MODI, ONE MONTH LATER
Modi has completed a month! And there have been all kinds of things happening! And an analysis is most required since the hype and expectation around his becoming Prime Minister was exceptional; so every move, especially in the first few days, was being observed by the whole world with a lot of curiosity. So what has it been like? Well, one thing is sure, there has been nothing bad at all. Let us begin with the excellent!
The most excellent thing about Modi has been his intent and his most excellent speeches post becoming the PM. The way he addressed Parliament with calm poise, a subtle sense of humour and ubiquitous confidence, gave the nation the much needed sense of pride that had gone totally missing over the past decade. The truth is that Gujarat has not been the only success story. Tamil Nadu too has been one; and to his immense credit, Modi, like a great statesman, was so humble about learning from the TN model. The most excellent has been his ‘toilets before temples’ vision! His intent of bringing toilets, education, health and electricity to every Indian is what the Great Indian Dream was about in the book I co-authored with my father (Great Indian Dream: Restoring pride to a nation betrayed; Macmillan India)! So his intent, philosophy, and statesmanship have been to me beyond even Nehru’s – the best India had seen previously. While Nehru had great macro-philosophy, Modi’s thoughts are not only great but rooted with non-elitist reality and work ethics. Thus, while we all know where we reached with Nehruvian ethics, as of today I will give Modi a genuine chance of far greater success and more. That’s how excellent he has been in his presentation.
Now for the great. Amongst this, have been his steps to empower bureaucrats and shake them up. While many say that bureaucrats are upset at the 6-day weeks, I think the reality is to the contrary. Based on my interactions with some of the bureaucrats, I feel a new sense of pride has been restored in them. Many always wanted to work; however, in the environment of being subservient to the ministers, they had got used to a life of red-tapism. Now, they feel they can deliver and bring back the due respect to their jobs. Amongst the great also has been Modi’s intent to get back clean governance. The good has been that ministers can no more entertain businessmen and their coterie and have to communicate with them through emails. The good has been the cleaning up of the file culture with clean tables, no files, no garbage in political corridors. Modi is clear that if the private sector can run without piles of files falling all over from all staircases, so can the government. And that’s great!
Next, the average. The average has been around the lack of action in key things. The fact that we increased rail prices is great; but the fact that we did nothing to plan rail security is surprising. While we speak of selling off public sector for a mere Rs.30,000 crores, the lack of efforts to remove the dole of Rs.500,000 crores to the private sector is worrisome. While a toilet in each home is a great thought, and so is education for all, I do not want them to remain lip-services as happened with previous governments; and to that effect, the lack of an action plan till now, is scary to me – given that it should have been drawn up in the first two weeks. These are things India absolutely needs more than anything. The lack of action in making the judiciary more effective – the key to a corruption free country – has also been another average aspect till now.
Let’s now come to the scary. To me, what has been scary is Modi’s hurried approach to a few, very good steps he has in mind. So, to me, scary is that all ministers have been virtually reduced to the status of glorified peons. They have to submit asset details of direct and indirect relatives; they can’t meet businessmen; they can’t buy new cars; they can’t even buy anything costlier than Rs. 1 lac without informing him; and forget everyone else, even Rajnath Singh can’t have a private secretary of his choice. The Ministers of Modi’s cabinet are roaming around virtually powerless in the corridors of Parliament. While most of the above mentioned steps are great, I believe they have been implemented almost overnight, instead of in a slow and steady manner. India is a democracy and a democracy has its own games unfolding every minute; ergo, Modi should have been very careful. While Modi has got all the seats to keep BJP in power, BJP members can join hands and break away or press for a new leader. Advani visited Yashwant Sinha in the jail in a combination of a private plane and a private helicopter. What was so urgent? To me, that’s scary for Modi. Very scary!
The author is a management guru and director of IIPM think tank