Every now and then comes along a week that reminds me why Narendra Modi has become India’s prime minister twice and seems on his way to winning a third term. The week gone by is one of those weeks. I happened to travel to a Southeast Asian country that was as poor and disorderly as India when I first went there thirty years ago. It is now many, many years ahead of us. It does not matter which country because most southeastern countries have overtaken us in the quest to give all citizens a decent standard of living. This can be done with good governance and investment.
This time I returned after an absence of three years. And I drove into the countryside as I have done many times before and the changes I saw left me wonderstruck. I drove on a fine highway, past small towns and little villages that exhibited a degree of order, cleanliness, and planning that we in India still aspire desperately to. What struck me most was that nowhere did I see dirt or rotting garbage. It reminded me that until Narendra Modi started his Swachch Bharat campaign we did not have a single prime minister who noticed the squalid, filthy conditions in which most Indians are forced to live. Modi has not succeeded fully in making Bharat truly Swachch but he is at least trying.
The reason why we are decades behind most Southeast Asian countries is because of the criminally negligent governance that defined the Congress era. It would be more accurate to use the phrase the Prime Minister did to describe that time in his speech from the Red Fort on our 77th Independence Day, ‘rule of the family, by the family, for the family.’ This is exactly what it was, and ‘the family’ got away with it because in Lutyens’ Delhi they remained cocooned by courtiers and sycophants.