In the six months he has ruled India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated a new style of governance, of a “taskmaster” in his own words, peppered with some out-of-the-box thinking that has won him admirers and raised hopes among the people at a level unseen in recent years.
This is the overall assessment of a cross-section of those IANS spoke to about this 64-year-old master communicator, who is seen heading the most powerful Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) after the Indira Gandhi era — deftly merging the needs of modern India with subtle touches of Hindutva politics.
Having decimated the Congress, he has promised to improve governance, create new jobs, boost infrastructure and clean up India, among a host of other initiatives, while charting a fresh path to improve the country’s ties with a host of nations — from West to the East.
After taking office May 26, he has sought to remove sloth from officialdom and to make the government target-driven and decisive. The former Gujarat chief minister, now the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tallest leader, also favours rules and processes that are people friendly.
Former cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar calls Modi a decisive leader who has taken some major initiatives but said it was too early to judge his government’s performance.
“In the last 25 years, I have not seen a prime minister as decisive as him. The way he looks at the India of future, he has a dream,” Kumar told IANS. “He appears very authentic.”
Kumar thinks that the next annual budget, expected in February 2015, would be a major policy document. “Thereafter, the results will have to be shown (on the ground).”
For now, what has generated nationwide interest is the Clean India campaign Modi announced from the Red Fort in his first Independence Day address.
But instead of making it a bureaucratic affair, he has converted it into a mass campaign despite some hiccups.
The other major initiatives of the BJP-led government include Jan Dhan Yojana, Sharamev Jayate, Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana, Sardar Patel Awas Yojana and Jeevan Praman.
Modi’s critics, however, accuse him of centralising all authority in his hands — a la Indira Gandhi.
They also say his government is influenced by the agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological fountainhead.
Kumar is not happy with “too much centralisation” in the Modi era. “This isn’t good. It can discourage ministries from taking their own initiatives.”
Congress leader M. Veerapa Moily said the Modi government was all about words – and no action.
“If you go by speeches and slogans, Modi’s (record) is very good,” Moily told IANS. “But we are yet to discover performance.”
Chennai-based political analyst M.R. Venkatesh told IANS that there was almost no corruption now at the top level in the government.
“Modi should now start fixing targets for the bureaucracy… Modi is the single point in the central government, and that is also the weakness.”
But Venkatesh found fault with the government’s stand in the Supreme Court that names of black money holders abroad cannot be disclosed due to legal reasons.
“The party made a big issue of black money while not in power. Even at that time it knew about government agreements and non-disclosure clauses.”
Politically, Modi has kept up the BJP’s winning momentum in Haryana — where the party has taken power on its own for the first time — and, more important, in Maharashtra, albeit by running foul of the Shiv Sena.
Unlike any other prime minister, Modi addressed the nation on the radio regularly. Modi also makes extensive use of the social media — and at the same time welcomes feedback and suggestions.
Modi has been personally involved with the initiatives of the government, setting targets and pushing officials to squeeze timelines.
The prime minister is also determined to clean up the polluted Ganga, the holiest of rivers for millions of Hindus.
But there are enormous challenges. The millions who voted for the BJP after Modi’s election promise of providing “achche din” (good days) want quick answers to the many problems that confront India.
Political commentator S. Nihal Singh said Modi shined more in the foreign policy domain than in domestic politics.
“And Modi has been emphasising simple issues (like sanitation) rather in the manner of the Mahatma,” Singh told IANS.