New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s foreign visits are going according to plan. His domestic agenda is being skewed by forces and factors that lie outside his domain and control. If he persists in his governance agenda of growth and development and focuses all his administrative actions around them, he will succeed despite the odds.

His trips to Russia and Afghanistan should have satisfied his plans. It was important to reassure Russia that India’s growing closeness with the United States would not come at its cost. The deal for more reactors and the indigenous manufacturing initiative with Russian military helicopters should provide that reassurance. India has also supported the Russian initiative to restore order in Syria and neutralize the Islamic State terrorist organization.

The Afghanistan visit marks an increment of sorts. The visit itself was loaded with symbolism of a kind. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Afghan Parliament building constructed by India. He also addressed the Afghan Parliament. This represents an important commitment and encouragement to Afghanistan’s besieged democracy.

The key lies in a further detail. India has provided Afghanistan helicopter gunships. This means India is making an unprecedented contribution to Afghan security. This is a decisive step which the Indian government must have taken after careful thought. It reconfirms Prime Minister Modi’s capacity to do the unthinkable. Since an elected Afghan government sought India’s military assistance, it is also unexceptionable. No one should object.

Prime Minister Modi’s foreign visits should be appreciated for what they constitute. They are entirely work-related. As Strobe Talbot recently articulated about the similarities of President Barack Obama and PM Modi: they are both pragmatic and reasonable, focussed on work, sensible to goals, and scarcely approach international diplomacy as an exercise in serial glad-handing. They carry to-do lists to bilateral meetings and sum them up with solutions. In their own ways, P. V. Narasimha Rao, A. B. Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh (though handicapped by the Congress leadership) did the same, but Modi likely feels more pressured by India’s circumstances, whose time is running out.

Sadly for the Prime Minister, the opposition parties in India and constituents of the Sangh Parivar seem recklessly uncaring for the country’s race against time. The Sangh Parivar may be managed but the obstructive and destructive opposition is something else. The Prime Minister has repeatedly sworn by the Constitution of India. He says the Constitution is the only book he follows. It is entirely believable and completely reassuring. He should use that philosophy and position to nip in the bud the revival of the Ram temple movement in Ayodhya. The matter is before the Supreme Court. Elements of the Sangh Parivar want to influence the Uttar Pradesh election in 2017. This is unacceptable. Religion and politics must remain separate. Any such campaign will derail Prime Minister Modi’s growth and development programme. He should proactively engage the RSS and end this.

The Opposition is a more intractable problem. Competitive politics is the essence of democracy. But when the excesses of competitive politics begin to hurt governance, it is time to stop and introspect. The Congress party is leading this excess. It is unable to reconcile to the 2014 loss. This is unfortunate and ultimately a repudiation of the democratic process. The Congress lost a fair election. People exercised their mandate for change. If people cannot do this, why have elections? Why have democracy? The Congress party cannot expect people always to vote for it. They voted for it for sixty years. Why can’t the Congress accept a simple change of fortune?

The Congress party claims pre-eminence in the freedom struggle and a lead role in economic reforms. Does it respect that legacy today? Parliament houses one of the key estates of democracy. Parliament and its forerunners reach back to antiquity. The Greeks set it all up of course. The five most highly rated Roman emperors after Julius Caesar and Augustus, on whose greatness the glory of the Empire rested before the fall, derived their legitimacy from the Senate. There are leaders of wisdom in the Congress who know all this and more. In the circumstances, how can the Congress party justify its obstructionism of Parliament? It is upending its own history.

Secondly, the importance of economic reforms cannot be overstated. The issue must be approached as if it constitutes India’s second freedom movement. India must rapidly grow and develop to raise masses of poor. India has to industrialize on a mass scale. Manufacturing skills and capacities have to grow multiple times of the present. India’s growth is also choked by not being a common market, a problem identified way back by the economist and US ambassador to India, J. K. Galbraith. The GST legislation will take India ahead to become a common market, and the Congress party has stalled its passage in the Rajya Sabha. The party leadership believes its obstructionism is popular. Wrong. Public opinion has turned against the party. If it does not cooperate with the government in the next session of Parliament, it will forfeit public confidence.

The Opposition has a constructive role in democracy. It is to keep a watch on the executive and see that the country is run properly. It is not to prevent legislation. The Congress party has blocked legislation. Nothing justifies that. The Modi government must do all that is justified to make the Congress leadership sensitive and sensible to its legislative responsibilities. It cannot intervene in the National Herald or other court cases. Wrongdoing, if any, must face legal consequences. The government must also work with other opposition parties to get GST and the remaining reforms’ legislations passed. The Congress party should be made aware that no one will acquiesce in its endless obstructionism.

On the whole, things are not as bad as they seem this Christmas. Merry Christmas to our readers. Importantly, public consensus has been reached on growth and development. The young who comprise the driving force of today’s electorate are with Prime Minister Modi on his reforms and development agenda. He must unwaveringly abide with them. He is laying the foundation of a new country. Time and patience will aid him.