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Governance in the Time of Modi Sarkar !

By Abinash Chaudhary

A week may be a long time in politics, but to judge a new government & Prime Minister in 100 day’s is too early. But partially the blame lies with the PM himself. Prime Minister Modi was vocal at hitting out performance of UPA government in first 100 days and promised to deliver better after taking over as PM in his next 100 days.

Modi has inherited not quite ‘India Shining’, as India image makers would have it, democracy in India indeed put down firmer roots and economic growth accelerated in 2014 from 1991. At the same time quality of governance remains low, economic inequalities have widened and number of poor, illiterate and cases of corruption are unacceptably high.

Prime Minister Modi must be conscious of UPA-II under Manmohan Singh has lost because of perceived perception of the government inability to act against corruption, control inflation and improve governance. The new council of minister is relatively inexperienced and many new to the job. It will take more than six months to a year for them to settle in the new job and gain experience on the job. Good governance is a team work; generally a captain is only as good as his team.  Therefore, Prime Minister will have to nurture his team, give them responsibility and let them grow in confidence.

In recent years the word governance has become a very fashionable term and is being used in a variety of ways in the political and public domain. Good governance in common parlance will mean “governance which serves the citizens by safeguarding territorial integrity of the State and securing individual security, rule of law and the delivery of services ranging from education, health to livelihood and food security”. The World Bank has sought to defining governance particularly as the traditions and the institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes (i) the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; (ii) the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and (iii) the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social communications among them.

Let’s examine the new government on the above three parameters:-

First, no one can doubt India’s credential on selection of governments in a democratic framework and process installed to monitor and replace. Indeed India can be proud of its achieving a unique distinction of ensuring universal adult franchise and nation building exercise simultaneously after the independence.

Second, the capacity of government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies, It’s on this front that people of India including me have huge expectations from  Modi sarkar to outline his broad policy framework, reforms during its budget presentation and independence day speech. Except for a few changes like tweaking the FDI cap in defence sector, marginal labour law reform, abolishing planning commission and announcing Pradhan mantri Jandhan Yojna for financial inclusion, nothing substantial seems to have been done.

There is discernible need for a blue print on structural reforms, promised during election campaign. The government has yet to set a deadline for the implementation of GST and clarity on DTC. During the course of his election campaign PM talked of “tax terrorism” even here no concrete measures have been taken. No word on ballooning subsidies in fuel, fertilizer and food. How the government is planning to balance it with economic growth?

Third, institutions that govern the economic and social communication, the real test for Modi Sarkar will be how it handles institutions as it forms edifice for good governance in a democracy. It will be interesting to see how Modi government takes up bureaucratic reforms, especially the Administrative Reform Commission- II reports, Police reforms, Lokpal and judicial reforms. The government record on governance will be judged on whether there is an effort to strengthen such institutions or weaken it and concentrate the power within itself.

Three instances which have dented the image of government on this front was- First denial of LoP post to the Leader of Congress party in the Lok Sabha. The LoP is part of the appointment committee along with PM for key constitutional position like Chief vigilance Commissioner (CVC), Lokpal etc. So government has scuttled any representation from opposition benches on all these committees. Second, the forceful removal of Governors from their respective states and some of them forced to resign after constant chiding. Third, appointment of former Chief Justice of India (CJI) P. Sathasivam as Governor of Kerala, it has never happened in the history of India. It goes against the spirit of institutional independence associated with CJI office.

Last but not the least on social communication, the Modi Sarkar will have to crack the whip on fringe elements inciting communal passion in parts of the country, igniting debates on Love Jihad etc. His conspicuous silence on some of the events in past 100 days at best can be described as disturbing. He is a natural communicator, he needs to communicate to the people more often and set the tone the debate, rather than allowing fringe elements to steer the debate. Overall, he has to be there making people believe “Mai hoo naa” in difficult times.

Prime Minister Modi today has a historical opportunity to deliver the second generation of economic reforms and the first generation of administrative reforms. He is the first prime minister after the economic reforms of the early 90’s to enjoy a single party majority in the Lok Sabha. It is time he made use of this.

By now the Prime minister would have realised, there is no magic wand to deliver good governance in a country as big as India. It has to be constant effort and sustained endeavour to improvise the governance system in collaboration with state governments. There need to be a personal commitment from the top to the cause of good governance.

Abinash Chaudhary is a Research Scholar at the Centre for Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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