Congress, Please Note. Finally, A Powerful, Responsible PMO, Writes Nalin S Kohli

Published: September 03, 2014 14:31 IST
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(Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Director of the party's Public Policy Research Centre. He is also a lawyer and has extensive experience in media and education.)

Even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed his first 100 days in office, the Congress Party began an onslaught of verbal warfare. Congress spokespersons seemed to outdo each other in self-exaltation, claiming credit for everything good that could ever be. They put out a desperate logic that Prime Minister Modi's government is merely implementing an agenda that the electorally-routed Congress-led UPA alliance had left behind for him to carry forward. Not unexpectedly, the Congress Party glossed over every act of omission committed over a decade-long tenure that converted the Indian economic dream into a dreadful nightmare.

However, to the contrary, Prime Minister Modi's government in its first 100 days has unequivocally confirmed that government inaction and policy paralysis are things of the past. The government is focused on performance and results. Change in the national sentiment is palpable. Economic gloom and despondency that marked all activity earlier has dissipated - the current bull-run of the Sensex indicates that the Indian growth story is back on track.

The force driving this change in sentiment is implementation, a major achievement that makes a clean break from the pattern of the past decade.  Under Prime Minister Modi, the government is competing with itself to deliver more, to unleash the potential and aspirations of India's people. Much as the Congress would like the country to believe that they conceptualised schemes being implemented today, the corollary will constantly bounce back hard and hurt them where it hurts the most - what prevented them from implementing these policies during the 3,650 days they were in office?

The recently launched Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) confirms this, a scheme whose name and logo was selected through a competition on the MYGOV portal.  Within days of assuming office, the Prime Minister and his team planned and worked towards a nation-wide launch of such a massive financial inclusion scheme for rural and urban households. The Prime Minister formally announced the scheme on 15th August and less than two weeks later, it was rolled out in a bi-partisan manner by the PM in Delhi, and Chief Ministers, Union Ministers and Members of Parliament across the country. More than 15 million new bank accounts opened on day one and an equal number of accident insurance policies were disbursed, each a world record in itself. Less than a week later, this figure has expanded to 22 million bank accounts. As Prime Minister Modi himself pointed out, the launch of the scheme would motivate even skeptics within bureaucracy to believe that such mega targets can be achieved.

Beyond PMJDY, the government is feverishly working to make India a global manufacturing hub, boost skill development, achieve toilets for all, clean the Ganga, develop smart cities, fast-track and clear pending decisions across ministries and evaluate archaic laws. The National Judicial Appointments Commission is already a reality. Importantly, instead of poverty alleviation, the government for the first time has set poverty elimination as an achievable target. Additionally, the Prime Minister's bilateral visits to Bhutan, Nepal and Japan and his participation in the BRICS summit confirm that foreign policy has got the world to sit up and take notice of the change in India.

However beyond all this, the biggest change is the restoration of executive power and responsibility at the Prime Minister's Office. Under the Congress-UPA, over two consecutive terms, the Prime Minister's Office was defanged of its political authority and made an appendage of a super-constitutional body of advisors led by the Congress President herself. Those who tend to decry the restoration of executive authority to the Prime Minister's office must bear in mind that the dual centre of power model was an aberration to what the expected norm is, and not vice versa.

Under Prime Minister Modi, the government no longer exists in limbo as the result of a self-induced coma.  This is a government in action, targeting achievement, seeking to serve rather than rule over citizens, a tectonic shift in political attitude. The roll of the Taiko drums by the Prime Minister of India in Japan may well indicate that India has begun its march to a more pulsating beat.

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