Narendra Modi has completed 100 days in his second consecutive stint as prime minister in the BJP-led NDA government. The government has already highlighted (and is continuing to highlight) many of its legislative, political, fiscal and reformative successes/agendas. The NDA is also grappling with one of its toughest challenges — deepening anxiety in India over jobs and growth amid threats of a recession in the Asian economy. Amid these crosscurrents, it is worth noting the culture of change that Modi has already triggered in India’s political milieu within a relatively short span of time.
The 100-day milestone has been marked by a paradigm shift in governance approach — from consolidation in the first term to disruptive political maneuvers in the second, from game-changing policy shifts in first term to delivering on core BJP agendas in the second, from taking stock of seemingly intractable legacies in the first term to demolishing them in the second. Modi has also shown a remarkable capability to take risks and remain steadfast on convictions amid fierce pushback.
Amid these shifts, continuity lies in bringing about transformative changes in citizens’ lives, but that continuity is now moored in the bigger trust that Modi enjoys among voters. The prime minister has managed to increase his political capital. His already-high stature among the electorate has heightened further, but it would be wrong to interpret the amplification of his appeal as merely the sum total of BJP’s ideological, political and electoral hegemony. Modi isn’t popular just because BJP won a thumping majority in elections. There’s more to it.
During the start of his second stint, Modi had added one more element to his slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ — that of ‘sabka vishwas’. In his second stint, the radical shift in the governance approach has been underwritten by this trust. The electorate seems to believe that Modi’s actions are guided by selfless dedication for the nation, and his only agenda is heightening India’s stature in the comity of nations and ensuring a better life for its citizens.
As BJP vice-president and former MP Baijayant Panda has written in Hindustan Times, “with every disruptive move, he (Modi) confounded conventional political wisdom, and enraged opponents. But voters understood these were in the long-term interest of the nation, by a man who had no axes to grind, and no vested interests. And they wanted more of the same.”
Bringing about this shift in public perception has been Modi’s greatest achievement. The government’s game-changing moves on Jammu and Kashmir, passing of a record 30 bills in the Monsoon Session of Parliament including key legislations such as criminalising triple talaq, amendment to the RTI Act, amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act despite lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha are significant achievements that may impact India’s national security and have ideological, political, legislative and even diplomatic ramifications.
However, the most under-rated and under-acknowledged change has been the way in which the electorate has shifted its stance from "reflexive cynicism" towards the government’s nation-building agenda to "implicit trust". Increasingly, Modi has been able to encourage the electorate into becoming stakeholders into his projects. From a drive towards a cleaner India through the Swachh Bharat scheme to making water conservation a national mission, from the crusade against single-use plastic to showcasing India’s space prowess through lunar missions, the prime minister has been able to inspire citizens and ensure their participation in nation-building. From a position where all government schemes were perceived as "scams" to dupe the public to turning them into mas movements dominating national conversation, Modi has created a relationship based on trust with the voters, and this relationship has catapulted him head and shoulders above his rivals and demolished the political Opposition.
We got an indication of voters’ trust in Modi even before the Lok Sabha elections took place through the second National Trust Survey conducted by Firstpost-IPSOS, which polled more than thirty-one thousand voters from 2 March to 22 March and projected Modi’s approval rating at 63 percent, quadrupling his lead over nearest rival Rahul Gandhi.
It is to the prime minister’s credit that he consolidated this trust and made it the fulcrum of his agenda. This has given him the necessary political space to take bold and risky political manoeuvres that other leaders may not even dream of. Abrogating Article 370 and revoking the "temporary" constitutional provision of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, bifurcating the troubled state into two Union territories is an action stunning in audacity, vision and cleverness. That Modi could pull it off within the first 100 days of his second term and manage the diplomatic, political and security ramifications quite well is a testament to his ability to think big and execute policies that shatter intractable legacies based on decades-old consensus. The domestic response has been overwhelmingly positive, and this would have been impossible without the trust that he enjoys.
Modi understands this well. During his latest political rally in Assembly poll-bound Haryana, Modi said: “the first 100 days (of the government’s second term) have been of ‘development, trust and big changes’ in the country… Whatever big decisions were taken in past 100 days, the inspiration behind them were only 130 crore Indians… Because of your unprecedented support, the government could take major decisions from farm sector to national safety and security.”
This isn’t rhetoric but an acknowledgement of the reality. The speed with which the radical shift in policy making and delivering on core BJP agenda have taken place indicates two things.
One, as Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow and director of the South Asia programme at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has been quoted as saying in a Hindustan Times article: “Modi 2.0 has been characterised by a clarity of purpose that was often missing at the start of Modi 1.0… It also has found a clear division of labour that has paid rich dividends: Modi runs the government and Amit Shah manages Parliament. This kind of floor management was lacking during the first term.”
Two, Modi 2.0 has learnt from and built on the experience of the first term. The bloodshed that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016 when 75 people were killed in police firing can be contrasted with the post-revocation of special status scenario in Kashmir where, according to the government, not a single bullet has been fired since the decision to abrogate Article 370 on 5 August.
Finally, the first 100 days of Modi 2.0 have consolidated the prime minister’s position as the only political leader who is unafraid of rocking the boat. The decision to revoke a temporary constitutional provision that discriminated between Indian citizens and fueled violent insurgency and Islamo-fascist movements in Kashmir was a step that should have been taken long ago, but no Indian political leader before Modi had the vision, boldness, political space or the resolve to demolish this poisonous legacy of Partition.
Here, as in implementing demonetisation, GST or tit-for-tat kinetic action against Pakistan’s terror misadventures, Modi has shown conviction in implementing a fundamental policy shift and weathering the resultant storm. These actions in turn reinforce the trust-based relationship that he has developed with the electorate, and it may also explain why, despite a slowdown in the economy and anxiety over joblessness and sluggish growth, Modi's popularity remains untouched.
This leadership skill was also reflected in the way Modi turned a moment of national disappointment over ISRO’s Chandrayaan 2 mission into a moment of inspiration where “failure” (a debatable term in this case) becomes a stepping stone for success and solidifies national resolve to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.
Updated Date: Sep 09, 2019 21:15:53 IST