Like a great batsman, Narendra Modi has begun his second innings on the front foot.
Cricket and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are the flavours of the season. There is a cricketing analogy that applies to PM Modi. The difference between a good batsman and a truly great batsman is not just about averages but is also about certain aspects on the field. A good batsman gets to a century, but at times, throws it away with a tired or loose shot. A truly great batsman, however, sees the hundred as just another milestone. He goes on to score runs at an even greater pace and makes a decisive impact on the result of the game. This is what one is reminded of, seeing Modi 2.0 in action.
The prime minister’s supporters are still under the spell of the work done in Modi 1.0 and the thumping electoral mandate. His opponents are still trying to digest the massive jolt to their political future. Political pundits are still trying to come to terms with the shattering of their conventional wisdom. But Modi has already moved to a higher gear. In just a little more than 20 days, he has taken important strides, not just within the country but also outside.
There were some big ticket promises made in the BJP manifesto. Barely a couple of weeks after the swearing-in, the Modi government has already delivered upon them. After the first Cabinet meeting of the new government, Modi announced the extension of the PM-Kisan scheme to all farmers, as promised. Also fulfilled was the important promise of providing a pension scheme for farmers and small shopkeepers, providing a safety net for the future. These moves benefit a whopping 14 crore plus farmers and over 3 crore small shopkeepers.
Water management and access to safe drinking water has become part of the public discourse, mainly thanks to Modi’s continuous focus on it. Significant steps like the formation of the Jal Shakti ministry show a renewed focus on the most important issue regarding the nation’s future. Modi also spoke about water management in detail at the Niti Aayog’s governing council meet. States also exchanged the best practices in water management at the meeting.
The prime minister has already set his sights on making India a $5 trillion economy and has urged states to start having GDP targets right from the district level. This is important, especially in the context of raising living conditions in “aspirational districts”, another important focus area for Modi.
One of the phrases that wasn’t a big part of the pre-Modi political culture of India is “ease of doing business”. The Modi government has brought down the salary contribution of industrial workers who are eligible for healthcare benefits under the employees’ state insurance act (ESI). This incentivises organisations to report employment numbers correctly and give workers their due benefits. Both employers and employees benefit.
Earlier, corruption used to be an accepted reality in most government departments, especially at the top. Even Modi’s detractors accept Delhi’s power corridors are now free of touts and wheeler-dealers. If some thought that Modi would take a break in his fight against corruption, then he just proved them all wrong. In a typically surprising but daring “surgical strike”, Modi “compulsorily retired” over two dozen senior officers of the income tax department. A Chinese proverb says “kill the chicken to scare the monkey”. It would be a mistake to see this as an action against just some errant officers. It was a show of intent to the entrenched bureaucracy that their shenanigans would not be endured any more. It seems to be a precursor to greater reforms in the bureaucracy, something that only Modi is seen as willing to carry out. Remember, it was he who introduced lateral entry into the top rungs of the administration.
Modi 1.0 disrupted the cosy status quo on Kashmir in many ways. Modi 2.0 has already gone one step further. An important clean-up has been initiated within the Jammu and Kashmir Bank. Those in the know have long alleged that the opaque functioning of this bank had made it a den of funding and transactions for all sorts of unsavoury elements that try to keep the Kashmir Valley on the boil. Modi’s action against the bank, enforcing transparency and accountability, has created a new normal in the political dynamics of the state.
On the foreign policy front, the prime minister has already blazed a trail. He left an impact on the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit just a few days ago, in which he spoke out against terrorism and built a global consensus around it. Before that, he became the first world leader to travel to Sri Lanka after the horrific Easter terror attacks that left hundreds dead and the world shocked. This was the gesture of a friend who knew the pain of losing people to terrorism.
PM Modi has also managed to convincingly flex India’s muscles in the neighbourhood. His visit to Maldives, the grand welcome he got there and the visible camaraderie showed that Modi was undoing the policy blunders that UPA’s apathy had caused. Not only did Maldives honour Modi with their highest award but according to media reports, they are also on the verge of scrapping a maritime deal with China, tilting the balance of the region in favour of India — a major foreign policy victory.
When he was newly elected in 2014, the flurry of activity that Modi unleashed made it seem like it was just the newcomer’s burst of energy. However, he maintained that energy throughout his first term and surprised everyone. Now, it is clear that Modi is a man on a mission, a man in a hurry to take India to new heights. Just the first 20 days of Modi 2.0 are enough to say that.