He might not have projected himself as a ‘system-changer’ — as his chief contender Rahul Gandhi avowedly did — in the run up to the general elections, but as Narendra Modi completes 100 days as Prime Minister, innovation and change have become buzzwords in power corridors.
While the fact that peons, bureaucrats and ministers alike have to reach office by 9:30 am has drawn much public attention, the real changes brought about by Modi run much deeper. With a clear mandate in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister has set out to restore the institutional balance of power.
To start with, the executive looks set to get a say in appointments in higher judiciary. Legislative compulsions are no longer an excuse for policy paralysis as the government has set out to implement long-pending reforms, starting with an increase in FDI limit in defence and railways.
In keeping with his motto of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’, 17 departments and ministries have been clubbed into seven categories already and more administrative restructuring is in the offing.
The Cabinet meets regularly, but there are no dissenting voices in this regime. Advertisements about the PM’s Nagpur visit to inaugurate a metro rail project appeared even before the Cabinet approved it.
Opposition might have cried foul over Nripendra Mishra’s appointment as Modi’s principal secretary even before Parliament’s nod for an enabling amendment in the TRAI Act but the message is clear — technical glitches can’t stall governance.
Groups of ministers (GoMs) and EGoMs, which evolved as institutional mechanisms of delay during the UPA government’s rule have been dispensed with.
Ministers now tap on their colleagues’ shoulders at Cabinet meetings, inviting them home or in office and projects worth thousands of crores are cleared over cups of tea and snacks.
As environment minister Prakash Javadekar told HT: “If there is any problem in a project due to, say, some aspects of Forest Rights Act, I just meet the tribal affairs minister and sort it out. This works out fine.”
Modi regime has opted to bypass the traditional media and reach out to people directly via social media.
The strategy has, however, marginalised independent media, which has been left to feed on the inputs of official or embedded media or on official tweets. But these are early days yet and the NDA regime may re-visit this issue.
When Franklin D Roosevelt came up with the 100 days’ concept, he had the Great Depression to contend with.
While India of 2014 is certainly not the USA of 1933, Modi has the daunting task of lifting the mood of the nation and his 100 days in office has been a good beginning.