New Year: change in the air

New Years are at the intersection of the known and the unknown, where a whole year sinks into history and memory, and a new one emerges from the future, laden with hope. The bonfire of the past is also the celebration of hope on the day the calendar turns, and the world moves on. Societies, nations and individuals are all driven by hope, and as always on this day in the past, in India also there is an effort to make sense of the year gone by and to look forward to the one ahead. There were changes in politics, economy, society and other areas of national and individual lives, some of them good and others not so, and some clear and others not so. The most striking change in the country in the past one year is a shift in the political mood and an expectation of change.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked strong and invincible and the BJP entrenched and expanding at the beginning of last year. But over the year, the prime minister’s image has been dented and uncertainties have grown. With the victory in Tripura, the BJP was in power in 21 out of 29 states in March and was set to sweep the map. But the Karnataka elections and a string of by-election defeats suddenly made the prime minister and the party vulnerable. The victory of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan was a surer sign of change. If politics opened up, the economy showed signs of strain. The abiding theme of the year was the farmers’ distress, accentuated by rising burdens and unrelieved by support price hikes and loan waivers. Most economic indicators are not at their best. Another unpleasant image was of the governor of the RBI resigning under pressure, unable to protect its autonomy. That was also a reminder of the pressures that have been brought on other institutions like the judiciary, the Election Commission and the CBI. Signs of a hardening of the State emerged, with the moves to monitor private lives and prescription of harsher penalties for crimes. Social relations have deteriorated, with intolerance and a vigilante culture rising, aided and abetted by government policies and actions of its functionaries. 

These do not present a pleasant picture of the past year. What do they portend? The people will make a judgement soon, and the country has moved into election gear with the dawn of the New Year. But it is certain that the new government will be born of an alliance, without a majority for a single party, representing the complex and diverse reality of the real India. 

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New Year: change in the air

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