Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, who quit the Bharatiya Janata Party last month, speaks to National Herald’s Vishwadeepak on four years of the Modi Government. Sinha says acerbically that he will not give pass marks to the Modi Government on performance.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Narendra Modi as PM would be a disaster for India. On the other hand, people like M Venkaiah Naidu thinks that he is a gift of God to the country. What is your assessment of the Modi Government after it has been in office for four years?
It presents a mixed picture in which the failures, unfortunately have overshadowed some limited success. On the positive side, Narendra Modi has been able to provide a stable government. It has also generally been viewed as a strong government, and there has been no threat to the government. So, definitely political stability has been provided by this government. But whether that political stability has been used to the good for the country and its people is another question.
Also, to be fair they had not inherited a very easy situation. There were a number of legacy issues which were handed down to them by the UPA. One expected them to hit the ground running and immediately take steps to tackle those problems. Bank NPAs for instance is one where success has eluded this government.
And then over the last four years the biggest failure has been this Government’s inability to protect institutions and democracy. All institutions of democracy, the Supreme Court, Election Commission, media, investigating agencies of the government, then on the financial side the Reserve Bank of India, Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority etc. have all been compromised to a very large extent. They are not performing their constitutional duties in the manner in which one would have expected them to perform.
To illustrate just one point, even a vote of no-confidence was not taken up in the Lok Sabha for days on end and the House was adjourned. What could be a greater tragedy for democracy in this country than that? Then in the last three or four years we have found that this government tends to mislead people. People expect the government to tell the people what the truth is, to be honest.
Now we have unfortunately reached a state where credibility of the government is seriously in question because Modi government manufactures statistics, the growth rate figures, employment figures have been twisted to feed the government’s claims in these areas.
Then if you take the performance of the government in various fields, I would not even give them pass marks. Even on foreign policy—I would not give them pass marks despite the hugs which have been made very popular by Narendra Modi. Social tensions—divisive trends in the society…they are very dangerous things because we are making issues out of non-issues. That is another problem—a long term threat to democracy. Therefore, there is overall a feeling of disappointment and frustration.
Yashwant Sinha: “Over the last four years, the biggest failure has been this Government’s inability to protect institutions and democracy. All institutions of democracy, the Supreme Court, Election Commission, media, investigating agencies, RBI, SEBI, IRDA, etc have all been compromised to a very large extent”
Corruption was a major issue in the 2014 general election. After becoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made tall promises to eliminate corruption from the system. But a recent study reveals that 75% people of the country feel that corruption has increased in these four years…
I have not seen that report, but I would say this to the credit of this government that except one or two minor issues, no major charge has been levelled against any member of the government—the Prime Minister or any member of the government—but that does not mean that things are alright. It is quite likely that things have not surfaced, and they might surface later.
Hike in fuel prices has broken the back of the people. Would you say that the Government has been insensitive?
Who should be talking about the hike in petrol prices? The Opposition. Naturally, the government will not talk about it. The Opposition should be out on streets all over the country. But, what is the Opposition doing? They are merely addressing press conferences instead of hitting the streets! Nobody has protested against the wrong decision of the Karnataka governor. They only addressed the press conferences. I was the only one who sat on dharna. So, the point I am making is that the Opposition are also not performing their duty.
They are not playing the role of the Opposition either in Parliament or outside the Parliament—on the streets. But, be that as it may the fact is that when this government came into power it had a huge-huge bonanza in terms of the declining international crude oil prices. Due to this, annual revenue has doubled from ₹1.3 lakh crore to ₹2.7 lakh crore. And they have made billions of Rupees worth of additional revenue because the subsidy bill has gone down.Where has that money gone? There is no explanation. The Government should have explained where the additional money were spent, but there is no such explanation.
And, now that prices of international crude have started going up, the entire burden is being put on the people. Earlier, the formula was it would be divided into three parts-- the government would bear a part of the burden, the oil companies and consumers would also share part of it. When I am talking of the government, it includes state governments also. But, unfortunately the consumer alone is bearing the burden. and that is why there is so much anger among people.
Yashwant Sinha: “I am very clear in my mind that everybody should come together, if you have to fight BJP. It has to be one against one election if BJP has to be defeated; otherwise BJP will not be defeated”
Narendra Modi also promised to double farmers’ income and pay higher MSP but, on the ground, we have seen farmers protesting for fair prices. Do you think the farm distress and the farmers’ movement will take a political shape in 2019?
Whether it takes a political form or not, is not a matter of great concern. But, the fact of the matter is that there is a horrible agrarian distress throughout the country. I have taken part in some protests, demonstrations in some parts but throughout the country the farmers are in great agony.
As many as 110 farmers’organisations have come together to call for a country-wide trade ban from June 1 to June 10, which means that whatever comes to the towns and cities from villages on daily basis like vegetables, fruits and milk will not be supplied by the villages to the towns. And villagers will also not go to towns to purchase their requirements. This is the way they have planned to protest against Modi government’s failure to address the problem.
Agrarian distress has emerged as a very major issue in our country. Around ₹10,000-11,000 crore are due to cane growers in Uttar Pradesh. They have not been cleared by the mills and the government is doing nothing.
Is it possible to defeat the BJP in next general election?
I am very clear in my mind that everybody should come together, if you have to fight BJP. It cannot be that you exclude one or the other and say that this is my formula. That will not work. It has to be one against one election if BJP has to be defeated; otherwise BJP will not be defeated.