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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

100 days of Modi 2.0: He has been strong on security. Now, focus on the economy

With the GDP growing at 5% in the first quarter of this fiscal year, consumption down across sectors, and low private investment, there is an urgent need to boost demand.

editorials Updated: Sep 09, 2019 09:33 IST

Hindustan Times
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai, September 7, 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai, September 7, 2019(ANI)
         

In an historic feat, Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a second consecutive victory, with a full majority, in the Lok Sabha elections in May. Armed with a spectacular mandate, Mr Modi and his ministers took office 100 days ago.

A key feature of the government has been the pace of its decision-making, including on core ideological issues. The government’s key priority has been internal security, in keeping with its promise of providing a “strong government”. The most significant step has been the constitutional change in Jammu and Kashmir, which has the potential to integrate the region more fully into the Union. This has been accompanied with restrictions, which Delhi would now be well advised to ease with the eventual aim of restoring democracy. The PM has also committed to creating the position of a Chief of Defence Staff, which has the potential of ushering in long-pending structural defence reforms. By adding heft to internal investigative agencies and laws on unlawful activities, the government has shown a clear intent to add muscle to State power, although it must address apprehensions that these could be potentially misused. The second broad area area of focus is welfare, or what the PM calls the ‘“ease of living”. It has expanded the Ujjwala scheme, promised more rural housing, continued with Ayushman Bharat, and expanded the ambit of direct income support to farmers. In a laudable move, it has made water conservation a national priority, created an integrated ministry and promised to provide piped water to rural homes. The government has also launched a campaign against single-use plastic.

There are two broad areas where the government needs to do more. The first is the economy. With the GDP growing at 5% in the first quarter of this fiscal year, consumption down across sectors, and low private investment, there is an urgent need to boost demand. The government appears to have recognised that there is a slowdown and attempted reforms, including corrections to certain budget proposals, but it needs greater focus and political direction. The second area is what the PM highlighted even before taking office — of the need to to allay apprehensions and fears of minorities, and win their trust. The BJP’s rank and file, and broader ideological family, should pay heed to the PM’s call and build an environment of inter-religious harmony. This will both expand its own political strength, and sustain India as a diverse and plural society.

First Published: Sep 09, 2019 09:33 IST