Yashwant Sinha is angry over the economic management of the Narendra Modi government. In his early years, Sinha was a socialist and a Finance Minister in Chandra Shekhar’s cabinet. In time, he moved over to the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and served in the Vajpayee government as Finance Minister for four years and as Foreign Minister for a year. A loyal BJP acolyte, he has all the credentials to critique the policies of his government in India Unmade. But why now?
As he says in a dramatic vein, with the BJP coming to power, “India was blessed with a single-party government after three decades. Hopes soared, aspirations rose sky-high, and every section of the population looked forward to a new dawn.”
He laments how “the elusive dawn never materialized… and hope turned into despair, despair into anger and anger turned into rage” among farmers, youth, Dalits, minorities. Overall, the essence of his charge is this: “The Modi government is just about event management. He is the best in creating false impression. In the process, Modi has given India its ‘lost half-decade’.” Critics of the Modi government may agree with this summation. However, it is difficult to say that the detailed narration in the eleven chapters (plus an epilogue) lends support to it.
For instance, Sinha has a pathological aversion to demonetisation. He feels that it has “unmade” India. There are references to demonetisation in every chapter; but these are more in the nature of assertions rather than analysis-based conclusions.
Sinha appears to be still driven by his experience while he was Finance Minister in the Vajpayee government. He fails to reckon that the global scenario is vastly changed and there are limits to and doubts about investment-driven policies.
But his treatment of “make in India” policies is sound and explains how it serves more to attract foreign direct investment. Where Sinha proves his loyalty to the BJP is in dealing with the various Pradhan Mantri schemes, he approves of most barring Swachh Bharat. And he entirely leaves out larger issues such as autonomy of institutions, spreading majoritarian and divisive policies, beef killings.
This book falls between two stools: it is neither an economic treatise, nor a political pamphlet. It seems to have been written in a hurry revealing the absence of inner democracy in the BJP which would have learnt a few lessons from the recent elections in the Hindi heartland.
India Unmade: How the Modi Government Broke the Economy; Yashwant Sinha with Aditya Sinha, Juggernaut, ?699.