Monday, June 30, 2014

Modi's success Lies in ..... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ June 29,2014

Modi’s Success Lies in Not Falling into Trap of Those Who Never Voted for Him

The art of mass connectivity and Narendra Modi are made for each other. His communicative skills not only mesmerised voters but also made others look like dwarfs. He conquered India with words instead of weapons. Yet last week, the Prime Minister surprised his colleagues and admirers in a 645-word blog, bemoaning the denial of a reasonable honeymoon period to his government by the media and others. Candidly, he wrote, “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 for 100 days. Forget 100 days; the series of allegations began in less than 100 hours.” He may have a point. But what baffled Modi watchers was the reason he gave for the hostility towards his month-old government. Modi had admitted that he was facing a Brobdingnagian challenge on how to “convey to a select group of people our intentions and sincerity to bring a positive change in this country”.

For a leader who has won an unprecedented mass mandate, looking for an endorsement from a cluster of non-voting classes was a tad surprising. His words later revealed the challenges he faces in Delhi. Modi disclosed that this cluster comprises people from both within and outside the government. He has hit the nail on the head. It is for the first time that a person from a poor, backward background has come to occupy the most powerful office in the country. His style is alien to the ruling social classes. Modi’s Mission poses a serious threat to the established elitist hierarchy in Delhi. If he has emphasised the need to convince people within his own system about his intentions, it is obvious that he is out to pulverise them, in case they fail to fall in line or introduce roadblocks in his model of governance. Political Spiderman each one of them, they had woven the web of maximum government with minimum governance in order to insulate themselves against any threat of ejection from the system. Modi is an outsider in a city that boasts of degrees, pedigrees and punditry. He doesn’t possess any one of these supposed virtues. He has never been a fashionable Lodhi Gardens perambulator or a panelist in India International Centre discussions on diplomacy, culture or the economy. Now he has acquired the power to make or break the career of those whose hobby is to demolish the reputation of outsiders over champagne and caviar. Modi is their prime target—perceived as one who will ensure the transfer of real power from PLUs (People like Us) to PLTs (People like Them). Some PLUs are already trying to infiltrate his durbar through dubious and cultural connections to surreptitiously demolish and diminish his stature.

It is true that Modi’s actions as PM came under critical scrutiny within a week, beginning with the appointment of his Principal Secretary, followed by the railway fare hike and judicial appointments. When he won the election, he never thought he would have to face a grave inflation crisis, a massive monsoon deficit, the partial takeover of Iraq by Islamic fundamentalists, and train and fire accidents. But since the expectations were so scary, his detractors have taken political advantage in finding fault with his government for even natural calamities. But his response to some of these issues has been flawed, due to inexperience and differing wavelengths of communicative skill. For example, all sane people would favour a reasonable hike in train fares if Indian Railways has to survive as a robust public transport system. But the official explanation—even though correct—that it was only the decision of the last government that the NDA was putting into action sounded half-hearted. The new railway minister, who had served briefly as a Karnataka chief minister, was perhaps not briefed that he was no longer in the Opposition and had to speak like a national leader, taking responsibility for hard decisions, which will yield results in the long run. The HRD minister was under fire for her resolve to implement the BJP manifesto to roll back the Four-Year Graduate Course in the Delhi University. But she was the target of prominent leaders from within. Modi has to ponder over how the media and others knew the names of his ministers and their departments even before he had sent the signed notification letter to the President. Even now, details of inside information regarding decision-making are leaked to select people to either promote their agenda or demolish adversaries.

But Modi is justified in his emotional outburst against opinion-makers for being uncharitable. His first month in office has set many precedents. He has shrunk the gargantuan bureaucratic edifice by replacing the well-entrenched Committee raj with informal decision-making style in which all ministers sit across the table and resolve issues. He has given them a time-bound plan of action to deliver on issues. He has established direct contact with ministers and secretaries. In his first Cabinet meeting, Modi cleared the appointment of a Special Investigative Team to assist the Supreme Court-appointed panel to bring back black money to India. When the PMO received warnings about a massive monsoon shortfall that may cause unbearable food inflation, the Prime Minister called a high-level meeting to chalk out strategy to put corrective machinery in place. It is for the first time in India’s history that a Prime Minister starts work at 7 am and switches off the lights only at midnight. His working style has changed that of his colleagues, who would earlier walk into office at will for a cursory look at the files. Now, most of them are at work before 10 am. Another blog posted on June 27 on his website claims that the buzzword in the corridors of government is: In Modi’s government, the emphasis has shifted from “acts to action” and from “committees to commitment”.

If the actions and intentions of the Modi government are any indication, the PM is charting a roadmap for a Government with a Difference, after the party lost its unique identity over the past one decade. But Modi’s success lies in not falling into the trap of those who never voted for him. India has chosen him to change Delhi and not get lost in the glitter and false glory of the capital, full of vested interests, name-droppers, social climbers and opportunists. Modi should always be Forever Narendra Modi.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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