There is going to be more of Narendra Modi in the Modi government as the Prime Minister has apparently decided to take things in his own hands rather than giving much leeway to the babus and outsource many political issues to some of his colleagues. Irked by the slow progress at persuading the opposition to cooperate with the treasury benches in the running of Parliament, PM Modi struck a conciliatory note on Friday by inviting both his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh and the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi to his residence to ascertain the way forward in transacting legislative business. The immediate fallout of the interaction with the Congress is that the government may get its support in passing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in the Winter Session itself. “This meeting of principals has cleared the logjam of months,” a senior official stated
The meeting also assumed significance as the Congress leaders, who were averse to having any dialogue with the government, responded positively, apparently after getting some assurances from the Prime Minister directly that their concerns would be looked into with an open mind. No one was able to elaborate on how the arrangement to secure the support of the opposition came through, especially after the recent Bihar elections where the two sides had taken each other on with gloves off.
Modi’s change of style of functioning was on display at his interaction with the media on Saturday where he also reached out to journalists and posed with them to take selfies, thereby indicating that he would be less elusive and more candid in his approach from now onwards and thereby engage in similar meetings in the future as well. Most interestingly, the meeting with the journalists was organised at the central party office. The Prime Minister seemed eager to dispel the impression that he shunned the media and was averse to any exchanges with them on a regular basis. “There is no substitute for Modi in matters of communication,” a top official pointed out. “This the PM accepts.”
Sources said that Modi has realised that too often leaving things in the hands of babus was going to lead him into troubled waters and unless he himself stepped in to end the deadlock there would be no way forward and the government business would be stalled in the Upper House in particular. The initiative was also to reiterate that as the Leader of the House (Lok Sabha) and the head of the government, he was going to be hands-on in the future to push through the policies which were so far caught in red tape and bureaucratic and legislative hurdles.
GST Bill is amongst several legislations that would help his government to move forward and therefore result in fulfilling promises made to the people in the 2014 elections. The Prime Minister seems aware that the babus were only focused on revenue collection in the short run, rather than doing their job in facilitating the government to increase its growth rate. Therefore, he would play a definitive role in their implementation since the mandate was for him and not for either the bureaucracy or anyone else.
Sources said that the Prime Minister was keen that the middle classes and the taxpaying segment of the society got bigger relief to combat rising prices. In this respect, he could consider a proposal for increasing the tax ceiling as well as lowering the rates for the fixed income group in particular. He is also worried how the babus had not allowed some of the policies to be effectively implemented in the manufacturing sector as a consequence of which the overall outcome was far below expectations.
It is evident that after the Bihar elections, where he was not adequately informed about the ground level situation by some of his colleagues, he has decided to personally oversee the progress in the schemes initiated by his government. Modi is apparently of the opinion that he needed to once again push ahead his USP of good governance. This would be only possible once he takes the reins in his own hands and keeps a check on the babus, who have continued to function in the manner which had brought about the fall of the previous UPA government. The Prime Minister has been considering the proposal to reshuffle his Cabinet at the earliest and at one time had even thought of initiating the exercise ahead of the Winter Session, but due to his preoccupation with prior commitments could not do it at the time. It is generally believed that he would revamp his ministry to coincide with the changes to be made in the upper echelons of the BJP in the early part of January.
There is a buzz in political circles that Amit Shah could opt out of the race for a new full term as the BJP president and could be inducted in the Union Cabinet and given an important portfolio. In case he is no longer in the reckoning, the BJP presidentship could go to either Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who seems keen to have another term particularly ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2017 or Nitin Gadkari, who continues to be the favourite of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Sources said that Modi would reshuffle his Cabinet keeping the needs of his government in mind, rather than accommodating leaders because of either their proximity to some in the Sangh Parivar or their seniority in the party. Such a process could see some of the stalwarts being downsized while state Chief Ministers could find a Cabinet berth, keeping in view their vast experience. The strong message for both the party and the country is that there would be more of Modi in the Modi government from now onwards.