Former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde terms Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies “ahead of their time” while Assam chief minster Tarun Gogoi, otherwise critical, has replicated or floated a variant of his Swachh Bharat and Mann ki Baat ideas.
Some sniff a design behind Modi’s initiatives; others would rather wait to see how they pan out. But his journey, many feel, has so far been in the realm of showmanship.
“Oil prices have come down to contain inflation and price rise but it will take at least two years to fulfill promises to boost the economy,” says Ahmedabad-based businessman Sanjay Shah.
Kolkata-based economist Probir Mukherjee gives Modi a high-five for foreign policy, especially for ensuring rotational presidency in the BRICS Development Bank. “He needs to give shape to the foundation laid by his predecessor,” he says.
But then, Rajkot businessman Ramesh Patel warns that the foreign policy positives could be undone if Modi’s next budget does not turn the economy around.
For that, says Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, economic reforms need to be revved up. “The government continues to look at each single investment with a microscope,” she says.
The Make in India mantra to attract investment has had mixed reactions too. While the Telangana government has given it a cold shoulder, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu lapped it up and coined an improvised Make in AP for his state.
Modi’s Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana has appealed to Telangana Rashtra Samithi MPs, though. “I have decided to adopt a hamlet in Adilabad district and in the process of finalising two more,” Balka Suman, a first-time Lok Sabha MP, says while advising the PM to hike the MPLAD fund from Rs 5 crore to Rs 8 crore.
Jayapur, the village in Varanasi constituency of Uttar Pradesh that Modi has adopted, expects changes. “The PM has made us proud and we are sure focus on cleanliness and improved health will impact all 896 villages in Varanasi (Modi’s constituency),” says village head Durga Devi.
Praise flows from unexpected quarters, too. “The Modi government has done good work so far,” says Raja Bhaiya, UP’s controversial food and civil supplies minister.
The statement has it bearing on the PM nominating to everyone surprise UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav as the first of his “nine navratnas” or cleanliness ambassadors for the state. The CM launched a clean-green mission soon after.
In Bihar, the challenge is to provide toilets. Nearly 77% people defecate in the open, much more than the national average of 60%.
State government figures say nearly 40 lakh toilets have been constructed — 22,600 of them in schools —under the much-publicised Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. “We are taking measures to improve the situation because it involves issues related to dignity, security and health of women,” says Ram Kripal Yadav, union minister of state for drinking water and sanitation.
The Dalit India Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Karnataka unit president Raja Nayak says the PM lends his ears as much as he makes others listen. “We met the PM recently and before we could tell him about ourselves, he listed our initiatives. We were touched. Dalits should stop feeling that the BJP and Modi are against them,” Nayak says.
The PM has impressed Varanasi-based weaver Wazir Mohammed, too. “One feels like believing in him,” he says.
His rivals aren’t falling for his promises and projects, though. Senior CPM leader and former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya describes the Swachh Bharat campaign as mere eyewash.
“Asking people to take up brooms is a drama by this demagogue Prime Minister who is spreading communal fire throughout India,” Bhattacharya says.
Bengaluru-based Ambrose Pinto, former director of the Indian Social Institute, is wary of the communal conflagrations and skirmishes of the past six months. “There have been communal riots in Delhi, UP, Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka since Modi became PM. What happened to his promise of a 10-year moratorium on communal violence?”
Vidya Dinker, a Bengaluru-based green activist, finds fault on the environment front. “The environment minister in the Modi government talks and behaves like the industries minister. The government has cleared 240 highly-polluting industrial projects in its first 100 days,” he alleges.
Across villages and urban slums, however, the Jan Dhan scheme has caught on. “I finally have my own bank account where I can park my savings. The PM thinks so much for people like us,” says Ranjana Sarkar, a Kolkata-based homemaker.
(With inputs from Manish Chandra Pandey in Lucknow, Mahesh Langa in Ahmedabad, Ashok Mishra in Patna, Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri in Kolkata, Prasad Nichenametla in Hyderabad and Sudipto Mondal in Bengaluru)
Full coverage:Six months of Modi govt