A hundred days or a little over three months may be too less a time to judge how the prime minister of a billion plus people has fared and whether he has come good on the promises that he has made to his fellow countrymen. But that's not the case when it comes to the man who became the Prime Minister of India after leading his party to an unprecedented victory in General Elections on the promise of good governance and development.
And there is a reason for it. While he was on his extraordinary and energised campaign trial, cutting across length and breadth of the country, Modi promised hope to the people. Hope for jobs, reduction in prices, clean politics and eradication of corruption amongst other things. People who thronged to his rallies and who were fed up with 10 years of Congress-led UPA government’s rule marred by policy paralysis, rising inflation and numerous scams, believed in him and voted him to power.
And herein lies the test for Modi. In rallies after rallies he did promise the people of India that if voted to power he would make their states developed and progressive just like he had done in Gujarat, though not necessarily replicating the same model. And now that he is in power all eyes are on him to see whether he can walk the talk.
Gujarat may not be perfect state but it had an exceptional economic growth under Modi between 2004 and 2012 when the state grew at 10.1 percent, much more than the national average of 7.6 percent, even though it had shortcomings in public health and education and did not have a good record in areas like infant mortality rate and women's literacy. Gujarat also witnessed success in infrastructure, roads and electricity supply with schemes like Jyotigram Yojana.
Focus on investment and e-governance schemes, which is said to have cut red tape at the ground level, were also areas which Modi gave importance to. The speed with which the Tatas set up the Nano factory in Gujarat after the bitter experience in West Bengal is an example of this.
Now as PM, the question to be asked is whether Modi can replicate all of the above and more in Delhi. The answer as of now seems to be in the affirmative.
E-governance is as important to him now as was then and so is investment. Digital India project which was launched recently to ensure that government services are available to citizens electronically amongst other things and his emphasis on defence production in India, about which he talked on August 15, are indicative of these.
Modi was also known to work closely and directly with bureaucrats, with his ministers often not being in his scheme of things, when he was the chief minister. Many feel that his initial style of working in Delhi has already revealed that as the PM too he is more comfortable working directly with babus. The fact that bureaucrats have been encouraged to share their big ideas with him and the grapevine that his ministers are not allowed to keep even their private secretaries without his consent allude to this point.
Like in Gujarat, his priority as the PM seems to be structural reorientation and systematic change of the government. Cutting the flab of government machinery, merging smaller ministries and doing away with the Planning Commission all seem to be part of this agenda.
In his time in Gujarat, Modi was often dubbed as authoritarian and one who believed in the centralisation of power. In all likelihood, this is a streak that is likely to continue. The fact that he managed to successfully make his Man Friday Amit Shah the BJP president does show that he wanted total hold over the party, just like he had over the government.
There is another aspect of Modi which defined his persona as the CM of Gujarat and that was being hailed as a mascot of Hindutava by the so-called ‘parivar’. So when he became PM a certain section feared that India would go through ‘saffronisation’ of sorts. However, there has been no reason so far to believe that this will happen, but at the same time his silence on the assertions from RSS about what Hinduism is and who a Hindu has been questioned.
It will also be interesting to watch as to how the relationship between the RSS and Modi pans out. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat did tick him off recently when Modi hailed Shah as the man of the match of Lok sabha polls at the BJP national council meet.
Thus, there may be the reflection of CM Modi in PM Modi and that was something that was always going to be but the flip side of it is that he is also increasingly being seen as someone who is surprisingly and refreshingly different in many ways from what he was perceived to be when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
It is clear from his speeches and his posturing that as the prime minister of a billion plus people, Modi wants to strike the right chord. No more the belligerent and aggressive man witnessed during the General Elections campaign. Once Modi achieved what he had set out to achieve, the bitterness of the election campaign has gone and the man who was considered as divisive and polarising by his opponents was seen reaching out to his detractors and appearing conciliatory.
Right from his first speech in Parliament, where to the surprise of many, he showed an emotional side of his, to his first Independence Day address when he called himself a ‘pradhan sewak’, Modi has time and again underlined the point that he wants to take everyone along in his journey as PM and has often urged politicians cutting across party lines to close ranks and work for the collective good of the country.
He has talked about humility and the lessons that victory teaches. No wonder then, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor made the comment that the PM may have evolved into ‘Modi 2.0’ and wondered if the man was “a very different figure in government from the ogre some had feared and demonised for years”.
He has also been a busy man as far as foreign affairs are concerned. As the CM of Gujarat he was seen as a Pakistan baiter and even used terms like ‘Mian Musharaff’ during Assembly election campaigns. However, he surprised many when he invited heads of all SAARC nations for his swearing in ceremony and that included Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif.
And though he may have minced no words when he accused India’s neighbour of indulging in ‘proxy war’, it is clear from his repeated jargon of peace and friendship especially amongst South Asian nations that regional cooperation is important to his international strategy and he wants his presence felt at the world stage.
There is still a lot of time left in his tenure to pass a judgement on Modi’s performance as the Prime Minister but for now it can be safely said that when the present times are chronicled in history, the man amongst other things, will be surely written as someone who had an ability to surprise. It can also be said that while the path ahead for Modi may be fraught with challenges as he attempts to fulfil the assurances that he has given to millions of Indians; as of now he definitely seems to be enjoying being the PM of the world’s largest democracy, with the glory it brings.