In Modi's Grand Oath Ceremony, the Spirit of Participation

(Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is In-Charge of BJP's National Good Governance Cell and Director of Public Policy Research Centre, New Delhi)

That Narendra Modi took oath in the presence of about 4000 people, including heads of SAARC countries or their representatives, is just news. But when read with several of his innovative approaches to governance, organisation management or his election campaign, one can appreciate the underlying subtext of his deep understanding of and emphasis on participatory mechanisms at every level.

Unsurprisingly therefore, when he called for millions of fellow countrymen to take one step forward, enabling the whole nation to move a billion steps ahead, the message reached the people because of Narendra Modi's utmost conviction that participation alone pays.

During his tenure as Gujarat chief minister, drinking water and irrigation was always top priority for Mr Modi. Making water available to every village through a network of canals was relatively easy. However, to make people understand the value of water as a scarce natural resource was difficult. He successfully used participatory mechanisms and involved women in village-level water distribution committees.

The women's participation not only ensured smooth handling, but also taught them a lesson or two in natural resource management.
His Soil Health Card scheme providing for an annual soil health check-up by agriculture scientists in agricultural universities was another example of participatory governance.

Then, during the Shala Pravesh Utsav, conducted at the beginning of the academic year all over Gujarat, the entire Modi cabinet would join festivities. This simple but imaginative action every year gave huge impetus to the enrollment of girls in schools.

In 2010, while celebrating the golden jubilee or 50 years of Gujarat, NaMo conducted a novel Vanche Gujarat (Gujarat reads!) campaign. On October 30 that year, all members of the Modi cabinet in Gujarat went to schools and libraries and joined hundreds and thousands of fellow Gujaratis in reading a book for at least an hour.

His observation that development need not remain a government programme, but must become a popular movement again betrays his firm belief in people's participation. Gujarat perhaps is the first state to launch a scheme called the Chief Minister's Fellow, providing a window to bright young students to not only observe but also participate in government and gain experience-based knowledge.
His attempt to make voting mandatory at the local self-government level through legislation also was a pointer to his appreciation of the importance of participation as key to the success of democracy.  

One of his most remarkable of all his innovative participative methodologies was his Karma yogi training for all government employees, which served to impart a sense of ownership. Under this programme, Govt employees from top to bottom were trained to go extra mile and look at the job at hand as not just work for wage earning but a responsibility to be owned with all sincerity at one's command! In 2010, while addressing a BJP Chief Ministers' Conclave on Good Governance in Mumbai, Mr Modi coined the slogan "People's Participation oriented Good Governance," that is 'P2G2.'

Even while managing the party and especially in his bid to maintain a cordial relationship between the party and government, Modi implemented his "sit-together - eat-together" strategy while in Gujarat. On every Tuesday, senior party functionaries and key cabinet colleagues have to bring along lunch boxes and share food - along with thoughts and ideas -- with their colleagues both in party and government.

The BJP's winning 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, designed under Mr Modi's guidance most effectively manifested his philosophy of participation. The strength of social media was exploited to the hilt through crowd sourcing. His tweets, Facebook posts as well as his blogs received huge response, basically because a mechanism to respond to people was in place, functioning almost 24 by 7.

Mr Modi is perhaps the only politician in India today who has made his presence in social media felt with such efficacy. Besides, in his Bharat Vijay rallies, a system was almost invariably in place to collect feedback from the people. Add to this his very own, inimitable style of interacting with the masses through questions and answers, regardless of the size of the crowd, and you realise how participation, in theory and in practice has occupied centre stage in his scheme of things.

The most remarkable illustration of Narendra Modi's penchant for people's participation and interaction would be the children's garden that was created through his creative inputs. Located in Ahmedabad at the Kankaria Lake, here kids can freely interact with their "virtual" Modi uncle appearing on a television and interview him much to their immense delight. After all it is this creativity that helped him to connect, share, evolve a mutuality of participation and thereby win the hearts of the people!

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