Narendra Modi’s ascension to the Prime Minister’s throne is a seminal political event in the history of India — only the fourth since Jawaharlal Nehru’s demise — feels Lok Satta president N Jayaprakash Narayan, addressed and referred to as JP by his followers. While the three previous elections that led to a party getting a thumping majority on its own were “largely wasted”, JP believes that this one will certainly prove to be different.
“The first was in 1971 (Indira Gandhi’s victory), the second in 1977 (when Emergency was dismantled) and the third in 1984, when an emotional outburst following Mrs Gandhi’s assassination made way for Rajiv Gandhi to step in. Though all these events could have transformed India, they did nothing,” he says. He also makes a mention of 1991, which “proved to be important economically”, but he adds that “there was no real political mandate.”
This time, the bureaucrat-turned-politician is hopeful of that happening. For, he believes that Modi and his team can “legitimately claim to have the mandate that is required to change the economic trajectory of India and create more jobs”. “He [Modi] has primarily focused on employment and economic growth. His victory should be seen as the victory of this developmental approach and not the victory of any sectarian ideology,” JP insists. While reiterating the need for economic growth and job creation, he also draws attention to the lack of infrastructure, investment and poor state of the country’s manufacturing sector. “My genuine hope and belief is that this (Modi’s victory) will lead to a change,” he says.
This faith in Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi, the veteran says, is also rooted in Modi’s “repeated and public announcements” of addressing issues that his party has been highlighting since its inception. “From the beginning, we have been clear that we need four things. Firstly, a strong graded anti-corruption regime. Secondly, some serious judicial and police reforms so that the rule of law becomes the norm and not an exception. Thirdly, empowerment of local governments, particularly urban local governments, so as to make them work effectively and fourthly, overhauling of the political system so as to make the right kind of people electable and put a stop to buying of votes. Modi assures to address them all,” he says.
What the new government at the Centre would also be expected to look into, according to JP, is the “reordering of public expenditure so as to increase the share of productive expenditures as opposed to freebies”. “In Telangana, for instance, all parties have over-committed themselves on freebies (loan waivers etc) even before coming to power. But as a new state, which incidentally has surplus money, we need to use the funds constructively,” elaborates the senior politician, who played a significant role in laying the economic foundation of both Telangana and Seemandhra.
“Unless we do that along with improving skills and making our labour policies, which are right now calculated to prevent employment, more flexible, we cannot address the issue of unemployment. We need to bring a lot more people into the formal organized sector as against increasing the number of contractual labourers,” he adds.
It is for this “possibility of a fundamental change after 30 years (since 1984)” that JP feels all parties should “bury their hatchet” and come together. “Given that people have spoken so convincingly, I think we should provide all round support to the new government. As long as they fulfill the mandate, we must not take great delight in being obstructionists. If they deviate, then certainly all of us must oppose,” he points out, though hinting at being almost certain of Modi & Co delivering what is expected of them.
JP is also sure of peace and harmony despite the rise of the right wing. “Over the last one year, Modi and his party have stayed away from a religious agenda. He hasn’t emphasized on religious differences and has, instead, spoken the language of unity. Of course, we should be alert, but I think we can be certain of a secular progressive development-oriented agenda,” maintains the leader.
The LSP leader could not win from the Malkajgiri constituency in the Lok Sabha elections as the party’s agreement with the Bharatiya Janata Party and Telugu Desam Party was tacit till the eleventh hour. There were no joint rallies by the virtual allies whereas anti-BJP votes consolidated on the side of his rival. However, JP remains a tall figure in the polity who, though based in Andhra Pradesh, is looked up to even in New Delhi as a rare voice of political sanity and sensibility. His studied optimism about Modi would carry a lot of weight in intellectual circles and among the commentariat.