Modi’s Silent Shift To Presidential Form Of Government
The BJP-led NDA ruled India for 13 days, and then for 13 months, both starting in 1998, and then again, for five years between 1999 and 2004, but the Modi government is India’s strongest government in nearly three decades. It is the first true BJP government; the party won 282 seats, well over the 272 needed for a simple majority in the Lok Sabha. Modi is the NDA and the NDA is Modi. Our great nation now feels Modi stands for: Man of the Moment, Mood of the Nation, Mentor, Means Money and business, Movement against Corruption, Mass Media, Management Guru, Master Blaster and Messiah of Poor People. There has been a rush of analysts to commemorate the event. True, the performance of a government and a man cannot be assessed in 100 days, still it is time enough to try and understand both the man and the machine he runs. No one disagrees that the new government inherited considerable problems, mostly to do with governance or the lack of it. The entire weight of governance was on his shoulders which were sitting atop a 56 inch chest. Modi knew that it was impossible to push through all the radical reforms that he had promised in his election campaign. The Achilles heel is that despite a sweeping majority in the Lok Sabha, the NDA is in the minority in the Rajya Sabha. There are more than enough indicators and data in these first 100 days that explain what Modi as the Prime Minister, and his new government, stand for. In the days and weeks that come, with the first session of Parliament over, Modi is certain to induct more ministers, shuffle portfolios, create the new Planning Commission alternative and get a little more radical and imaginative. Despite his detractors, there is not the slightest chance of anyone confusing Narendra Modi with his predecessor—Manmohan Singh. During the run-up to the polls, as PM in waiting, he portrayed himself as the opposite of Manmohan Singh. But as Prime Minister, he has demonstrated that he respects constitutional institutions. Despite the fact that within days of assuming power, he scrapped 19 Groups of Ministers and eight Empowered Groups of Ministers to ensure fast decision making. Shutting down the Planning Commission, which, for the over six decades, has been the apex body deciding, distribution of resources, was another bold step.
Morning shows the day. The early steps and gestures were indicative of the way things would now be run. From paying obeisance at Parliament, to inviting South Asian leaders to the swearing-in, to asking bureaucrats for their suggestions, to cleaning up government offices, keeping the new ministers disciplined, the message was loud and clear, there is a new boss in town who will brook no nonsense. The message was loud and clear. He ran a very tight ship, accountability was high, and the sword of Damocles hung over every head in his cabinet. Both the railway and the union budgets were termed lukewarm and a continuation of the previous regimes’ policies. However, they contained some significant indicators, such as a reorientation towards infrastructure, reminiscent of the Vajpayee years. The efforts on foreign policy have been energetic and largely successful. Beyond our immediate neighbours, the very successful deepening of ties with Japan and the build-up for a mega US visit is telling.
Some of the important policy choices are the rethink on Aadhaar and introduction of the Jan Dhan financial inclusion plan. The initiative for model villages, self-sufficient and clean, with a toilet in every home is one of the steps that can go a long way in making our villages a better place to live. Raising the FDI for defence projects to 49 per cent will dent the huge import bill for our defence purchases. Modi has already dedicated India’s largest warship INS Vikramaditya, an aircraft carrier, and the largest indigenously built warship INS Kolkata to the nation. It is another matter that these were laid and built during the previous UPA regime, but to the victor goes the spoils. The pipe dream of bullet trains has caught the fancy of India, despite its present slow and dangerous railway system that needs a serious revamp. However, many things promised have been relegated to the back burner. The Minister of State for Home told the Lok Sabha that there was no plan to repeal Article 370. Failure to check inflation has put the NDA in a tight spot. The promotion of Hindi and other language bias row in UPSC Civil Services exam came in for a lot of criticism from non-Hindi-speaking states and regional parties. Celebrating Sanskrit week in CBSE schools, too, became a bone of contention. The government’s decision to scrap the collegium system and pass the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which is seen as interference by the government in judicial process. The transfer and sacking of the Governors portrayed Modi as a vindictive man. The government has failed to stop ceasefire violations by Pakistan at the LoC and there have been an almost daily instance of firing from Pakistan, killing Indian soldiers and civilians. Chinese intrusions into the Indian territory too are on the rise. The people want to know what is actually happening on the black money issue. The SIT was formed, but what has it done till date? Even though the NDA has not pushed the kind of major market-oriented transformation many economists and investors had been hoping for, it has still won plaudits from corporate India and the country’s stock markets continue to flirt almost daily with all-time highs.
Critics say that there is a silent shift to the presidential form of government, where only one individual and person matters (read Modi). The nation waits and watches.