Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government established its credentials as a decisive and fast-moving administration in its first 100 days, a radical departure from the UPA administration which dragged its feet on key policy decisions as it waited for political direction from the Congress high command or approval from its allies and Left parties.
Modi took office in May with a promise to restore economic momentum and end years of policy paralysis. And he hit the ground running by energising the slothful bureaucracy and announcing a lean cabinet in a bid to streamline operations and speed up ground-level implementation.
But the dramatic changes weren’t limited to the junking of mountains of unused files and computers from government offices in Delhi.
Within a month of taking over, the government ushered in several key reform measures in labour laws, the judicial system and the financial sector, including bringing in a bill to hike FDI in the insurance sector. It also took the bold step to announce the steepest hike in railway fares while, in contrast, former rail minister Lalu Prasad refused to hike fares in any class in 2004.
The government got cracking on a campaign promise to unearth black money almost immediately: Modi’s first cabinet meeting decided to form a Special Task Force to bring back black money from abroad. The UPA, too, acted under pressure to recover unaccounted money and signed several international treaties.
In line with his mantra of “minimum government, maximum governance”, the Prime Minister decided to scrap the Group of Ministers (GoM) and Empowered GoMs, which the previous UPA government used to defer contentious policy decisions. The number of cabinet committees has also been reduced.
The first Manmohan Singh government set up the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council in June 2004 as a so-called super guide to the government.
Parliament got off to a slow start, but at the end of the Modi government’s first full session, the new administration had chalked up a long list of reformist legislation. The government cleared the parliamentary hurdle for the judicial appointments bill seeking to introduce transparency into hiring senior judges. The bill has been pending for 24 years.
It also accelerated the labour reforms process by introducing two bills aiming to revamp the country’s archaic labor laws and make it easier to do business in India. The UPA had introduced but failed to push the Factories (Amendment) Bill and the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill.
However, the government’s plans to allow more foreign investment in the insurance sector could not be passed in the budget session because of stiff opposition by the Congress and other opposition parties. The UPA introduced the insurance bill in 2008.
But the government came under attack from the Congress party which said there had been a spurt in communal violence in the country during the NDA’s first 100 days in office.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi led the charge against the government, saying the BJP came to power by selling "false dreams" to the people.
The Congress also said the new government was showcasing UPA flagship schemes and policies as its own.
"Who started Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in every village? Who made construction of toilets a part of MGNREGA?" Sonia Gandhi asked, in an apparent reference to the prime minister’s push for sanitation and toilets in his Independence Day speech.