Book review: ‘India Unmade: How The Modi Government Broke The Economy’ by Yashwant Sinha and Aditya Sinha

But rather than targeting the PM, they could have generalised their views, as almost all parties have realised that Ayodhya and Sabarimala are potential vote winners and hence a dualistic view has been adopted.

or detractors of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the performance of the government, India Unmade by Yashwant Sinha and Aditya Sinha would be a delight to read, though, the critique presented is exaggerated at several places. It is a one-sided view of how the NDA government has performed since it came to power and there is no attempt made to reveal any of its many achievements. While the reader may feel that the authors are speaking for the opposition, they do not, in fact, mince words in chastising the earlier regime for bad governance. There is, however, a constant stance taken that when one of the authors (Yashwant Sinha) was FM, great work was done. If these points are disregarded, the book is quite easy to read, and even interesting.

Sinha says upfront that this book is not being written because he was not given any prominence by the BJP when it came to power in 2014. The view taken is that since the BJP had made several promises at the start, but only a few were realised and several policies were destructive, the authors are critical of the establishment as it reflects the inability to deliver on the bold announcements made.

Let us look at some of the criticisms of the policies and practices made by the authors. Demonetisation was an unmitigated disaster and the promise made of transferring `15 lakh to every account of the poor was not fulfilled. The PM was against GST when he was in the opposition, but then took credit for it. The implementation of GST was poor as SMEs suffered. The authors say the government is not worried about farmers and small industry and only caters to the big industry. Institutions have been attacked, such as the RBI and CBI. Here, the authors talk of how the RBI’s independence was jeopardised by the government. However, in another chapter, Sinha has some self-praise when he talks about how he was able to lower rates when he was FM—but wasn’t that supposed to be the job of the ‘independent RBI’? This is where the reader would tend to believe that the authors have taken a prejudiced view of the PM as a person and not the government ideology.

Their view on government schemes is interesting. They point out that all the 97 schemes that have been brought in are just a rechristening of existing programmes under the banner of the PM. This might be true to a large extent. But then given that the frontiers of policy are fixed, there cannot really be any more innovations in the targeted spheres. The authors are also critical of the efficacy of these schemes and make a valid point when they highlight that if the PM’s crop insurance scheme was successful, then there should be no need for farm loan waivers.
They have their say on the arrogance of the party members, especially when referring to the Babri Masjid or Sabarimala stance notwithstanding the ruling of the Supreme Court. But rather than targeting the PM, they could have generalised their views, as almost all parties have realised that Ayodhya and Sabarimala are potential vote winners and hence a dualistic view has been adopted.

They are probably more reasonable in their critique when talking of the fiscal situation. They highlight how disinvestment has been a failure and has been done by only squeezing the LIC. But then this has been the bane of all disinvestment programmes, which is not specific to the ruling government. All disinvestment attempts have used LIC and other government FIs to buy shares of other PSUs. The fact that the expenditure on capex, especially in defence, has dropped is probably a legitimate one as is the criticism that the bonanza on tax collections due to low crude oil prices is not being used purposefully.

Interestingly, in an effort to debunk everything the government has done, the arguments slip on facts when they juxtapose NPA numbers being stated in the Economic Survey in 2014 and the present quantum. The point missed is that these numbers went up not because of the government or the PM, but on account of the RBI asking banks to recognise their asset quality—where no politics was involved.

Some of the more personal criticisms are regarding the style of governance. The authors say it is a one-man show or rather a ‘two-men show’ where everyone in the government is a ‘yes man’. They believe the PM is not qualified enough to take critical economic decisions and the setting up of the Economic Advisory Committee with qualified economists was more of an afterthought to make policy decisions look more professional. Their view is that the PM does not trust anyone and even his official visits are odd because the minister of external affairs is not seen.
The limited success of some flagship schemes like electrification, smart cities, Swachh Bharat, irrigation, Mudra, etc, are well argued. They also explain that the Make in Indiascheme has not quite turned out to be what was projected, as the bullet train will be sourced from Japan while the statue of Vallabhbhai Patel has come from China. The discourse on employment is striking, as they give some very shocking data to prove their point. There were 25 lakh applications for 600 posts in Bengal and over 28 million applications for 90,000 railways jobs. Clearly, jobs have not been created as per requirement.

Hence, while there are several pertinent points made by the authors, the fact that their view is one-sided makes the book less credible despite being interesting reading for sure.


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