Instead of taking on people, PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi has decided to take people along.


Instead of taking on people, PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi has decided to take people along.
This was evident from his maiden speech in Parliament, the tone and tenor being friendly rather than combative.
Modi was replying to the motion of thanks debate following President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the joint session when the new Parliament assembled earlier this week.

The President of India spelt out the Government’s roadmap and reiterated Modi government’s commitment to end poverty, as well as rural urban divide by improving the quality of life in villages. He also said that steps would be taken to provide security to citizens, ensure water security, contain inflation and end the curse of poverty. Other key areas would be nurturing the youth, popularizing sports, set up IITs and IIMs in every state, zero tolerance for violence against women and strengthening the criminal justice system among others.

President Mukherjee touched a chord when he spoke about the Government’s commitment to give 33 percent reservation to women.
In the much-needed assurance to minorities, Mukherjee said that the government would undertake modernisation of madrasas.

In a bid to create an investor friendly atmosphere, the government also intends to move towards a single window system of clearance both at the Centre and state level and reforms to facilitate business. Other areas include ending corruption, black money, promoting air connectivity to smaller towns, introducing high-speed trains among others.
When Modi spoke he did reaffirm the commitment but more than that he came across as one with an out of the box thinking.

Modi, the Prime Minister, was different from what Modi the aspirant for the country’s top job was. Then he was aggressive and ready to kill. He used the choicest language to vanquish his rivals and made it known that he would crush anyone who stops his march to power: both within and outside the party. Outside he did not need to, given that the Congress, the main opponent, got a drubbing it never had in all these years. Not only was it reduced to a miserable tally of 44 seats but also failed to qualify to get a leader of Opposition post.

Within the BJP, Modi silenced dissidents by giving them coveted portfolios led by Sushma Swaraj who was sworn in as Foreign Minister. Others perceived close to senior leader L.K.Advani were also accommodated including Uma Bharati and Ananth Kumar.

Contrary to perception, Modi left senior leadership out in the cold by denying Murli Manohar Joshi a Cabinet berth and naming Sumitra Mahajan as Lok Sabha Speaker instead of L.K. Advani whose name was doing the rounds.

But that is Modi’s style: the politest he is, the more one needs to be wary. He kept touching Advani’s feet more than was necessary which indicated that while denying him a post, Modi would be over generous when it came to showing respect.
Party politics apart, Modi’s manner and demeanour has changed a great deal after assuming the Prime Minister’s office. He is styling himself as a moderate and tolerant leader who is keen to take everyone along. He is flagging constructive politics against a divisive one that he is often associated with. In fact he is over keen to exhibit humility given that he seeks forgiveness at the drop of a hat. Modi began his speech by saying that this being his first in Parliament, seniors should forgive him for any mistakes or conventions he might overlook. He ended on the same note: “Please forgive me if I make any mistake today” he said at the outset. Humility, it seems, has given way to Modi’s much publicised arrogance.
On that and on his out of box ideas one must give him full marks. In his speech he stressed the need to shift focus from scam India to skill India and from governance to nationalism. India, he said, needs to tap talent and every one must feel that they are contributing to the nation. A rag picker, Modi said, must feel that he, while doing his job, is working for the country. India, Modi said, is known as the largest democracy but we as a country need to go a step further and be hailed as the world’s strongest democracy. That India must be known for her assets than size was the theme of Modi’s speech.
Modi also spoke of a Clean India and said that making the country clean would be a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. Even his critics would agree that Modi’s cleanliness drive in ministries, within days of his taking over, was a welcome step. Modi had directed that all ministries should be cleaned up and rid of unwanted files to give a clean feel to work places. This would also help do away with the people’s perception that government offices were cluttered and untidy. Many offices have unwanted files, building materials and even junked vehicles lying around. Following a directive from the Prime Minister’s Office, the mess has cleared. That apart department heads have been asked to ensure punctuality. Modi seems keen to give the impression that his is a government that works. If his work ethics is any indication, he is likely to do away with the five day a week norm started under Rajiv Gandhi’s regime.

While on specifics, Modi underlined the need for exploiting Sikkim as an organic state. This was concurrent with his theme of adopting best practices that he had hammered during his meeting with SAARC leaders hours after taking over.

The Opposition, in keeping with its mandate, attacked Modi for packaging old wine in new bottles. They charged him with playing with words and giving a new terminology to ideas touted before. Ofcourse Nationalist Congress Party’s Tariq Anwar made a point when he said that Modi has now shifted focus from Gujarat model to China model. Modi had in his speech spoken about the need to emulate China’s model of development.

That apart, the Opposition was off the mark. It chose to miss the ideas that Modi was propagating as it did the fact that this was exactly what Indians on the move need done: the basics like cleanliness and punctuality to single window clearances, transparency to major strides in development.

In his maiden speech, Modi sounded lack lustre. The fire was missing. He had from a candidate emerged as leader, from a rabble-rouser to a mature administrator. In the course of this journey of more brickbats and less bouquets, he has extended a hand and sought cooperation beginning with India’s neighbours to the Opposition parties within. Therefore when Modi spoke of taking everyone along it got him kudos. He did not attack the Opposition; instead he said he understood and appreciated their concerns.
The point is not what Modi says because he is a skilled and seasoned orator; neither is it about his claims of giving exemplary governance. It is about his ideas. Modi thinks differently and comes across as a leader who not only understands India but promises to do to it what has not been done so far. If used positively, this could be a game changer. Else a disaster.

Having touched a chord Modi now needs to demonstrate if he can translate his vision into concrete action and how long he will take to do it.

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