A historic occasion for India unfolded on 5 August, 2019. Everyone knew it was about Jammu and Kashmir but no one knew the specifics, except a few people. Indians from all walks of life waited with bated breath for the early morning Cabinet meeting to conclude. When Home Minister Amit Shah spoke in Rajya Sabha about the removal of Article 370, even before the competition began, game, set and match had already been taken without much fuss.
Before the decision was announced, political analysts who predicted the announcement was about Article 370 were rare, compared to the conservative ones who said it was about a terror attack. The more adventurous ones said it was about Article 35A at the most. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stumped them all given the political consensus of decades. This is yet another instance in the last five years or so when Modi has shown that he is a risk-taker par excellence. Such risk-taking was made possible because Modi has accumulated an immense amount of political capital. However, it hasn't come for free.
When Pakistan-backed terrorists attacked Uri, noone expected India will respond a surgical strike. The government took a huge political risk. After the 14 February Pulwama attack it was said that it was too close to the elections for Modi to take a risk. Yet, the Centre did not yield to the political constraints placed by the conventional consensus and we had Balakot airstrikes.
Similar was the case of demonetisation, and, to an extent, the decision to follow it up with the Goods and Services Tax. Undoubtedly, Modi decisions were strengthened as he had the trust of the common man. This is a virtuous cycle of high risk investments, high returns and more high risk investments.
Now, that Modi has made the transition of India from a soft state to a resolute state possible — a New India in a way — it brings him more political capital. With the goodwill he has earned across the country with his move against the isolation of Jammu and Kashmir, Modi can now think of even greater reforms across the spectrum. Economic reforms such as disinvestment, privatization and systemic changes will see greater acceptance. Reforms in the bureaucracy and governance machinery can gather even more momentum. Breaking the cartels that work to keep farmers mired in poverty by denying them access to markets will be in the realm of possibility.
Politics, they say, is the art of the possible where perceived practical constraints clip the wings of a government's plans. However, Modi has changed politics into the art of possibilities. While the art of the possible contends with playing within the confines of realpolitik and what is possible, the art of possibilities blazes new trails and moves the boundaries of what is considered possible. While the art of the possible accepts the pre-engineered rules of the game unquestioningly, the art of possibilities changes the game itself.
Even before the second inning of Modi government began, the prime minister turned 'conventional wisdom' on Jammu and Kashmir on top of its head. The fact that it becomes a Union Territory temporarily will help the Indian state fight off any external attempt to destabilise the state, without the intervention of rent-seeking politicians and separatists who were happy to keep the pot boiling. Removing Article 370 in swoop will create greater economic opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir, which is critical to ensure normalcy takes root in the state. As the benefits of this move fructify over the medium and long term, the historic magnitude of this decision will only grow with time. It only adds more political capital into Modi's account.
Updated Date: Aug 14, 2019 17:53:59 IST