In those tree-lined avenues, colonial bungalows and in the corridors of Raisina Hill something was changing. The heat of May and early June can slow down even the best of the best but here were a set of changes that would redefine all that government and governance stand for. As Narendra Modi and his team read their oath of office and secrecy, a new journey for India began. A journey where delivery mattered over empty promises, where quality of governance mattered over size of government and where actions prevailed over acts!
The shift came in much faster than one would have imagined. Sitting in the audience when Narendra Modi took oath as the PM were leaders of 7 SAARC nations and the leader of Mauritius. This gesture showed both statesmanship and an offer of peace and brotherhood in the region. At the same time it demonstrated Narendra Modi’s commitment to strengthen relations with SAARC nations keeping in mind India’s eminent role as an economic superpower in the region.
The ceremonial grandeur of the oath taking and the dinner for heads of state in Rashtrapati Bhavan was immediately followed by a late night meeting with Ministers and officials. Such routines would become the norm in the coming days courtesy Prime Minister Narendra Modi!
Setting the Agenda From Day 1
From the time he led the NDA to a win till the present, Narendra Modi has shown that this is a Government that will be proactive and not reactive. It is the Centre that will set the agenda. Officials saw this as a welcome break from the past.
The proactive not reactive approach was seen everywhere! In the very first Cabinet meeting the Cabinet cleared the decision to set up an SIT on black money, a strong personal commitment of the PM himself. At the same time the PM met Ministers individually and all Ministers were asked to prepare a 100-day blueprint for the work of their Ministries. Ministers were told clearly that the focus was governance and service delivery not camera optics and statements. The Council of Ministers too got to work quickly with each Minister taking minutest stock of the working of their departments and initiating the wheels of change.
That the PM had little time for politics was evident when he declared that there is no need to bother on the names of various schemes be it JNNURM or any other. The focus is only one- to make these initiatives stronger in the larger benefit of the people. This definite break from tokenism was hailed across the board.
Among the first decisions taken by the Centre was to abolish the E-Goms, which had become the norm of the day during the UPA regime. Over the years the E-Goms became synonymous with delays and policy paralysis, leading to a slowing down of economic growth. In the new dispensation, if there is someone empowered it is the Ministers and the officials. Things like E-Goms are now a matter of history.
On the evening of 4 June 2014 the Prime Minister met a large group of Secretaries to the Government of India. News reports suggest that such a meeting was held after a long gap of 8 years but for Narendra Modi such meetings are northing new. As CM he used to organise Chintan Shibirs, a retreat of sorts where officials would brainstorm together and have a frank exchange of ideas and views.
For over 2 hours the Prime Minister heard the views of the Secretaries. In his talk he asked them to simplify administrative processes and make the government people friendly. He also talked about institutionalizing processes that can last longer than individuals so that better results are given. At the same time he emphasized on the 2 Ts of teamwork and technology that can address grievances of the people.
The PM told the officials that the way ahead lies in coordination and not confrontation. Archaic rules that served no purpose in this day and age are to be removed. Status reports have to be presented on important projects.
The Secretaries came out of the meeting impressed! Amitabh Kant, currently Secretary DIPP Tweeted, “1st time in my career free, frank & fearless interaction with d PM of d country. Highly motivating! Gr8 flow of ideas!”
Don’t touch feet, touch hearts
If there is one thing the Prime Minster does not have any time for, it is sycophancy. He categorically told the MPs that no MP should touch his feet and instead the focus should be on serving their constituencies better. Even for the most apolitical of beings, the contrast with the last few years could not be missed.
Considering the 15th Lok Sabha would have the largest number of fresh MPs in the last many years, Narendra Modi ensured that he spoke to all the BJP MPs, particularly the new BJP MPs and encouraged them to join this movement towards development and good governance.
The guidelines to Ministers were also clear- no family in their personal staff. Similarly the PM requested them to embrace social media and communicate with people directly through that medium.
Does the Prime Minister relax at all?
That’s the question everybody is asking…how much does the PM sleep? How much does he relax? On the very first day in the PMO he took a round of the PM office and met PMO staff. Those who attended the meeting were very impressed- the Prime Minister met them and heard their views. Since taking over its been over 19 hours at work for the PM.
The same is the case with Ministers. Take the case of the newly appointed Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju. The young Minister himself admitted that he had to adjust his sleep pattern keeping in mind the routine and work schedule of the Prime Minister. Another Cabinet Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal recalled how she got a call from the PM at 9:00 AM one day telling her that she had to meet him in the next ten minutes.
As the NDA government settles into office, one thing is clear- here is a government that means business and is going to leave no stone unturned to fulfill its promises to the people. The best from the past will be complemented by innovations of the future. There will be no politics, only a positive agenda of development. And for those not used to early morning calls, surprise checks into offices, detailed pep talks and lot more, the only thing to say is- get used to this for the coming years!