<p>Moot points really, only history can provide meaningful answers to such questions. Crystal gazing is best done in hindsight. Right at this point of time, all we know and all we need to know is that the 2014 parliamentary elections have catapulted Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into power with a thumping majority that has raised expectations sky-high. Th e onus is now on the new Prime Minister and his team to live up to their poll promises of providing good governance and ushering in a new era of progress and prosperity.</p>
<p>Modi has attempted to hit the ground running by displaying the same energy that was the hallmark of his remarkably dramatic and innovative election campaign. Even before he was sworn-in as the new Prime Minister, he transformed the oath taking ceremony into a mega-event by inviting leaders from neighbouring countries to attend. It was nothing short of a diplomatic master-stroke. But once again, only time can tell if it leads to lessening of tensions in South Asian, though it suceeds in sending out a clear signal that India under Modi intends to play a ‘prominent’ if not ‘dominant’ role in regional aff airs.</p>
<p>Immediately aft er taking charge as Prime Minister, Modi lost no time in setting out his agenda and selecting his team of Ministers and Advisors. Many observers noted some striking similarities between Narendra Modi’s approach to governance and former US resident Ronald Reagan’s style of functioning. During the Reagan Administration, from 1981 to 1989, the motto was: “Surround yourself with the best people you can fi nd, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out”.</p>
<p>Even during the 13 years that he reigned as Chief Minister of Gujarat, from 2001 to 2014, Modi’s maxim was exactly the same. Th e way he put it in a television interview during the Lok Sabha election campaign was: “As Chief Minister, I really had no work. I looked for the right man for the right job, told him what I wanted done and then gave him a free hand to get on with it, with instructions that he should come back to me only if faced with a hurdle which he could not overcome”.</p>
<p>Within his fi rst week in New Delhi, Modi went about doing just that at the national level. He began looking around for the best people he could fi nd and appointed them to key jobs suited to their core competencies. Signifi cantly, he has given the post of National Security Advisor to Ajit Doval, reputedly the fi nest strategic analyst available in the country with a James Bond-like undercover fi eld experience to boot. He also zeroed in on an equally top notch Foreign Policy Advisor. Modi’s Cabinet selection and portfolio distribution also has, by and large, the look and feel of a team of movers, shakers and doers. Th e brief is to think big and act fast, the accent is on getting results, and mark, no excuses. And come to Modi only if you face roadblocks.</p>
<p>Th e comparison with Roland Reagan is relevant in other ways too, as in the public image of both men during their respective election campaigns. Reagan, a R e p u b l i c a n
candidate, was criticized by Democrats as an “extreme Rightist” but c o n s e r v a t i v e  American voters swept him into power in the hope that he would reboot the country’s economy. Modi, too, aroused deeply divergent opinions – his detractors virtually demonized him and his supporters hero-worshipped him. In the end, he won the elections with the largest tally of seats in Parliament since Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. Th e reference to Rajiv Gandhi is also pertinent because there are some commentators who are advising Modi not to make the same mistakes as Gandhi did. With more than 400 seats the Congress had a huge majority. Th e largest Opposition party at that time was the Telugu Desam with just 30 Members. Diff erent historians proff er diff erent reasons for the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government, but it was in all probability due to the fact that he could not gauge the public outrage over Bofors corruption charges. Just as three decades later, in the recently concluded  2014 polls, his wife Sonia and son Rahul evidently underestimated people’s anger over corruption scandals and policy paralysis. As far as Modi is concerned, he must guard against the hidden dangers of having a weak and ineff ectual Opposition in the Lok Sabha. In Rajiv Gandhi’s case it led to complacency, a degree of arrogance, and a growing disconnect with the moods and aspirations of the people. But judging by the way Modi has begun his innings as the new leader, he is probably conscious of the historical precedent and will, hopefully, be careful to ensure that he fulfi ls his electoral promise of ushering in an era of all-round growth and prosperity by providing good governance, full transparency and guaranteed implementation of policy decisions. He has pledged to consult State Governments every step of the way, in the spirit of genuine federalism. He has also eff ectively wrested control of his party apparatus and directed BJP general secretaries to remain in constant contact with the common man. Ronald Reagan once famously said: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem”.</p>
<p><strong>Narendra Modi’s dictum is not dissimilar:</strong> “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. He lost no time in asking all the senior bureaucrats to make compact presentations focused on three points — “What went wrong in policy implementation during the past fi ve years? Why did policy paralysis set in? If you had been given the authority, what would you have done diff erently?”</p>
<p>Simultaneously, and somewhat at variance with his self-professed belief in delegating decision-making powers, he has sent out the signal that his will be a PMO-driven government in several key areas, at least for now. What this implies will only become apparent in the days and months ahead, but he has already made known his dislike and disapproval of the previous government’s practice of forming Groups of Ministers and Empowered Groups of Ministers by scrapping all such GoMs and EgoMs. Dr. Manmohan Singh viewed such Cabinet Committees as a way of resolving interministerial wrangling through a single window clearance mechanism. Modi evidently has other ideas. He has clubbed together diverse but related Ministries and entrusted them to individual Ministers with instructions to reconcile diff ering perceptions, take clear-cut decisions and ensure delivery and implementation. No excuses.</p>
<p>Th is again is almost a replica of Ronald Reagan’s thought processes. Interestingly though, it needs to be recalled that one of Reagan’s fi rst acts as president was to issue an executive order ending price controls on domestic oil, price controls which had contributed to the 1973 Oil Crisis and the 1979 Energy Crisis. Reagan also controversially focused his fi rst months in offi ce on two goals, tax reforms and increased military spending. Th e results of Reagan’s economic policies plunged the country into a recession in 1982, with unemployment levels soaring during 1982 and 1983. Th e degree of income inequity in America also rose substantially due to these policies. Despite Reagan’s stated desire to cut spending, federal spending grew during his administration. However, by the end of Reagan’s second term, the seventh year of the economic expansion, the United States recovered to impressive economic growth and near full employment. All this is relevant in the context of Narendra Modi’s prescription to ‘reboot’ the Indian economy, which is currently beset by high infl ation, industrial slowdown and growing unemployment. Th ere is no painless way to resolve these issues. It calls for drastic remedies that could increase the hardship of some sections of the population in the short run.</p>
<p>Armed with his majority in Parliament and emboldened by public support in the immediate aft ermath of the elections, the question is whether Modi can display the courage to wield the surgeon’s knife in politically sensitive areas, such as slashing government subsidies to middle class citizens.</p>
<p>Initially, this will almost certainly cause an outcry of protest from Opposition parties, non-BJP State governments and infl uential sections of the public. But if, like Reagan, Modi can bite the bullet and weather the storm, in due course of time, the Indian economy can certainly bounce back to high growth, stable prices and job creation. Modinomics would then be hailed as the new magic mantra. If not, the people of India will have to look for another messiah.</p>

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