Governance ‘Dashboards’ in Digital India

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India, the biggest democracy in the world, is perennially in election mode. Here, voters are sharp and thrive in a well-entrenched caste-community ecosystem. However, the larger picture of governance does build trust among logical Indians, otherwise prone to manipulation by data and visual tricks. Gujarat, the western state of India, historically known for its financial acumen, has been a bastion of the ruling BJP since 2015. It is doing well on monitoring access to services and feedback. Instead, the opposition points to Kerala, a Communist-ruled and Congress-backed southern state, as a shining example of development. The contrast also casts doubt on the Gujarat governance model by reopening the wounds of communal riots in 2002, when Modi was the state’s chief minister.

The BJP has infiltrated the larger population’s psyche through policies and emotions. And the new dashboard bridging information gaps has been all about the felt benefits of government programs, the positioning of leadership, and firm diplomacy amid a polarized world. After winning the state of Uttar Pradesh to repeat the saffron lineage of Yogi Adityanath, the party has stakes in Gujarat in 182 assembly seats. Through Hindutva politics, Uttar Pradesh has dramatically erased the identity of being the most unruly state by bulldozing illegal practices and claiming the rule of law. Gujarat, ready to enter into elections by the end of this year, is a culturally vibrant state bearing the mindset of wealth creation. Seemingly undisturbed by the undulating undercurrent of caste equations, crime, and communal issues appear to have been sent to the back burner of public memory, and governance echoes again at high decibels.

The Good Governance Index of 2021 by NITI Ayog, the public policy think tank of the government, measured the Indian states on ten sectors and 58 indicators. Here, Gujarat topped in economic governance and composite ranking among its group states, with Kerala on the same list and performing best in public health and environmental verticals. An attempt to draw a parallel between the states of Gujarat and Kerala is deliberate but not disturbing for the BJP. Compared to the 2017 elections, when the BJP faced a stiff challenge from the Patidar agitation, it appears to be in a comfortable position. The caste agitation led by Hardik Patel had taken a heavy toll on the BJP in last year’s elections, but a recent schism between the young leader and the Congress leadership has blurred the prospects of a strong opposition. Hardik, a relatively new entrant into the Congress party, suggests in his recent resignation that the party leadership’s lack of seriousness about any issue is the most serious issue. Emerging contender, the Aam Admi party, will undoubtedly benefit from being an alternative to India’s grand old party, which is shrinking in strength and stretching steadily. The three-day meeting of the All India Congress Committee in the mid of May to assess defeats in all states has indicated that young leaders will take charge, and the Gandhi family will continue to be at the helm of affairs.

Kerala, having earned the reputation for having the highest literacy, has sadly gone worse in crime in recent years. Arif Mohammad Khan, the state’s scholarly governor, has played a significant role in re-establishing a climate of peace and progress, weighing in on every contentious issue with razor-sharp arguments and ready references from the constitution vast Hindu scriptures, and Islamic texts. Vitiating the harmonious bond of diverse cultures and faiths has stayed as a strategic gameplan in India, countered vehemently by a new wave of governance, practicing equality and non-appeasement.

In a country where history was distorted to downplay the legacy of valor and knowledge, and our own civilizational values remained dormant in the federal flow, all divisive forces are waiting to be dashed by the arrow of representational prowess. Direct bank transfers in the government schemes proved a lifesaver during the pandemic and beyond. The marginalized class is not only enjoying the benefits of these schemes but gearing up fast for informed decisions. The e-governance interface being modeled and rephrased by Gujarat using 3400 indicators from 30 government sectors and emulated by Kerala is a democratic dividend by transparency and accountability standards.

The Indian polity is an interesting zone effusing the wisdom of Chanakya, who founded the illustrious Maurya empire more than two thousand years ago and wrote “Arthashastra”—a treatise on prosperity for the welfare state. As a proponent of minimal government, Chanakya gave utmost importance to internal security and justice to achieve the goal of a happy public. The Indian republic, within the frame of its federalism, is re-orchestrating around the Indians’ aspiration for a better business and growth environment. An able and stable government can only be achieved through incorruptible and corrigible leaders. That’s always an intelligent choice for young Indian voters.

Dr. Shipra Mathur
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