The Narendra Modi government is poised to complete six months.
Take a look at the 6 biggest strengths of the govt:
Narendra Modi now has 25 million fans on Facebook and eight million followers on Twitter.
His frequent tweets and Facebook posts, handled by his hand-picked OSDs as well as the Press Information Bureau, have lent Modi a persona that no other Indian PM had so far.
As predecessor Manmohan Singh was not known for being communicative, Modi’s networking skills are being seen as a welcome change. His extempore speeches add to his charisma.
His radio show, Man Ki Baat, also showcases the PM’s oratory. It’s another matter though that the current government has drawn criticism for its one-way communication and clamping up when questions are asked by the media.
Top of mind
Modi has caught the public imagination with his fiery speeches, championing of unlikely causes, honouring of forgotten icons and communication skills.
The PM tops all of this by his clever use of surprise as a political weapon.
Modi was painted as industry-friendly but reached out to the poor with the Jan-Dhan Yojana, connected with Dalits by picking up a broom for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, engaged with students on Teachers’ Day, spent Diwali with flood devastated Kashmiris, enamoured the diaspora during his visits to the US and Australia and floored journalists at a Diwali get-together in Delhi.
Modi, for the present, can do no wrong. It is resonant of 40 years back.
“Indira is India, India is Indira,” was said of Indira Gandhi in 1976. It was the turn of a young and handsome Rajiv Gandhi to infatuate public opinion 10 years hence. Both phases were short-lived.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government was an alliance government. Yet it took some astonishingly bold and radical steps.
The Narendra Modi government is only nominally an alliance. Yet it has been inexplicably tentative. The answer to this paradox lies possibly in the way the Prime Minister explained the way he works.
“I am a small man, who believes in doing small things,” he said.
The effort has been to cash in on opportunities (leveraging low commodity prices to dismantle diesel subsidy, using the judicial stand-off in the coal sector to introduce reform through an ordinance) rather than force the pace (by not touching fertiliser subsidies).
So far, government seems to be dedicated to painless, win-win reforms. But whether such agility will be available when the going gets tough remains to be seen.
The government has undertaken a series of measures to sort out the supply-side issues in the power sector.
On the de-allocation of coal blocks, the government has come out with an ordinance to allow commercial mining and also paving the way for auctions to be held in the next few months.
The gas pricing issue, which has stymied production, has also been partly dealt with.
Although experts argue the revised price will fail to incentivise output, the Centre has resolved the issue of differential pricing for onshore, offshore gas production and made provision of a premium for deep and ultra-deep water blocks on a case- by-case basis.
Steps taken by the government over the past few months signal a determined effort to reform the subsidy regime.
The moderate rise in Minimum Support Prices (MSP), putting pressure on states not to announce bonuses on top of MSPs and the decision to offload foodgrains from its stocks should help contain food subsidy bill.
Diesel prices decontrol should help cut fuel subsidy burden.
Also, the government’s renewed commitment to Aadhaar, coupled with the recently launched Jan Dhan Yojana, should create a platform that will enable a shift towards cash transfers, leading to substantial savings.
The government followed the “Don’t mend if it ain’t broken” rule while going ahead with amendments where necessary in dealing with the global community.
The invitation to the leaders of the neighbourhood - especially Pakistan - was an invitation to restart the relationships with a clean slate. But geopolitical realities dogged the efforts.
The negotiations with Pakistan were matter of fact till the PM was forced to break off a dialogue due to repeated ceasefire violations on the border. In Nepal, Modi was a hit. With China, as with the US, he was measured.
Modi used the dual appeal of nostalgia and nationalism with the Indian diaspora but what it yields remains to be seen.
The real breakthrough was with Japan, which could fund the bulk of India’s infrastructure development, especially in the railways.