United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the one who borrowed the term ‘100 Days’ from Napoleonic history to describe the feverish working of the 73rd US Congress which had sat for 100 days from March 9 to June 17, 1933. The term was first used in a radio address on July 24 that same year and contrary to popular belief, it does not refer to his first 100 days in office—he was sworn in five days earlier—but that session of Congress.
Since then, 100 days have gone on to become a barometer of performance of all US presidents, much to their chagrin, and now to that of an Indian Prime Minister. Few leaders have enjoyed the sort of control FDR and the Democrats had over the House and Senate in 1933—a 196-vote margin in the former and a 23-vote margin in the latter. Unfortunately for Modi, he holds a small majority of 64 in the Lok Sabha but is 67 votes short of a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
Beyond numbers, the 100-day barometer is unsuited to a system of government wherein the executive is not as powerful as it is in a presidential system. Furthermore, the short time frame is not as fair a judge of a new government as an annual address to the nation, taking stock of the achievements, shortcomings, and ambitions of the next year would be—the first one after a full year in office. As the saying goes, diplomacy is about surviving until the next century, whereas politics is about surviving until Friday afternoon.
The most important task for Modi in his first 100 days in office was to maintain the enthusiasm about India, both within and without—India is the land of opportunity, the next growth miracle. The Prime Minister has to make people believe that the country is headed in the right direction. Modi, at the BJP’s helm, is in complete control. He roared for the six months leading up to the elections, continuously deriding the UPA government. After assuming power, he has shown maturity. He is a tough taskmaster and is working on a roadmap to deliver on his promises. Many expected him to follow the radical reform path of other popular leaders of western world. Instead, in his first 100 days, he has opted for incrementalism, with more continuity than radical change.
The budget was a clear sign of continuity with incremental change. Jaitley’s debut Budget speech was very much in resemblance of what P Chidambaram handed over to him, barring some numerical changes. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier that people would have to brace for tough measures, it was widely seen as a signal of a major shift in fiscal management and debunk of populism that plagued the UPA budgets. The pragmatic approach taken in the railway budget, plus the hiking of rail fares ahead of that also raised hopes that the Budget would bring an end to the please-all approach of the previous governments.
Jaitley asked: “Should we allow this drift to carry on and watch helplessly? Should we allow our future to suffer because of our indecisiveness? Should we be victims of mere populism or wasteful expenditure?” And it seemed that these hopes would be fulfilled. But the whole speech never gave an iota of assurance that this would be the approach of the government. The government accepted all the Budget projections and future fiscal targets of the interim Budget, which was flayed as unrealistic by the BJP before coming to power. It maintained the retrospective taxation, the old tax structure and old subsidies.
■ 1.5 crore account opened on first day of Pradhanmantri Jan Dhan Yojna.
■ Japan will be investing 35 billion dollar in India in next 5 years.
■ Improved foreign relations. Focus on the SAARC countries.
■ Best handling of Iraq crisis.
■ Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted for bringing Black Money stashed in foreign banks.
■ End of nepotism in government.
■ Increase in Forex by dollar 6 billion.
■ Substantial increase in FDI and export.
■ Decrease in food inlation.
■ India will be heading the BRICS bank headquartered in Shanghai.
■ Judicial Bill was passed by the Parliament.
■ All bureaucrats to give detail of their assets and punctuality are must for them now.
■ Self-attestation of documents for all government purposes.
■ Controlled hoarding.
■ Trial of the fastest train of India.
The Railway Budget was also a diluted version of UPAs’ interim Budget. Modi proposed incremental changes but no radical reforms in labour laws, land acquisition, anti-inflation strategy, fiscal strategy, subsidies or privatisation. He embraced financial inclusion, public sector bank dominance, public-private partnerships in infrastructure, higher spending on health and sanitation, food security and Aadhaar schemes of the earlier government. His spectacular success at BRICS was built on the former government’s approach towards this issue. One of his biggest changes has been abolition of the Planning Commission, but that has few policy ramifications. By proposing two bank accounts per family rather than one, plus an overdraft of Rs 5,000 per family was a tweaking done by his government to the Congress’s idea of financial inclusion. Likewise, MNREGA will also be tweaked to create more durable assets.
People are of the view that Modi is avoiding radical change till the Maharashtra elections are over. That’s very unlike him, and more like traditional Congress tactics. Yet incrementalism plus firm, decisive administration is clearly achieving significant gains. Gone are the administrative paralysis and business gloom of the UPA era. He has disciplined Cabinet members seeking foreign junkets and favours for pals. Files are moving, stock markets are booming, and businessmen are raising record sums for investment. Environmental rules have been diluted to expedite projects. Around 15 million tonnes of grain will be dumped in markets to cool prices. Animal spirits have soared. This has not yet created an economic boom. Industrial and trade growth are improving, but slowly. Inflation remains high and bank lending subdued. The poor monsoon has been a dampening factor, offset by the fall in Brent crude price from $115 to $102 per barrel. GDP growth could rise to 5.5% this year and 6.5% next year.
Modi has earned a reputation for being a meticulous planner and it shows; India’s initiatives with its neighbours and other partners have proceeded according to a plan and gone well. However, Delhi’s slow and muddled response to sudden crises reveals a weakness in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), one that has been known for decades. If Modi is to rely on his MEA over the next five years, some attention should be paid to acquiring area studies, language, and cultural experts on regions of interest to India.
In the realm of security, the Modi government has sped up clearance for critical border roads along the frontier with China and moved to strengthen troop deployment as well as civilian settlements in the region. Over Rs 30,000 crore of procurement proposals have been cleared and 100 per cent FDI in the defence sector has been allowed. Given the long gestation period of defence development, these initial steps indicate that the government is headed in the right direction—a little long-term reform without ignoring the pressing needs of the day.
By Rohan Pal
Narendra Modi’s government completed its 100 days and the media is already ready with the report card. There have been many critical and rash analyses of the 100-day-old government. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has made it clear that it does not believe in such short-term targets, the Opposition and the media are very critical to analyse the functioning of the government. Here we compare the 100 working days of both UPA-II and Modi government.
100 DAYS OF NDA
- The new NDA government, from what it looks like, is a one man show. There is one leader and that’s it. This is a paradigm shift from the UPA ruling style.
- All the GOMs and EGOMs have been scrapped out by the Modi government. Now, decisions are rarely referred to GOMs and to ensure quick disposal of legal cases, Modi has set up the National Data Litigation Grid.
- In the Modi government, ministers are aware that they are being closely monitored and they had to burn the midnight oil
- to fulfil Modi’s 100-day agenda.
- The NDA government has also prioritised its focus on international relations. This was first seen during Modi swearing-in ceremony where he invited heads of SAARC nations. And now he is focusing on the look-East policy. In his first maiden visit as the Prime Minister, Modi visited Bhutan and he chose Japan as his first destination to visit outside the subcontinent.
- One of the major decisions taken by the Narendra Modi government in 100 days was to scrap Planning Commission and there is no clarity on the new department which would replace the commission.
- The Modi government re-launched the Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) to encourage savings for the farmers. Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana is also introduced which aims at bringing all households under banking. Modi has also stepped up National Food Grid to connect deficient areas with surplus producing regions to reduce wastage of fruits and vegetables rural job-guarantee scheme, MGNREGA, which provides 100 days of paid employment a year, to become more focused on asset creation.
- The NDA government which made inflation as its brahmastra, is now being hunt down by it. But by all accounts the government has managed the situation effectively—at least so far. A scan of the wholesale price index shows, barring vegetables, which have shot up 41 per cent between May and July, food inflation has remained under control.
100 DAYS OF UPA-II
- In the Congress-led UPA-II Congress President Sonia Gandhi was the political leader of the alliance that governed India and the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the administrative head of the government.
- The Manmohan Singh government had 62 GOMs and EGOMs for decision making process.
- This was not in the case of the UPA government. Though ministers of the UPA regime such as Kapil Sibal (HRD), Veerappa Moily (law), Kamal Nath (surface transport) and Jairam Ramesh (environment) not only set ambitious targets but had also been proactive and many of the ministers did not perform well.
- The Congress did not take any major steps in strengthening the relationship with the neighbours.
- On the other hand, the Congress gave the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act that seeks to ensure that every child has his or her right (as an entitlement) to get quality elementary education.
- During the UPA-II, the government was keen to ensure 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayats. They asserted on the development of the rural areas and rural development almost doubled in 2009-10 budget presented by the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
- It is an undeniable fact that when UPA-II again came into power, the world was suffering from rescission blues. The UPA then promised to counter the negative fallout of the global slowdown on the Indian economy by providing three focused fiscal stimulus packages in the form of tax relief and increased expenditure on public projects along with RBI taking a number of monetary easing and liquidity enhancing measures.
- PThe government promised to improve delivery mechanisms of the government with a view to deepening and broadening the agenda for inclusive development.
Keeping the comparison in mind, the Modi government is seen to be more active and aggressive in making decisions but it has also become a story of vendetta in some cases. Narendra Modi-led government will be remembered in the history as it has become the first ever non-Congress government which got the thumping majority in the elections. But keeping this record is not enough. The government has to perform as it has sparked new hopes of a new India in the hearts of the countrymen.
On the whole, it has been a decent 100-day journey. Compared to the lethargic nature of the previous administration, Modi government has indeed set a refreshing pace. While the list of concrete achievements may be small, Modi’s period in office has been equally small. By reaching out to SAARC and BRICS first, Modi showed, what he says, he does. The slight surprise was, however, his warm response to US overtures of friendship. Many analysts had predicted a sour relationship between the two democracies given his visa imbroglio. Modi has shown that he is far more pragmatic leader than his critics or even his supporters had thought.
Narendra Modi has to make people believe that the country is treading in the right direction and in that, he has succeeded. The barometer is inadequate for anything more substantial. As they say, Rome was not built in a day.
By Nilabh Krishna