AArmy Chief General MM Naravane retired on Saturday, ending speculation over his likely elevation to Chief of Defense Staff (CDS). It has been almost five months since General Bipin Rawat died in a helicopter crash. The government has not yet been able to name his successor. The last time the government made reference to the CDS was when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a campaign rally in Uttarakhand, offensive Congress for “using” the late Rawat’s cutouts for votes. It was in February. The creation of the post of CDS was Prime Minister Modi’s first major decision in his second term. He chose to declare it from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day in 2019. Just three years since, the CDS nomination has become a matter of speculation.
It was not a Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi government that was hit by political paralysis during its second term. Decision making is Modi’s forte, isn’t it? Maybe he has something in mind about CDS, which the government cannot share at this point. Let’s leave that aside. But it serves as a trigger to see how the Modi government, in its second term, seems to waver on a host of issues after making a big song and dance about them.
Early in his first term, he became gaga over his proposed amendments to the UPA-era Land Acquisition Act and sought to implement it by way of an order. He enacted the ordinance three times before Modi declared in Mann ki Baat that it would not be reissued. It was two months before the Bihar assembly election in 2015. It was still the start of the Modi government. What is surprising is his inability to carry out his ambitious initiatives even in his second term. There is not even talk of the three controversial farm bills he scrapped ahead of assembly elections, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. Taste a few more.
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Citizenship (Amendment) Act: The legislation was approved by Parliament in December 2019. Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah hail this law from time to time. Yet the law is not operational as the Home Office failed to set out the rules, which should have been in place by June 2020. In the meantime, the ministry secured five extensions from parliamentary committees on subordinate legislation. If the PM and HM are so convinced of the merits of the CAA, what is stopping the Home Office from notifying the rules?
Sub-categorysation of CBOs: In October 2017, the Modi government constituted the Commission headed by Justice Rohini for the sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBC). He was due to submit his report on January 2, 2018. He has obtained 12 extensions to date. In the meantime, its terms of reference have been modified, which would seem to justify the delay. We are in May 2022 and the Commission has not finalized its report. If a few dominant communities among the OBCs were capturing the benefits of the reservation and this needed to be addressed, why is the government giving tareekh pe tareekh, instead of giving the committee a final deadline to submit the report? Or is it because these dominant communities have become more relevant in the electoral scheme of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?
Labor codes: Four labor codes on wages, industrial relations, social security and safety at work, health and working conditions were approved by Parliament in 2019 and 2020. The government called them “historic”. However, these codes have not been implemented because the Center has not notified the rules. In an interview with ThePrint in June 2021, then Labor and Employment Minister Santosh Gangwar said the government wanted to notify the rules from July 1, but may have to postpone it. on October 1 of this year. As the work is part of the concurrent list, the Center and the States must notify the rules under their jurisdiction. But many states had yet to finalize the rules, Gangwar said.
About seven months after the then minister set a new deadline, labor codes are still not operational, with Center officials giving the same explanation. Wasn’t the Center aware of the States’ commitment to these reforms? And if all the States do not commit, will the Center definitively suspend these historic reforms?
River connection project: In her budget speech last year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said draft Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) for five river link projects had been finalized and consensus among beneficiary states was reached. expected. Jal Shakti’s minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, added in a tweet that the projects would “go a long way” to alleviating the problem of water scarcity in remote and arid parts of India. A year later, in March 2022, the Center decided to suspend one of these five Par-Tapi-Narmada river link projects. Gujarat Minister Hrishikesh Patel informed the state assembly that his government had asked the Center not to go ahead with the project. The Center had obtained States’ consent before finalizing the DPRs. So, if the states back out because of protests from part of the population, what will be the fate of the ambitious river connection projects?
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Big Bang reforms on the back burner
So what’s wrong? This is not a remote government where someone sitting at 10 Janpath thwarts the initiatives of 7 Race Course Road (now Lok Kalyan Marg). And this is not a government led by Narasimha Rao in which not making a decision is also a decision. Nor is it an old-fashioned coalition government, whose hands are tied due to survival instincts. This is a government led by Narendra Modi, India’s most popular leader who can simply announce demonetization one night and national lockdown another, with people cheering regardless of how it impacts their daily lives. No one would therefore wonder why a government, led by a crusader against corruption, should make Lokpal toothless by keeping the positions of members of the judiciary and directors of investigation and persecution vacant. Nobody has an answer as to why India should suspend its census exercise because of Covid-19 when countries like China and the United States have completed it during the pandemic.
So what explains the procrastination in decision-making? Why should a government go to such lengths to ensure parliamentary approval of laws and then leave them inoperative in the absence of rules? Why should a government announce big plans only to put them on the back burner?
There are so many “whys” for which there are no definitive answers. When it comes to government, only Modi or Amit Shah know this. And when talking about them, it is prudent to introduce politics into them, with a few exceptions such as the appointment of the CDS. Big announcements, even when not acted upon, serve their purpose. Look at the titles they generate. And the longer the gestation period, the better their recall value in politics. Call it politics of governance or governance of politics. It’s working well for Modi and the BJP, so far. Period.
DK Singh is political editor, ThePrint. He tweets @dksingh73. Views are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)