Outsider PM's Success Lies in How Fast He Demolishes Barriers Built by Insiders
It was a 63-minute speech which elitist India would abhor, even while adoring its deliverer. Flamboyant in royal Jodhpuri headgear, Prime Minister Narendra Modi comported himself like a man with a mandate. His maiden address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort was short on big words but long in outreach. The gifted orator used videshi idiom to unfold a swadeshi road map. He vowed to convert India’s primitive countryside into a digital paradise. But he also made it clear that wireless connectivity would be achieved only through instruments made in India. He said, “When I talk about Digital India, it is not just something meant for big people. It is an instrument of growth for the poor.” The PM adroitly chose the very issues used by the elitist India to stay relevant and connected with the establishment, both at home and abroad. Speaking on gender issues, safety of women and heinous crimes like rapes, he admonished parents, asking them to control their sons instead of shackling their daughters, something no NGO or chest-thumping activist has even had an epiphany about. It is for the first time that a leader made it the responsibility of parents to spend more time in making their sons accountable for their activities than monitoring their daughters with suspicion. He emphasised the need for a clean India, both in body and spirit. His predecessors would unfailingly bleat about reviving big business, but Modi’s intent is to create a phalanx of young entrepreneurs. Refraining from excessive name-dropping of past leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi touched upon almost every issue from communalism to consumerism. Perhaps, it is for the first time that a PM skipped commenting on cross-border threats. The central point of his address was exclusively domestic—ensuring a responsive civil service, engineering economic revival and containing caste and communal strife. Without defining the contours of the coming institutional changes in the government structure, he made his first visible move by announcing the disbanding of the Planning Commission, which had become a roadblock in faster development of states. It was a political message to the states that the PM would like to make all CMs equal stakeholders in the allocation of funds for progress. With a single stroke, Modi silenced his worst critics in the states. Thus the CM-turned-PM also became India’s Pradhan Mukhya Mantri (Prime Chief Minister) and Pradhan Sewak.
Modi also made the shocking revelation that Delhi has many governments within the government. By giving the example of one Union ministry fighting a legal battle against another, he was revealing the nature of the various pressure groups that use their influence to stall government decisions through their contacts with ministers and bureaucrats. Calling himself an outsider, Modi made it clear that he was determined to dismantle the parallel establishment inside and outside the government. As his vocabulary revealed, now that he has taken charge, the PM would start the process of putting in place a genuine Modi Sarkar soon. According to insiders, he has been spending long hours understanding the rules of governance and the hidden multi-layer processes within decision-making. He has successfully aborted the moves of numerous powerbrokers to find their way into his inner circle of advisors. As one of his aides said, “Modiji moved from Gujarat to Delhi without a kitchen. Now many are in the line to join his kitchen cabinet. They don’t forget that he is a much better cook and manager of his own kitchen.” As is evident from the past 75 days of his tenure, Modi welcomes ideas and not individuals with personal agendas.
NaMo has once again asserted that he will follow his own vision and mission. Proving various pundits claiming proximity to him wrong, the PM’s message to the nation was not written by a menagerie of mandarins. As is the usual practice, all ministries were asked to send directly to Modi proposals they would like to be included in the PM’s speech. Since most of these presentations were near-Xeroxes of the ones sent to previous PMs, they went into Modi’s trash can. He avoided announcing new schemes, elaborating only on subjects he was vocal about during his election campaign. All the new initiatives he announced bore the Modi stamp. He didn’t make any promises. It was obvious that he realised over 90 per cent of the new schemes announced by his predecessors were forgotten as soon as they returned to Race Course.
Two most important takeaways from Modi’s address were accountability and delivery. Announcing the launch of Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna, he advised all MPs and MLAs to use their discretionary funds to develop a model village each in their constituency every year. So far, lawmakers were using taxpayers’ money to oblige their supporters by constructing barat ghars, installing streetlights near their houses or splurging money on projects which were already being funded by other agencies. Modi’s objective was to force legislators to deliver visible assets in their respective areas. Basically, he was telling them to spend less time at cocktail parties and more working in the villages. Modi has realised that it is the growing promiscuity between lawmakers and lawbreakers in big cities that has marred the nation’s growth.
His indigenous narrative was also meant to make India self-reliant by making her a destination for capital creation. His pitch for foreign investment did not come without a rider. He made it clear that foreigners are welcome to establish manufacturing units and not just to invest in financial instruments. None would be encouraged to bring in hot money either. They could come only to make things in India and sell them outside India. He offered investors a range of choices from paper manufacturing to submarine building to minimise India’s dependence on imports.
Modi’s call for change from the heights of the Red Fort has shaken the foundation of the class and caste-ridden establishment. His success would lie in how fast and how soon an outsider like him would be able to demolish the 68-year-old hitherto unbreakable barrier built and protected by greedy insiders and take India to its true destiny.
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