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Modi's secret plan: Showcasing 100 days of 'achche din'

August 25, 2014 11:52 IST

There will be no media blitzkrieg to mark its 100 days in office, but government will hold a series of press meets from next week to showcase its achievements during the period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed in his speeches that he does not believe in setting 100-day goals or agendas, as his government is here to govern for its full term of five years. But his government, aware that its performance will be judged by the media and myriad experts as it nears 100 days in office, is preparing for a series of press conferences to showcase its achievements since taking charge on May 26.

But the preparations are being made quietly. A Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson claimed neither the party nor the government would have a media blitzkrieg to mark 100 days in office. Similarly, information officers of important ministries that Business Standard spoke to either denied knowledge of the ‘100-day campaign’ or confirmed it on the condition they would not be named.

The strategy is that the exercise will not be called 100 days of the Modi government, but all important ministers, subject to their convenience, will address press meets starting next week. These conferences will focus on the initiatives taken by the ministries concerned over the past three months.

There was a feeling, it is learnt, that such showcasing of the government’s accomplishments would also help the BJP in the coming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir.

Another arrow in the Modi government’s quiver could be comparing its first 100-day period in office with those of the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance governments in their first and second terms. There is an understanding that the Modi government’s functioning has been much more efficient and the decision-making much quicker. A BJP source said the government had already delivered on several promises made in the party’s election manifesto.

The decision of not naming the exercise ‘100 days of Modi sarkar’, is primarily to quell the rising tide of expectations from the government, since Modi’s election campaign promised ‘achchhe din’ (better days). “People want immediate results and they will evaluate ruthlessly. If you do not deliver instantly, the disillusionment will also be quicker,” former BJP ideologue, K N Govindacharya, told Business Standard. But he was quick to add that three months was too short a time to judge any government.

The BJP completed 100 days of its electoral victory on Saturday -- results to the general elections were announced on May 16. Late last week, the information and broadcasting ministry held a meeting to chalk out a strategy for a series of press conferences of key ministries starting next week.

Wednesday will mark 100 days since Modi’s election as the leader of the BJP’s parliamentary party. He had started meeting senior bureaucrats soon after. Modi and his council of ministers had taken charge after taking oath of office on May 26; so 100 days to that event will be completed in the first week of September.

According to sources, all ministries are busy jotting their list of achievements. North Block, which houses the finance and home ministries, is said to be busier than the rest. The infrastructure ministries, such as the Nitin Gadkari-led surface transport, rural development and ports ministries, and the power and coal ministries under Piyush Goyal, are preparing their report cards.

The mystery over the ministries’ ‘100-day agendas’ has also deepened. BJP spokespersons had on May 29 claimed after the first Cabinet meeting that the PM had directed all ministers to prepare an agenda for the first 100 days. But bureaucrats now claim they were never given any 100-day plan.

It is evident on the PM’s personal website, narendramodi.in, that a ‘100-day agenda’ was indeed discussed. A blog, ‘Setting the Agenda from Day 1’, posted on June 7, reads: ‘The PM met ministers individually and all ministers were asked to prepare 100-day blueprints for the work of their ministers’.

It further adds that ‘ministers were told clearly that the focus was governance and service delivery, not camera optics and statements’.

The Modi government has been criticised by some for not coming up with big reforms. Through these conferences, the government is likely to counter that critique by showcasing the big picture through its small steps. The Union Budget had also been criticised for lacking big ideas, though the government had defended it by saying only that much could have been done in the limited time there was.

The view within the party and among the government’s publicity and communication minders, it is believed, is that the world will assess the government by its work in the first 100 days, so it will help to put out its own assessment in the public domain. That will also compensate for the view that the PM and his government are only tweeting, not talking.

Last week, a leading current affairs news magazine carried an opinion poll on the performance of the Modi government. The results were largely laudatory.

Foreign newspapers, news websites and agencies have also carried their assessments of Modi’s first 100 days. A Reuters report quoted economist Bibek Debroy as saying, ‘As of now, the momentum (of the Modi government) is lost. They might still recover it, but we have lost the moment’. He said there had been no signs of the promised change.

Former Bangladeshi diplomat Ashfaqur Rahman said about the Modi government in an article published on Sunday in the Daily Star, a leading English newspaper of Bangladesh, that ‘to date, there is not much to see on the ground’.

‘There is not much action but indeed, as reports go, there is a lot more planning and preparation taking place to put Modi’s electoral commitments to work. The big question is, where exactly the Modi sarkar has started working,’ he asked.

In a blog posted on completion of 30 days of his government, Modi had complained he wasn’t given any ‘honeymoon period’.

‘Previous governments had the luxury of extending this ‘honeymoon period’ up to 100 days, and even beyond. Not unexpectedly, I don’t have any such luxury. Forget 100 days, the series of allegations began in less than 100 hours,’ he had said.

Nicholas Spiro, writing in the South China Morning Post, said as ‘Modi nears the end of his first 100 days in office, the sense among investors is that the new government may have wasted its honeymoon period by failing to launch radical fiscal and structural reforms’.

Govindacharya told Business Standard that the government should be given time until at least the next Budget before a realistic assessment of performance could be done.

Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photograph: PTI Photo.

Archis Mohan & Vrishti Beniwal in New Delhi
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