By Prashant Sood
New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) Narendra Modi has sought to mark his first term as prime minister with some distinct initiatives in terms of both policy and governance style – direct communication with the people, faster decision-making, a disciplined bureaucracy, thrust on innovation and technology, cleanliness, rural transformation and kindling a can-do spirit in the people. In the three months in office, Modi has already laid down contours of his government’s priorities.
Modi, who began his innings on a high note after leading the Bharatiya Janata Party to its first full majority in the Lok Sabha, has sought to sustain the tempo of his victory and meet the enormous expectations of him. He has been reaching out to the people through social media and speeches and has sent a clear message that he will be personally driving governance.
Modi laid a thrust on cleanliness right at the start of his term in office and soon central government offices began presenting a neater look. He emphasised on punctuality and established a direct dialogue with the top echelons of the bureaucracy.
Modi has also sought to energise the people and “awaken the power” of a laggard civil service down to its lowest level to ensure efficiency and time-bound delivery of services.
With “minimum government, maximum governance” as one of his mantras, Modi has sought to make government systems citizen-friendly and accountable and has initiated action to eliminate obsolete laws. The Modi government has also sought to bring about convergence among ministries for focused delivery.
Carrying forward some of his initiatives as the Gujarat chief minister, Modi has drawn up plans for rural transformation, boosting agricultural productivity and spreading e-governance through the Digital India programme.
With “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas (Support of all, development for all)” the pronounced development philosophy of his government, Modi has sought to send out a message of inclusiveness.
Former cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar said that the Modi government, like many others in the past, had come to office on a wave of euphoria and had started “very well”.
“Three months is a short time to make an assessment, but in terms of coping with (the issue of) delivery of services, I think it has done what no previous government had done. Modi made it clear that civil services must behave. He also put confidence in them, telling them to do their job without fear and favour. He has quickened the pace of decision-making by reducing layers,” Prabhat Kumar told IANS.
He said Modi had made his intentions clear in terms of policy by laying emphasis on sanitation and the need to boost rural and urban infrastructure.
“He has reviewed the performance of ministries and the directions he has given are very positive,” said Prabhat Kumar, who was cabinet secretary during 1998-2000.
Kumar said the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government should make a “rigorous review” of the previous government’s programmes, including the rural employment guarantee scheme and the rural health mission.
At the same time, he felt that the government’s move to replace the Planning Commission had been announced in a hurry and the homework for an alternative mechanism was only now being done.
Former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam said that Modi had inherited issues from the past and was not starting from a scratch.
“His head is in the right place. His heart is also in the right place,” Subramaniam told IANS.
He said Modi has “galvanized the bureaucracy in Delhi”.
“In 100 days, I am seeing much more than expected. The design is very much there. The foundation is being done. In the next 100 days, the ground floor will take shape,” said Subramaniam, who was cabinet secretary during 1996-98.
Various ministries have got going about goals announced by Modi including “Swatch Bharat” (clean India) by 2019 and a “pucca (permanent) house” for every family by 2022.
Work has also started on Modi’s other ideas including a golden quadrilateral, bullet trains and solid waste management in 500 urban centres across India through the public-private-partnership (PPP) model.
A forceful speaker and arguably the best communicator in India’s present political leadership, Modi has used big occasions such as his Aug 15 Independence Day address to powerfully reinforce his ideas of governance and policy. He has eschewed big-ticket announcements and focussed on issues of everyday concern which have won him accolades and silenced some of his bitter critics. He has sought to end poverty through initiatives aimed at empowerment rather than encouraging doles.
Modi’s emphasis on women empowerment and their safety has won him accolades.
While Modi has laid thrust on cooperative federalism with the states and the centre working as a team, hooting of some opposition chief ministers in his presence at government events has created some suspicions and acrimony.
Modi has also spawned a change in the way the government interacts with the media, with officials cagey about talking to journalists. He has stopped taking mediapersons from newspapers and TV news channels on his visits abroad and has instead encouraged a culture where information comes through releases and tweets.