As the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completed 100 days in his second consecutive stint, he has consolidated his position as the political leader who is unafraid of taking some tough and bold decisions.
The Narendra Modi government has completed 100 days in office and the second term in office for the BJP's most successful Prime Minister, so far, carries a very different and purpose-driven flavour as compared to the 2014-19 term that seemed more about arriving at the national scene and showing the right intent to deliver the goods. The constitutional change in Jammu and Kashmir, the enactment of triple talaq law making instant divorce punishable and the near success of Chandrayan-2 mission are the clear headlines of the NDA government's second innings till now, while the drop in GDP to 5% amid a slump in consumption across sectors and low private investment have been the weak parts of the government's 100-day report card. Another area where the government needs to do more is improvement in the environment of harmony and countering fears of minorities by checking lynching incidents.
The Modi government's decision to create the post of a Chief of Defence Staff, the setting up of a new Jal Shakti ministry with focus on piped water supply for each rural home, direct income support for farmers, plan to phase out single-use plastic, merger of 10 nationalised banks and the recent enhancement of penalties for traffic rule violations are some other highlights of the NDA government's 100-day performance.
The newly-launched fit-India campaign of the Modi government and the plan to build a grid of Ayush healing centres across the country also show the Centre's seriousness about public well-being, an objective whose contours span across on-going schemes for “ease of living” like free-LPG Ujjwala scheme, housing for all and health insurance under Ayushman Bharat.
By sharing his ambition of making India a $5 trillion economy, overtaking the UK, the Prime Minister has shown his vision for expanding the country's role at the global stage. However, he realises that the road to global empowerment of India goes through the local marketplace whose well-being will be keenly watched in the next two months.
Modi's number 2 in government, Amit Shah, described the 100-day-old NDA government as one committed to national security. “Whether it was the decision to remove Article 370 & 35A from J&K or to free Muslim women from the curse of Triple Talaq or strengthening nation’s security apparatus by amending the UAPA Act... All these historic decisions are a result of PM Modi’s decisive leadership,” tweeted Shah using the hashtag "#MODIfied100".
Quite on expected lines, the 100-day celebrations of the Modi government were slammed by the Congress. The opposition party targeted the Modi government for lack of development and tax terrorism and even released a a video on its official Twitter handle, highlighting issues such as “unemployment, dilution of RTI, UAPA, GDP, bank frauds, lynchings, falling of rupee, J&K bifurcation and mishandling of NRC”.
Rahul Gandhi mocked the Modi government by tweeting, "Congratulations to the Modi govt on #100DaysNoVikas, the continued subversion of democracy, a firmer stranglehold on a submissive media to drown out criticism and a glaring lack of leadership, direction and plans where it's needed the most — to turnaround our ravaged economy."
He alleged that Investors' wealth worth Rs 12.5 lakh crore has been wiped out in the first 100 days since the second term of Modi government started on May 30, he alleged.
He was joined by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who blamed the Centre for ruining the economy and using propaganda to mislead people into believe that all is well. "The government is silent after ruining the economy. The companies are in danger, while trade is in doldrums... they are trying to hide the country's grim situation through drama, deceit, lies, and propaganda," she said.
The Congress also targeted the BJP government over lynchings, alleging that saffron supporters were involved in violence against Muslims putting the unity of the country under threat. Senior party leader Kapil Sibal accused the Modi government of showing arrogance during its “misrule” characterised by vendetta politics. He also criticised the tension in Kashmir and Assam where the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has led to chaos and endangered the citizenship of 19 lakh people. Sibal shared examples of vendetta politics by pointing to cases of P Chidambaram, D K Shivakumar's arrest, MNS's Raj Thackeray, NCP's Ajit Pawar, TMC's Partha Chatterjee and Kamal Nath's nephew in which probe agencies hadn't charge-sheeted the leaders for particular crimes.
The Modi government was ready to face criticism on its report card with a well-planned strategy as part of which various Cabinet ministers held interaction sessions across the country with mediapersons to counter the Opposition party's negative agenda.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar said, "The ambition to achieve $5 trillion economy by 2025 has given a roadmap to the government. The theme is to empower the poor and farmers... six crore workers and 14 crore farmers have benefited with pension and DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) schemes," he said.
Taking on the allegations on the economic front, Modi fielded Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to showcase government measures to the global phenomenon. “An economic slowdown has engulfed the entire world. We are on top of the list of the best performing countries," Shekhawat said, adding, "The consolidation of banks and relief to manufacturing and automobile sectors are such steps."
A distinct characteristic of the first 100 days of Modi 2.0 has been the pace of decision making. However, a good beginning is only half the job done. For the rest of the tenure at the Centre, the Modi government has to get cracking on the economic front. The Prime Minister's pre-occupation with the diplomatic management at the global front, as a follow up to the Article 370 move to counter moves of Pakistan and taking on Chinese trade and strategic manoeuvres, has started reflecting in the poor state of the economy. Arun Jaitley's absence and lack of talent in the Cabinet to tackle the economic scare has now forced Modi to personally jump into the arena and assure industry about the country's capability and commitment to achieve 8% GDP for the $5 trillion dream. The growth rate in infrastructure has slipped from 12% to 0.6%. Automobile and textile sectors are also looking for boosters to return on track.
Modi's personal image as a man of his word is now at work to control damage on the economic front and, hopefully, the next 100 days of his government – that will precede the preparations for Budget 2020 – will restore the industry captains' faith in the NDA government.
The Modi government's fight against black money has also been visible in its initial 100 days. The action against Congress leader P Chidambaram by CBI and the big steps in sharing of data by Swiss Banks on illegal money deposits would remain on top of the NDA's achievements. Apart from these, the arrival of Rafale fighter jets from France and the tightening of New Delhi's stand against cross-border terror and diplomatic isolation of Pakistan could be some of the key developments during this period.
In the long term, the ideological agenda of the BJP and the RSS is also likely to figure prominently in the Modi government's decisions. In this direction, Modi and his team may want to strengthen the legal framework for a common civil code, implement a new education policy and also give shape to a population policy that encourages smaller families. How the government reacts to the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya dispute and whether a Ram Temple will take shape, as per the RSS' agenda, promises to be a big test of Modi's political and ideological commitments.
The challenges ahead will require the Prime Minister to continue showing his trademark zeal to take tough and realistic decisions, while setting the challenging agenda for transforming the country for the future generations. Having said that, the next 100 days will be crucial for Modi to win back the faith of Kashmiris after the removal of Article 370 and revive the economy. Whether he keeps up his streak of unconventional moves for finding solutions to vexed issues will be known when Modi presents his government's next report card – which may even coincide with the next Budget.