the country, it ought to stir, if not shake, the government’s conscience, especially when President Pranab Mukherjee finds it necessary to publicly remind the nation of the idea of India.

Modi’s rise to the prime minister’s post has been dramatic and meteoric. The distinct lack of leadership in the Congress has been helpful and Modi is, undoubtedly, looking at a second term. To achieve that, he most certainly needs to combine vision with strategy and decision making. If he would like India to emerge as an economic powerhouse, he needs to outline the roadmap as to how this would be achieved.

Consider his flagship ‘Make in India’ programme, as an illustrative example. The shift from ‘made’ to ‘make’ was meant to woo foreign investors to make India a manufacturing base. But neither quality assurance nor skill development received the urgency that making in India requires. For foreign investors, this is clearly a major drawback. Nor indeed has the government outlined the tax incentives that foreign investors would enjoy should they decide to make in India. Ministries continue to be unclear on the contours of the programme because it is yet to be publicly outlined to establish that it is in conformity with global trade rules. Unless there is visible clarity, the programme is destined to become a slogan.

Consider, for instance, that Japan has offered a soft loan for $15 billion to finance India’s first bullet train on the condition that 30 percent of equipment, including coaches and locomotives, are bought from Japanese firms and manufactured in Japan. Japan and Singapore, similarly, are likely to be involved in developing Amravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh. Undoubtedly, the financial assistance Japan offers would be linked to purchase of equipment from Japanese companies. Mercedes recently announced that it is planning an expansion of its manufacturing facility in Pune but has asked the Maharashtra government for tax concessions. More interesting is the fact that the bronze cladding for the memorial to Sardar Patel would be manufactured in China. So, where precisely would the government draw the line on making in India?

Modi’s advocacy of transforming India into a manufacturing hub can be exciting and most certainly gets us all hooked. After all, if it could happen – and there is no reason as to why it cannot – jobs would be created, foreign investment would flow in and economic growth would receive a substantial boost.

There is, however, a legitimate ‘however’. None of the above is likely unless a clear and transparent policy framework is outlined. Furthermore, the government needs focus, clarity and speed of execution. Additionally, it is important for us to be candid in our assessment of quality assurance and skill availability in India at present. No international brand is likely to stake its reputation on poor manufacturing. The series of crashes of Indian manufactured Dhruv helicopters in Ecuador and subsequent bad press demonstrates that Indian manufacturing is yet to meet international benchmarks.

As a contrast, take the case of Vietnam. It has a clear strategy on how it ought to approach its comparative advantage of a young workforce and low wages to produce garments and sportswear for international brands. Over a dozen industrial parks have come up that have already attracted considerable foreign investment. It is only a matter of time before Vietnam emerges as the next manufacturing hub in the textile sector. Additionally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, once ratified, is anticipated to further enhance Vietnam’s international appeal. Her secret is clarity and transparency in legislation coupled with urgency in governmental execution. In short, vision is followed up with strategy. This appears to be clearly lacking in India.

The ‘Make in India’ example illustrates how the government has not backed its slogans with action, or vision with strategy. Over the past 18 months, the quality of life has not improved. Indeed, many would say that there has been a perceptive decline, especially in governance. When senior ministers and party functionaries label dissent as being ‘manufactured’ or ‘selective’ or ‘pseudo-secularism’, it only diminishes the government and, worse, it attacks the very core of democracy itself.

Modi needs to urgently recognize that his persistent silence is likely to be construed either as utter disregard for alternate voices or an inability of getting his own voice heard by his party colleagues. He can protect the stature and dignity of his chair only through an unambiguous condemnation of the incidents that are dividing the people. To be perceived as a national leader, he needs to make the transition from Chief Minister to Prime Minister.

The next elections are not that distant. While the Congress is in disarray at present and bound to the apron strings of the Gandhi household, it is not inconceivable that elections could see the party split and the emergence of a new challenger.

Modi and his team would, undoubtedly, heed the lessons of the Vajpayee defeat that slogans might win elections the first time around but consumers learn to avoid a bad product when it fails to meet expectations. It is hoped that he will demonstrate genuine leadership and translate his promises into action.

His reputation is dramatically flagging, even in the international space. As The Economist brutally put it, his governance style can now be summed up with the words, ‘Lights, camera… inaction!’ Style matters only when accompanied by substance.

Mr Prime Minister, a huge mandate was given to you to realize the aspirations of the Indian people. It can happen only when you realize that you are Prime Minister of all Indians. This lies at the core of transformational thinking and thus, leadership. Many call it the tipping point.

(Amit Dasgupta is a former diplomat and author of “Lessons from Ruslana: In Search of Transformative Thinking”, published by Harper Collins. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amit.dasgupta@spjain.org)

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List of UPA Schemes Renamed by Modi Government

The above comparison shows that BJP is not only trying to steal the credit of previously launched schemes by Congress party by just repackaging them as new schemes

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India, elections, vietnam, BJP
Modi's LPG scheme reduced household air pollution: Study, VOA

A lot of BJP supporters claim that government led by Narendra Modi has launched several schemes for the development of nation in the last four years. What they failed to acknowledge that Narendra Modi has done nothing else than repackaging and renaming the previous schemes started by Congress and took their credit to his name. Shocked, aren’t you? In the last four years, Modi government has failed to develop any original ideas. So in order to appear like the government is working, they have renamed various successfully running schemes started by Congress party to fool people of the nation into believing that BJP has launched numerous schemes in the country. If you find this fact hard to believe, here is the list of s Modi government schemes that are nothing but altered name previously running schemes in the nation:

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana

Originally Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSDBA)

The (BSBDA) scheme was launched in August 2012 according to RBI which provided facility of no minimum balance required to maintain the bank account and avail all the banking services. The number of withdrawals were however limited to 4 per month. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is nothing else than a wrap up on BSDAB scheme adding Rs 1 lakh of accident insurance, overdraft facility up to Rs 5,000 and a life insurance of Rs 30,000 to previous BSDAB accounts.

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana (BBBPY)

Originally National Girl Child Day programmes

BJP
The government has initiated a lot of programmes to bring about a change in the attitude of people and stop these kinds of social evils. Wikimedia Commons

According to a report of Centre for Development and Human Rights presented in 2016, the girl child education programme listed under the BBBPY scheme is nothing but the repackaging of older Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan started by Congress.

The act of similar repackaging of scheme can be found in BBBPY’s programme to improve child sex ratio and reduce the dropout rates of school girls. These programmes were already available under Congress party’s Dhanalakshmi and Sabla schemes.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Originally Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan

One of the major Modi government schemes, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched in September 2014 is nothing but restructured result of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan scheme which was started by Congress in April 2012.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan was also a renamed scheme by Congress party which was originally introduced as Central Rural Sanitation Programme by Congress in 1986.

Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana

Originally Indira Awaas Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana, BJP
‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana ‘ is an initiative by Government of India in which affordable housing will be provided to the urban poor.

According to a parliamentary standing committee report, it is found that the most anticipated Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojna by Narendra Modi nothing by rechristened format of Indira Awaas Yojana. The funny fact about the renaming of this scheme is that several web pages of Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana still open as Indira Awaas Yojana documents.

Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana

Originally Rajiv Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana

According to an information release by government on 23rd July 2015, the Rajiv Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana stated by Congress is merged under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana launched by BJP with no significant changes.

Soil Health Card scheme

Originally National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility

According to the Outcome Budget 2015-16 of the agriculture and cooperation department, a soil health card was included in the scheme of National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility. The similar soil cards were also issued by Congress under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, BJP
The aim of this scheme is to form 10,000 clusters over the next three years and bring about five lakh acres of agricultural area under organic farming to develop agricultural activity in the country

 

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

Originally Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and other programmes

The lack of creativity and insight in Modi government schemes can be seen in its Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana which is nothing but the fusion of some existing components which are amalgamated together as a cluster based programme. This fact was reported in the Outcome Budget 2015-16 of the agriculture and cooperation department.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana

Originally Jan Aushadhi scheme

The Jan Aushadhi scheme was developed by Congress to supply unbranded medicines at reduced prices. This scheme was executed on 23 April 2008 and the first store under this scheme was established on 25 November 2008. According to an statement issued by Loksabh on 144th March 2017, the Jan Aushadhi Scheme is renamed as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana.

Make in iIndia, BJP
Make in India, a type of Swadeshi movement covering 25 sectors of the economy,

Make In India

Originally National Manufacturing Policy

The funny part about BJP copying this scheme from Congress National Manufacturing policy is that they forget the remove the information of previous policy in the new website of Make In India scheme. The broken download link redirects to the 2011 older policy document of year 2011.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Appeals MPs To Utilize Their Winter Season Well

The above comparison shows that BJP is not only trying to steal the credit of previously launched schemes by Congress party by just repackaging them as new schemes, but the BJP lacks credibility and insight required to develop new schemes necessary for the development of the nations. Some other Modi government schemes that were actually the brain child of Narendra Modi and BJP part resulted in drastic disaster in nation. GST and demonetisation are two biggest examples of such failed Modi government policies.