Two years on, Modi has fully delivered on governance
But, it is on the policy front that the Centre has been a slow starter.
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Two years ago, sitting under a merciless sun on an extremely hot and excessively humid day in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, watching Narendra Modi take oath as prime minister of India, two questions crossed my mind.
First, notwithstanding his impressive performance as chief minister of Gujarat, would he be able to live up to the sky high expectations of the masses who had voted him, and the BJP, to power, electing the first single party majority government in three decades?
Second, would there really be a departure from the established norms of governance with the first prime minister from outside Lutyens's Delhi, India's version of the Washington beltway, taking charge of the government?
Two years later, there is little reason to doubt that there has been a tectonic shift in the content and style of governance with the advent of Modi sarkar. In these 24 months, there's not been a whiff of corruption or fixers.
By itself, this is no mean achievement. Over the past seven decades, a system had evolved that was both corrupt and corrupting.
The corrosive effect of crony capitalism, the debilitating impact of policy paralysis, the crisis of leadership and the gathering economic gloom had combined to make something patently bad or even worse.
Just how deep the rot was can be gauged from the fact that two years after the exit of the Congress-led government, skeletons continue to tumble out of the old regime's rickety cupboard. The AgustaWestland bribery scandal is not necessarily the last on the list of scams to surface.
From there to a situation where even hardened cynics are forced to grudgingly admit that Modi has been true to his word in cleansing the system of malpractise and malcontent is more than just a hop, leap and jump - it is a quantum leap towards governance as it is meant to be. Yet, by itself, getting government going by resetting pace and style is not enough.
There has to be a policy and programme for the government to implement through what is called good governance.
It is on the policy front that Modi sarkar has been a slow starter. Financial inclusion through bank accounts for all, facilitating direct benefit transfer, populist insurance schemes, linking Aadhar to social welfare and pumping more money into tax-funded rural employment are not shining, brand new initiatives. They are refashioned UPA programmes.
Modi sarkar has just not delivered reforms on the scale on which they were expected. There has at best been some tinkering here and there, but no large-scale recasting of economic policies, reframing of the tax regime and replicating at the national level, the miracle story of Gujarat.
To be fair, the government remains hostage to a strange situation where it can pass legislation in the Lok Sabha but faces multiple obstacles in the Rajya Sabha.
While obstructionism by the Congress is to blame in large measure for the legislative logjam in Parliament, poor floor management has been a factor too. Being harsh on one and all is not the best way forward when the numbers are stacked against you.
This is something the prime minister must worry about. Nor does it help if he sits out stormy sessions in the House. Just because his predecessors chose to do so does not mean so should he.
Indeed, Modi should have pushed for something like the Prime Minister's Question Hour, setting a path-breaking practise which his successors would find it difficult to discontinue.
On fulfilling soaring popular expectations, the jury is still out. It would be simplistic to say Modi sarkar is yet to deliver its promise of "achhe din", good days.
Governments are elected for five years and an assessment of its work should ideally be done in the fifth year.
What are now tiny green shoots - better services, price line control, greater security, including energy security, to name a few - could grow into saplings over the next three years and sturdy trees over the next decade. That's how countries change and evolve.
Meanwhile, the government, both at the executive and the political level, should do better expectation management and adopt a more effective communications model. The prime minister's fireside chats are not quite what people expect by way of reassurance and reaffirmation of commitment.
As Modi sarkar enters its third year in office, it can justly claim credit for reviving global interest in the "India story". Across the world India is being watched. From Make in India to Digital India, the response has been one of desk-thumping.
But a lot more remains to be done for "Transforming India". Modi's own popularity remains extraordinarily high. After the BJP's electoral victory in Assam and the comprehensive defeat of the Congress across states, his ratings can only rise further, adding to the political momentum of Modi sarkar. But how popular are his ministers? How are they perceived as performers?
This is something Modi needs to find out. No reality check is complete in politics unless perception is also checked out. After all, as Modi would know best, perception matters more than reality in politics.
While bulk of the perception is shaped by him, he definitely does not shape it entirely. An honest reality check could surprise him.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)