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Modi govt’s quiet plan to showcase ‘100 acche din’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed in his speeches that he doesn’t believe in setting 100 day goals or agendas, as his government is here to govern for its full term of five years. But his government, aware that it would be judged by the media and myriad experts as it approaches the 100-days benchmark, is readying a series of press conferences to showcase all its achievements since officially taking over the reins of governance on May 26.

The preparations, however, are being made quietly. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson claimed that neither the party nor the government will have any media blitzkrieg to mark its achievements during the 100 days in office. Similarly, information officers of important ministries that Business Standard spoke with either denied any knowledge of Modi government’s ‘100-days campaign’ or confirmed it but on the condition that they not be named.

The strategy is to not call the exercise a hundred days of Modi government but all the important ministers, depending on their convenience, will address press conference starting next week. The conferences would focus on all the initiatives the ministry has taken in the last three months. It has been felt that such showcasing of accomplishments of this government would also help BJP in the forthcoming assembly elections in the states of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. 

Another bow in Modi government’s quiver is to compare its 100-days in office to that of Manmohan Singh-led  UPA 1 and 2 government. The sense is that functioning of the Modi government has been much more efficient and decision making quicker. A BJP source said the government had already delivered on several of its promises made in the party manifesto.

The decision, however, to not name it ‘100-days of Modi sarkar’ is primarily to quell the rising tide of expectations from the government since Modi’s election campaign promised ‘achhe din’ or better days. “People want immediate results, and they will evaluate ruthlessly. And, if you don’t deliver immediately, the disillusionment will also be quicker,” former BJP ideologue K N Govindacharya told Business Standard, but with the rider that three months was too short a time to judge any government.

Late last week, the information and broadcasting ministry held a meeting to chalk out a strategy to hold a series of press conferences of key ministries from next week. The BJP completed 100 days of its electoral victory, that is May 16, on August 23. August 27 marks 100-days of Modi’s election as the leader of the BJP parliamentary party. He had started meeting senior bureaucrats soon after. Modi and his council of ministers officially took over the reins after their oath taking ceremony on May 26, and 100 days of that event culminate in the first week of September.

According to sources, all ministries are busy jotting their list of achievements. North Block, that houses the finance and home ministries, is said to be busier than the rest. Infrastructure ministries like Nitin Gadkari-led surface transport, rural development and ports as also others like Piyush Goyal helmed power and coal, are preparing their report cards.

The mystery of the 100-days agenda has also deepened. Bureaucrats now claim they were not given any 100-days agenda. But on May 29, BJP spokespersons had claimed after the first meeting of the cabinet that the PM had directed all ministers to prepare an agenda for the first 100 days. 

It is quite evident on the PM’s personal website, narendramodi.in, that a ‘100-day agenda’ was indeed discussed. A blog, titled ‘Setting the Agenda from Day 1’ and posted on June 7, states: “the PM met ministers individually and all ministers were asked to prepare a 100-day blueprint for the work of their ministers”. It further reads that “ministers were told clearly that the focus was governance and service delivery not camera optics and statements”.

Some quarters have criticised the Modi government of not coming up with any big reforms. Through these conferences the government is likely to counter that critique to showcase the big picture through its small steps. The Union Budget was also criticised for lacking any big ideas, though the government defended it saying in the limited time only this much could be done.

The view among party and government’s publicity and communication minders being that the world would assess the government on its 100-day benchmark so it would help to put out its own assessment in the public domain. It would also compensate for the view that the PM and his government were tweeting but not talking.

Last week, a leading current affairs news magazine carried an opinion poll on the performance of the Modi government. The results were largely laudatory. Foreign newspapers, news websites and agencies have also carried their assessments of Modi’s 100-days. In a report, Reuters quoted economist Bibek Debroy stating that “as of now, the momentum (of the Modi government) is lost. They might still recover it, but we have lost the moment.” He said there have been no signs of the promised change.

Former Bangladeshi diplomat Ashfaqur Rahman in an article published Sunday in The Daily Star, a leading English language newspaper of Bangladesh, said about the Modi government that “to date there is not much to see on the ground”. “There is not much action but indeed as reports go there is a lot more planning and preparation taking place to put Modi’s electoral commitments to work. The big question is where exactly Modi sarkar has started working,” he asked.

Nicholas Spiro, writing in the South China Morning Post, says that as “Modi nears the end of his first 100 days in office, the sense among investors is that the new government may have wasted its honeymoon period by failing to launch radical fiscal and structural reforms.” 

Govindacharya told Business Standard that the Modi government should be given at least, if not until the next budget, before a realistic assessment of its performance can be done.

Modi, in a blog that he posted on completion of 30-days of his government, had complained that he wasn’t afforded any honeymoon period. “Previous governments had the luxury of extending this ‘honeymoon period’ upto a hundred days and even beyond. Not unexpectedly I don’t have any such luxury. Forget hundred days, the series of allegations began in less than a hundred hours,” he said.

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