The value that Prime Minister Modi adds- Vinay Sahasrabuddhe
Remember the widespread trend of pooh-poohing politicians and the entire political class of 2013? Just recalling how Anna Hazare, whose agitations have always thrived on ridicule of the political class fuelled by a scathing attack on their bad governance, and the tumultuous response to his rallies and fasts, one would be able to gauge the climate change—evidently for the better—that the country has witnessed after 2014. A significant feature of PM Narendra Modi’s governance during the last seven years is the diminishing impact of the business of repeatedly lampooning the political class and thereby harming the cause of democracy.
Pippa Norris, renowned political scientist of the Kennedy School of Government, has rightly argued that democratic responsiveness and state effectiveness have to go hand in hand for the very survival of democracy. She further says that while it is indisputable that institutions of democracy do prevent the abuse of state power, it doesn’t mean that those elected to govern will automatically have the capacity to implement effective public policies addressing social needs. Obviously, therefore, a merging of democracy and governance, particularly state capacity, is the only way to achieve developmental goals. What Modi has done is exactly that.
This year, October 7 marks the completion of two decades of Narendra Modi as head of government: 13 years initially as chief minister of Gujarat and later seven years as prime minister. There are many aspects of his governance that have brought remarkable success to him. However, one cannot overlook at least three important features of the significant value addition that Modi brings to the table. Firstly, his intent and purity of purpose; secondly, his innovative and imaginative ideas; thirdly, his untiring efforts for robust, flawless implementation.
To start with, the purity of purpose with which the PM has been leading the nation is extraordinary. True, there may be people criticising the government over certain issues, but even among them, many support Modi because of the strong and transparent sense of purpose with which he has been working. Nobody has been able to make any allegations that would put a question mark on the PM’s intent. He has come with no baggage. Remember, he had to work with the same legacy, same bureaucracy, same judicial system, same legal framework and same functional set-up, yet he has been able to motivate officials, produce results and establish that transformational politics or politics of performance can also win. His emphasis on certain themes like people’s participation, more governance with less government, enhancing the quality of life and making democracy deliver makes him stand apart.
When it comes to innovations, no previous government has worked as passionately to promote an out-of-the-box approach while dealing with knotty issues in public administration. Personally, Modi has always been very keen on finding solutions through innovations. When he was the Gujarat CM, he made the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) in Ahmedabad work successfully when it was a failure in almost all other cities in different states. He ensured this while introducing a litany of innovative reforms. His creative bent is evident through several of his first-of-its-kind initiatives. This list includes the MyGov portal, direct communication with countrymen using Mann Ki Baat, Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal, his monthly PRAGATI meetings aimed at following up on mega infra projects, his annual elaborate interactions with top police officials … The list is endless. He refuses to continue with the status quo or accept that unproductive systems are a fait accompli. Catch the bull by its horns is his signature approach to innumerable challenges that come his way. He comes up with new ideas, from People’s Padma to Pradhanmantri Sangrahalay and from Capacity Building Commission to International Solar Alliance. Without making any noises, he has quietly converted Most Backward Districts into Aspirational Districts and Viklang or physically challenged/differently abled into Divyang. These are not just changes in the nomenclature. These are examples of transforming the mindset and changing the outlook.
Resolutely undertaken measures for a flawless implementation is the third key feature of governance under PM Modi. Wait for a few more months and a new Temple of Democracy, the new Parliament House—equipped with many new tech-driven facilities—will be ready. The same can be said about the Central Vista project. A few years ago, he undertook a thorough review of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana independently and, having reviewed most educational outcomes and recommended reforms, instructed officials to have a thorough relook. What people had earlier written off as either too ambitious or almost impossible, Modi had ensured that it happened. The way he has resolutely worked on ultra-politicised issues like the nullification of Article 370 and ending the practice of triple talaq—ignored for long disregarding the constitutional mandate—is indicative of his unflinching commitment. It is not for no reason that it was during his tenure that the pace of road construction increased, efforts for better performance in Olympic and Paralympic Games gathered momentum, entrepreneurship and start-ups became buzzwords of the GenNext and the New Education Policy started taking concrete shape. Even his critics would agree that PM Modi has handled the challenging situation during Covid-19 pandemic remarkably well.
Bhagavad-Gita talks about adhisthana (confidence in/commitment to a set of eternal values/principles) and karta (the doer) as fundamentally essential ingredients when one sets off on a mission. PM Modi’s mission is Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat and a karta of his kind alone, possessing a certain adhisthana, can accomplish this great mission in the foreseeable future.
[Note: This was first published in Indian Express]