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Roadmap of Modi Government in India-View from Nepal

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Paper No. 5713                                       Dated 02-Jun-2014

Guest Column by Hari Bansh Jha

Immediately after swearing as 15th Prime Minister of India at the Rastrapati Bhawan in New Delhi, Narendra Modi gave very important message to the nation. He said that the new government under him had the mandate for "development" and "good governance" and he would focus on scripting a glorious future for India.

People in India believe that the new Prime Minister is capable enough to translate his words into action. There is reason to believe so because of the massive mandate he got in the recently held General Election in India. His Bharatiya Janata Party got 282 sets and together with its ally NDA the total number of seats won was 336, when only 272 seats was required to form majority government in  the 543-member Lower House of Parliament. 

 The victory of Bharatiya Janata Party and that of NDA heralds a beginning of new era in India. It was for the first time after India's independence in 1947 that an opposition party was able to form government on its own strength. And it was after 30-long years in India's history that any party was able to get absolute majority in the parliament. People in India voted for Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally NDA because of the focus on development and also due to the charismatic personality of Narendra Modi.

It is unique that Narendra Modi who was born in lower caste and that too in a poor family in a remote village of Gujrat came to the citadel of power in India. This could happen only in a democratic country. To earn his bread, he had to struggle hard by selling tea at the railway canteen. But this was also opening of his fate. He joined the Rastriya Swamsevak Sangh when he was a boy of eight years. Later on, he became pracharak (propagandist) of this Hindutva-based organization. After his parents got him married at the age of 17, he left home and wandered in various parts of India and also in the Himalayas almost as a deserted person. For some time, he joined the Ram Krishna Mission of Kolkata. He returned home after two years and then started working as student activist. He supported student movement led by Indian leader Jay Prakash Narayan in 1974 and opposed emergency of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. Gradually, he came in contact with the leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party and actively participated in Ram Janmbhoomi and other party activities. Because of some of those skills, he was chosen as general secretary and also spokesperson of Bharatiya Janata Party. Later on, he became Chief Minister of Gujrat in 2001. 

Modi's style of functioning is entirely different. He is widely known as an orator, reformist and a development man. His Gujrat Model of Development is widely known. He works more as a Chief Executive Officer and seeks result from his team on time-bound basis. As a capable administrator, he is in direct communication with the people. He has a rare quality of implementer. In the past, he demonstrated some of these skills among the people of Gujrat, where he was Chief Minister between 2001 and 2014. As he changed the lot of the people in Gujrat and brought this state in the forefront of India, it is expected that he would bring India in the forefront of the world. Because of this charismatic personality, he is widely regarded as an agent of change and an iron man. Often, he is compared with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, American President Nixon, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Modi demonstrated his skill not merely as a politician, but more as a statesman in the wake of becoming Prime Minister. It was his innovative idea that for the first time in Indian history the heads of government/state from the neighbouring SAARC countries were invited in the swearing in ceremony of Prime Minister. In the gathering of 4000 dignitaries on the occasion, the presence from SAARC leaders from Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and Bhutan was the centre of attraction. Mauritius was also invited because of the close relation that India maintains with this country. Through this initiative, India tried to exhibit the importance that this country attaches to the neighbours. There is a growing realization in India that the support of the neighbours was quintessential to emerge as a power block in the global community. This is possible only when all the countries in the region develop as their prosperity is necessary for India's own development. Indeed, this exercise was a diplomatic coup, which aimed at improving relations with the neighbours first before doing so with other countries of the world. 

Most importantly, Modi's statesmanship is exhibited from the way he formed his 45-member cabinet, which is small, but compact. Only those people have been given berth in the cabinet who have capacity to deliver. For this, he merged some of the ministries to cut short unnecessary expenditure. He put his trust in Raj Nath Singh, who is number two in the cabinet and made him home minister. He wants to work with him closely to ensure good governance and check terrorism and other such disturbing activities in the nation.

In foreign affairs, Sushama Swaraj is given full charge, but she would have to work closely with Vikram Singh, who is also a state Minister in foreign ministry. Singh has also been given independent charge for the development of North East States of India. As it is well known, he was Chief of Army Staff in India not too long ago. This gives an impression that activities related to foreign affairs would be judged from military considerations and possibility is that economic diplomacy would also be promoted though the foreign missions more vigorously.

As being in-charge of North East region of India, including Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mozoram and Tripura, Vikram Singh would like to give special focus on development activities in this region, particularly in infrastructural sector. This region is crucial in India's security establishment and more so because of Chinese claim in the territory of Arunanchal Pradesh. In order to meet this challenge, it is likely that this region would be strengthened economically and an effort would be made to boost up further emotional integration with other parts of India. It is necessary to do so because this region is the gateway to Bangladesh and also to ASEAN countries, including Myanmar.

No less important is the signal given by assigning the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Defence to Arun Jaitley, number four in the row in the cabinet. It could be assumed that manufacturing in the defence establishment would be given a priority. With this effort, many people would get employment opportunities and India's dependence for arms procurement would substantially decline. India faces enormous challenge due to the decline in economic growth and stagflation. The rate of economic growth of the country which was to the tune of 9 per cent until a few years back is almost reduced to 5 per cent now. India's competitor China has the GDP almost three times more than India and China is far ahead of India in infrastructural facilities. India has to catch up China and catch up fast. For this, India has to do a lot in developing infrastructural facilities like power, roads, railways and modernize itself in several other areas. 

Also remarkable is the fact that Modi's cabinet consists of only those stalwarts on whom he has a grip. He has for this purpose bypassed senior figures in the party such as Lal Krishna Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi. Comparatively, younger people have been given key positions so that they could deliver better. No one is given berth in the cabinet on the dynastic basis.

On the whole, it appears that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent a message both within the country and also abroad that he means business and he would promote the interest of the country along with the neighbours together. He has also created an impression that India is capable enough to emerge as economic power backed by military might. As being closest even among the neighbouring countries, the rise of Modi-era in India is a great opportunity for Nepal. Nepal might get leverage from India as being the Hindu dominated country. Apart from this, there are immense opportunities in Nepal like in tourism, water resources and climate sectors where the two countries could achieve miracle by working together.   

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