By PK Vasudeva
Certainly, the election results are a Tsunami-2 for Modi, bettering his 2014 performance. Riding on a massive saffron surge sweeping through most parts of India, the BJP-led NDA Government became the only non-Congress one to return to power in India’s political history.
Repeating its near improbable feat of landslide victory in North, East and West, the NDA with a vote share of nearly 50% surpassed its last Lok Sabha elections tally of 336 to achieve a super-sized number of 354, out of the total of 542 seats with the BJP’s triple ton of winning 303 seats. The Congress with 52 seats did not make 10% of the Lok Sabha strength of 543 (55), hence it was denied the status of Leader of Opposition (LOP) for the second time.
Undoubtedly, Modi’s emphasis on national security post the Balakot surgical strikes in February strengthened his image as a strong and decisive leader and defeated the Opposition’s efforts to focus on economic and social issues with NaMo riding to victory on the crest of nationalism and national security.
Indeed, he used the terrorist attack in Pulwama by “enemy” Pakistan and Balakot as part of his ‘Hindutva-Security’ platform. Which helped build his macho image and a statesman who talked as an equal with world leaders like US President Donald Trump, Russia’s Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
However, his Government has not been able to do much on national security and defence related issues during his previous five years term. The modernisation of its defence forces suffered because of poor allocation of defence budget —— only 1.44% of the GDP, the least since 1962.
Clearly, this is detrimental to armed forces capabilities in case of twin offensive from either of the two hostile neighbours. It is high time that the BJP-led NDA Government concentrates on modernisation of its defence forces and allocates sufficient funds during the next five years to make its Armed Forces and deterrents strong.
The BJP manifesto had declared that it would “speed up the purchases of outstanding defence related equipment and weapons, and equip the armed forces with modern equipment to strengthen the strike capability of the armed forces”. In reality this does not match its rhetoric on the acquisition of defence equipment, because of poor allocation of defence funds.
Nonetheless, the BJP’s clear and unambiguous stand on issues of nationalism and internal security, reflected in the Policy of “Zero Tolerance Against Terrorism and Extremism” and “giving a free hand to security forces in combating terrorism” did work.
As expected, the Party has repeatedly reiterated its resolve to abrogate Article 370, which gives Jammu and Kashmir autonomous status and annul Article 35A which the BJP and its Government finds discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of the Valley. One hopes this is implemented sooner than later to prove that the Administration means business.
“We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the State. We will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the State. We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits. We will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) and Chhamb,” promises the BJP manifesto.
On another critical issue —- restructuring higher defence management —- the Congress manifesto talks of establishing the office of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a single advisor to the Government on defence related issues and a member of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
But the BJP manifesto is silent on this important issue. There is a definite requirement of CDS as recommended by earlier high-powered committees —- Subrahmanyam Committee 2001, Group of Ministers Committee 2002 and Naresh Chandra Committee Task Force 2011.
Besides, there is a dire need of integrating Ministry of Defence with the three Armed Forces Headquarters by posting officers in the Ministry for better coordination, fast acquisition of weapons and equipment and infusing efficiency in the system.
Importantly, the Modi government should be magnanimous in honouring the good points of the Congress manifesto like the appointment of CDS and implementing reforms in the defence forces.
On the economic front India has been rated as the fastest growing economy of the world by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank has ranked it the 6th largest economy beating France. India is now likely to beat Britain in the next fiscal by emerging as the 5th largest economy of the world.
Today needs to work post haste to overcome the critical economic situation and its failures in several economic sectors: High unemployment level, the agricultural crisis and the impacts of sudden demonetisation and poor implementation of GST.
Hopefully, the Modi Government will create a healthy environment for accepting positive suggestions of Opposition Parties. All Parties must rise above demeaning their rivals, should forget the electoral rancor and curb abusive language against each other as all Indian have one aim: Growth of country. —— INFA