PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra ModiANI

According to an opinion piece in the Global Times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been hailed as the most influential statesman in the history of modern India. The writer attributes this to the Modi-inspired rapid economic growth and numerous election victories across states.

However, controversies are never far behind and even after completing four years at the helm, some people still question whether Modi has been good for the country.

The next general elections are right around the corner in 2019 and how people perceive Modi's policies will decide the course of the polls and the direction the country will take post elections.

The most important issue for Indians is the state of the economy though political, religious, social and cultural issues have dogged Modi's tenure, given that his regime is reputed to promoting a hardline Hindutva agenda. But tangible results are only delivered by robust economic growth than anything else.

That is the reason economic policies remain the most controversial for the Modi government though figures paint a rosy picture with India having the fastest growing economy. Then where lies the hitch? The answer isn't hard to find: The benefits of government's economic policies are not evenly distributed.

The long-term benefits of reforms like demonetisation and GST will no doubt streamline the economy and make it more efficient, but in the short term, both have caused social turmoil and strengthened the anti-Modi sentiment. However, thanks to these reforms, the economy is expected to grow by 7.4 per cent in 2018 and 7.8 per cent in 2019.

Reforms in labour regulation, land acquisition and environment protection are needed to streamline growth and realise the full extent of Modi's key initiatives like 'Make in India', but in doing so people like land owners, organised sector employees and tribal people will have to bear the brunt.

To put the country on fast track to development, Modi has to widen the scope of reforms. When he came to power in 2014, he was lucky that international commodity prices had hit rock bottom and there was abundant global liquidity. This shored up the Indian economy and parameters like fiscal and trade deficit and inflation were under control.

In spite of such favourable conditions, Modi found it hard to move forward on implementing reforms in land acquisition and labour regulation. The affected group and the political-economic norms in place proved to be the main impediments in this exercise.

Despite this, the government has made major inroads on the path to reforms. Through Modi's initiatives like 'Digital India' and 'make in India', the country has seen progress in industrialisation and digitisation.

However, if we go through history of modern India, reforms are an exception rather than the rule. Reforms have been inconsistent and there is a alarming tendency for a new government to reverse the policies of the previous one, especially under political pressure.

As has been seen in most cases, reforms are controversial when they are mooted and implemented but their benefits are felt over time and Indians need to be patient enough and decision makers smart enough to charter a course through that uncertain period before the country takes off economically.