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Modi will need diplomatic skills to keep party stalwarts satisfied

Well begun is half done, and in this case, it would be no exaggeration to say that Mr Modi has certainly done a splendid job of getting off the starting blocks.

comment Updated: May 21, 2014 11:01 IST

It was an outstanding speech, his first ever in Parliament over which he will preside, even by Narendra Modi’s elevated standards. The “son of a poor man” as he described himself on Tuesday, made the transition from Gujarat to New Delhi in a flawless manner, right down to kneeling on the steps of Parliament.

In his speech, he made no references that could in any way be termed as bitter about his opponents.

In fact, he made it a point to say that the work of past governments could not be overlooked.

But all eyes were, of course, on the body language of Mr Modi and his former mentor-turned-critic LK Advani. Here too, everything went off smoothly with Mr Modi touching the party patriarch’s feet and acknowledging his debt of gratitude to him.

Mr Advani on his part rose to the occasion, displaying none of the churlishness that had come to characterise his relations with Mr Modi and praised the latter for the historic victory of the BJP and NDA.

Mr Modi is not known to be an emotional man but in this speech, he broke down when referring to Mr Advani using the word ‘kripa’ and also spoke wistfully about the absence of the BJP’s former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

That Mr Modi is a long-distance runner was clear when he referred to presenting his report card to the people in 2019.

But, ahead of him lies the onerous task of putting together his Cabinet with more than one stalwart eyeing the same post.

It is here that he will need all his diplomatic skills to keep everyone satisfied. Unlike Mr Modi, many of them have held prized portfolios in the former NDA government. Of course, given his impressive mandate, he can pretty well do what he wants.

But the tone of his speech did not suggest that he would do that. The pre-poll allies too must be hoping to get a few portfolios and leaders like the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray have wisely lobbed the ball into Mr Modi’s court, saying that it is for him to decide.

If Mr Modi is true to his word about less government and more governance, he is likely to begin with a small Cabinet, adding numbers as the days go by. The fact that he has already got the bureaucracy working shows that he means to hit the ground running.

With no real Opposition in Parliament, the responsibility for transparent and effective governance devolves all the more on him.

Well begun is half done, and in this case, it would be no exaggeration to say that Mr Modi has certainly done a splendid job of getting off the starting blocks.