All eyes on Modi Government
All that earnest talk about the Modi wave mattered more during the pre-election time than now. Yes, he certainly seemed the Man of the Moment and with his blitzkrieg rallies across the country rode the crest of the tide. His issue-based attack on the UPA and Congress met with a whimper from the Congress circles who fell out well before the poll outcome was patent to all. And they went on a personalized campaign which fell out even before you start counting the alphabets. Yet media stats show the BJP got a vote share of 31 per cent in its impressive tally of 282 implying that the rest were clearly divided on Modi. Or plausibly there could have been purely localized factors. But that does not detract from the undeniable feeling of anger and disillusionment with the UPA which converged on the persona of Modi and made him the victor. There was a massive clamour for change and he epitomized it.
In his address in the Central Hall of Parliament there was a perceptible shift in his perspective – he sounded consensual, spoke of an inclusive approach to development focusing on the poor and well coordinated floor management with the Opposition. It was a concerted and well contemplated effort to disavow the projected image of an autocratic streak in him. In essence it was a thoughtful call to the Opposition, however fragmented it may be in terms of vote share, to support policies wherever it merited them. He made a tactful, if not complimentary, admission that all the previous governments had done their work their own way which cannot be disowned. It is beside the point that the Congress dispensation had not once acknowledged the work of non-Congress governments for their own political convenience. Perhaps Mr. Modi sought to drive home the fact that history bore witness to all that had been done or sidestepped and it will have its own yardstick of judgment. In the process he drummed home the message that political approach from now on would have to be more consensual, not confrontationist. Vajpayee did the same (partly because of the numerical pressures of coalition) to apparently no effect and Modi cannot be faulted for treading his footsteps though the BJP is better placed in terms of arithmetic.
He demonstrated it effectively in Gujarat Assembly where he was given an emotional farewell with the Opposition too sharing in all earnestness. If his Sadbhavana Mission was to heal whatever bitterness the 2002 riots might have left behind (the clean chit from the SIT and the Supreme Court dismissing a plea against it) his final bonhomie with the Opposition members was more spontaneous and conciliatory. Perhaps he wished to make them break with the beaten track and go in a new direction. Perhaps he felt that conciliation is the prerequisite to go further on development track at the national level now.
His invitation to Nawaz Sharif was a deft move to drive home the message that Pakistan had a lot to gain in coordinating anti-terrorism operations and bolster trade. After all it had suffered enough from it in its own backyard. Though it was in sharp contrast to his hawkish rhetoric against Pakistan before the elections everybody knew that he had to tone it down once he assumed power. Sharif may not be free from domestic compulsions to unilaterally take a path-breaking initiative despite the fact that he is keen on closer ties as he was during Vajpayee’s time.
Neighbours are aware that the new government unlike its predecessor could hold its own in Parliament and outside and would be a formidable leader in SAARC polity. There could be a greater thrust towards increasing regional cooperation in attractive areas like technology sharing, trade and tourism. All eyes would be on the economy, especially revival and mobility in core areas and signs of a turnaround could be reasonably expected only after a year. But there is little room for skepticism about the fact that Modi means business.
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