In 1933, when Franklin D Roosevelt summoned a special session of Congress that would run for three months, the newly elected president got the Democrats and Republicans to work together and give Congressional passage to a series of measures aimed at job-creation and providing an impetus to a tottering economy. Those 100 days of Congress, also his first 100 days as president, saw 15 major bills get passed, a record for US legislation that FDR would go on to call the 'New Deal'.
That’s how the "first 100 days" yardstick of measuring the effectiveness of new governments came to be fashioned, a measure of how much a government can achieve when it’s still in the afterglow of electoral success, riding high on public opinion and driven by high expectations.
Incidentally, FDR would also address the nation frequently during those 100 days, speeches on radio that came to be called "fireside speeches", not at all unlike India’s prime minister designate Narendra Modi’s yen for holding forth on the India he envisions. Make no mistake, the speeches to the countrymen will continue as brand Modi continues to be fine tuned, but the first 100 days will likely be more than just bluster, going by early indications and reports.
With public support for him at its peak right now, the PM-designate has already made his first statesman-like overtures to other parties and former governments. And, from the hectic activity among bureaucrats even before the new government is sworn in, it appears that Modi’s own New Deal is well on its way.
Delhi's bureaucrats are already dusting off schemes that ran into hurdles, holding meetings to prepare presentations for the new government and getting ready to outline what each ministry's 100-day agenda could be. A report in DNA said the rush of activity came after Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth and home secretary Anil Goswami called on Modi. The report quoted an official as saying, "Our brief is to keep presentations ready, suggest immediate and long-term plans as well as explain bottlenecks due to which projects have been delayed."
So what exactly could we see on Modi’s 100-day agenda?
1. Industry, manufacturing, job-creation - these are certain to feature very high on his agenda. And reports say Modi believes there is no better way to do that than providing a huge impetus to manufacturing.
2. As this Outlook report says, policy announcements on the economy could be on the anvil too. Already, top economic, development and financial experts' views have already been sought, including Prof Jagdish Bhagwati, Prof Arvind Panagariya, Dr Rajiv Kumar of the Center for Policy Research and Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, of the Public Policy Research Centre.
What could come first? The report says work may have to restart on tax reforms such as the Direct Tax Code (DTC) that has lapsed, but the Goods and Services Tax (GST) needs only a little political negotiation to be pushed through.
The long-awaited medium-term vision document of the BJP, drafted under the stewardship of former party president Nitin Gadkari, could be tweaked and released too, said reports. The 'Vision India 2025' document had been ready for release during the campaign, but the party's top brass decided to hold it back until after elections, given that its proposals on key economic issues, including labour and PSU reform, could have been construed as being too bold. The document reportedly supported industry's call for labour retrenchment when necessary, made a strong pitch for privatisation and even shutdown of loss-making PSUs. This could now be released by June end, said reports.
3. Another report in Outlook predicts five flagship projects from "CEO Modi". Among these is an overhaul of road, railways, freight transport and ports, as well as immediate action on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor and the Delhi-Calcutta corridor. New ports with a focus on competence cold be a big feature of plans drawn up in the first 100 days.
A turnaround of the coal, steel and power sectors is on the agenda too "with focus first on solving the current mess in the coal sector and then working towards providing quality power generation"
4. A big announcement on resuscitating the Ganga is a certainty, a political gesture towards the UP-Bihar belt from where the BJP made its biggest gains and to Modi’s new home constituency. So, expect a massive clean-up of the river, a flood control scheme and a water tourism plan to benefit local service providers. In fact, there could be a whole slew of measures for Varanasi, ranging from easing traffic congestion to applying the Gujarat model of development.
A report in The Times of India says Kashi is set to see change as it never has. The report quotes leaders as saying the focus will be on restoring the glory of the river but simultaneously, the big plan for Varanasi includes 60 flyovers in the city, connecting the two banks of the Ganga and easing traffic congestion.
5. Modi’s campaign speeches have dwelled at length on skill development for youth and women. Vocational courses for women in rural settings, for urban youth, technical skills for small enterprises, skills for a service sector in rural areas are almost certain to be rolled out immediately.
And, while this may not be on a government’s 100-day agenda, with Assembly elections coming up within months in states such as Maharashtra – where the Sena-BJP has trounced the ruling alliance in these elections – and Jammu and Kashmir, party-building will be a major focus for Team Modi. Reports say the party is keen to establish itself in places where it currently has only a marginal presence, including in the north-east and the southern states, with a view to reduce its dependence on the Hindi heartland for future elections.
At the end of 100 days there will be, doubtless, a stock-taking. Probably there will be more pithy slogans and catchy, self-congratulatory phraseology. But, as Bibek Debroy writes in The Economic Times, the 100-day agenda runs the risk of being brash and hurried. A new government has been elected for five years, not 100 days. “100 days that promise to shake the world may earn initial brownie points. But if it isn't implemented, headless chickens will come home to roost,” he writes, arguing for an agenda for five years.
Going by the meticulous planning that has come to mark everything about a proposed Modi Sarkaar, work could well be afoot on that five-year agenda too.
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Updated Date: May 21, 2014 18:13:33 IST