Surely Well Begun

  • Atul Sobti
  • India
  • May 22, 2015

Maybe not since Nehru’s tryst has there been such expectation from a Prime Minister of India. And Nehruesque too Modi is in his nationalism…but of course with a very different Idea of India….and with his feet more firmly on the ground. Modi is the leader that we deserved at this juncture, and he has come good as a Prime Minister. He has stamped his unique style and substance on Delhi, India and the world with characteristic élan. He seems to have a very clear vision for the country and its peoples. In fact he enunciated it in enough detail at the start…and he’s constantly at work on its various elements. To deliver achhe din consistently to all aam aadmis he has set out on a mission to comprehensively resolve multiple historic, legacy issues - some of which will take a few years and some, like housing, have been estimated to take 8 years. The Central govt. is today a new organic entity. The bureaucracy is being made more productive and responsible – though of course this has not gone down well with those used to currying favour, favouring others or playing games.  The ex-CM PM seems serious on promoting Co-operative Federalism with States, and has put his money where his mouth is – by allocating States a much higher share of the total kitty. There is no smell of corruption or scams, and auctions have yielded handsome sums. Ministers have been asked to personally inspect crop failure In States, and crop compensation has been given for even for 33% damage (vs. 50% earlier), and at 1.5 times earlier amounts per hectare.

The India story abroad has been communicated consistently, though with great specificity in each country (almost 20 covered within the year). For the world, and especially our neighbours, India’s Disaster Management skills were most apparent in Kashmir, Nepal and Yemen. An International Yoga Day proposed by the PM was immediately supported by 177 nations. Foreign affairs was strategically, unexpectedly but rightly taken over by the PM for the first year. Economically, Modi has identified India more as a manufacturing hub than a market. Global players seem to be getting Make in India more. Maybe Indian entrepreneurs are not used to playing an open game; they must remember that ease of doing business no longer means making business easy for them. Modi also seems to have spooked many with the coming Black Money Act. And the PM’s not forgotten our borders – especially in J&K (by heralding a bold coalition, showing great statesmanship), and North East  (by starting to align it strongly with the heartland). And he’s redefined India as a Maritime Nation. He’s brought a strategic focus to our coastlines, bays, seas and oceans….and the Ganga. The Navy, ports and waterways are finding mention and meaning after decades. A National Maritime Authority is but an announcement away.

Modi is trying to help the poor by focusing on emiminating poverty rather than forever keeping them dependent on doles. With Finance being at the heart of every Gujarati, Modi’s focus even on ‘inclusion’ has been on financial inclusion – through the opening of Jan Dhan bank accounts (12.5 crores), including an overdraft facility, and simple, effective Insurance policies (7 crores issued). The Aadhaar Card + Bank Account + Insurance Policy seems to be his combo answer for the poor – to help the govt. target them for help on food and fuel supply, as well as allowing them to help themselves financially, both in good times and bad. Gujarat has also been given the GIFT of a world-class financial centre – the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City. The big canvas has been rolled out in Railways and Defence, offering tremendous scope for investments and employment, while the significantly increased coal availability will fuel the 24x7 power ambitions. Railways has the opportunity to showcase the PPP model on a grand scale. 

The tragedy is that while the PM has enacted his role superbly, he has not been backed by his team. Everyone seems to wait to be told what to do next…and the PM has had his hands more than full. Maybe it’s a matter of trust, or the PM is too hands on to be a delegator. But change this must – for the people, and even for his future and that of the Party. There is no one looking at the day-to-day stuff that most of the citizens have expected from his govt. and waited for patiently. For example, inflation is down, but food prices are not. Deliver he probably will, well before the close of his term, but the people are getting impatient. What Modi ironically needs is a Patel - for ensuring that his govt.’s policies and initiatives are effectively implemented across the nation. A senior person needs to imediately be given the charge of facilitating, overseeing  and reviewing BJP States and CMs. It should preferably be Sushma Swaraj or Rajnath Singh (though Home is more critical); Niti Aayog can only play a staff role. The PM needs to ensure the best implementation of his programmes and initiatives in BJP-ruled States – even 1 big State to start with. Swachh Bharat, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Jan Dhan, Insurance & Pension initiatives, as also Digital India, Skill India, Make in India and Smart City need to be operationally successful at ground level. A BJP State has urgently to be developed as the next (Gujarat) role model. At a national level, there is little evidence of learnings from, or best practices of, individual States being applied elsewhere. The PM should ensure that one key initiative from every State/Metro is taken up for implementation all across the country. Niti Aayog should track their implementation religiously (just in a manner of speaking!). Now is also the time to tie up and allocate the finances for the funding of mega infrastructure projects. This has to be big bang, with a combination of further auctions of resources, divestments, ‘black to white’ and an India Infrastructure Fund. 

Year 2 must be for ‘home’ – from Day 1. It’s time for the PM to undertake a whirlwind tour of India…though maybe he needs to seal Bihar first – that’s the realpolitik for BJP’s Rajya Sabha seats. They cannot continue to be ‘blocked’ in Parliament. It also must be the year to excite the youth. 2 key programs should be on the PM’s Home Page:

Digital India, to e-enable education and to extensively deliver e-governance; Skill India, to get the jobs going.

This visionary PM should best be judged at the end of 3 years. By then most would probably be singing his tune …again. 


There has been little done for agriculture, and that’s why may be farmers have reacted more – though unseasonal rain has probably been the trigger. The second Green Revolution (primarily for East India), Soil Health Card and Irrigation (PM Krishi Sinchayee Yojana) seem to be still on the drawing board. Even the ‘Rurban’ vision doesn’t seem to have kicked off anywhere.


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