Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2014-07-07 07:32:15 Published on Jul 07, 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's problem is the sheer scale of the challenges he confronts. He has to juggle several balls at the same time, and though he may vary the juggling routine, he cannot afford to let any of the balls drop.
Challenges Modi must face
Arriving as he did, amidst a deep crisis in political and economic life of the country, Prime Minister Modi shouldn't complain of not getting the proverbial honeymoon period newly-elected leaders are supposed to have.

But despite all that, he introduced a sense of order and calm which has given impetus to the prospects of growth, as noted by the Reserve Bank of India in its June 2014 Financial Stability report.

Since it is still the early days of his government, there remains a sense of heightened expectancy across the board, not just in India, but among our well-wishers and, no doubt, our adversaries, abroad.

Modi's problem is the sheer scale of the challenges he confronts. He has to juggle several balls at the same time, and though he may vary the juggling routine, he cannot afford to let any of the balls drop.

As it is, he inherited a government atrophied by the passivity of Manmohan Singh and a fiscal mess created by the profligacy of Sonia Gandhi's populism.


To add to this, there have been controversies, just niggling as yet, which have soured the honeymoon - the TRAI ordinance to facilitate Nipendra Misra's appointment, the partial roll-back of rail fares at the instance of coalition allies, the sacking of governors, the unfair undermining of Gopal Subramaniam's candidature as Supreme Court judge, leaked reports on the activities of NGOs, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan's morality lectures, and the unseemly manner in which the government has leaned on Delhi University to dismantle the four year course.

These have all been suggestive of the low road, rather than the high that the government is expected to take.

Enthusiastic and inexperienced ministers, and newly-empowered officials in the first flush of power, are bound to create some waves.

Modi, for his part, has gone out of his way to keep his ideologues in check. On Saturday, speaking to the new MPs, he said it was important to focus on good conduct, thought and behaviour.

But his key message is that he is the boss: whether it is to bureaucrats or the new MPs, he has been emphasising the fact that he would prefer to deal directly with them, rather than through ministerial intermediaries.

But the new PM should believe his big challenge is his need to convert the capacities the BJP has acquired through the election victory of his creation into effective policies, which require effective leadership and consensus-building.

He cannot but be conscious of the fact that his first challenge is to consolidate his grip over his own party. His rise unsettled a number of established party leaders who are waiting for him to stumble.

In his march to victory, he was aided by his chief campaign manager Amit Shah. But he must now convert the party that arose to sweep the elections into an organisation which is loyal to him.

The most important step here is to ensure Shah becomes BJP president.


Given the culture of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, where age is given due deference, Mr Modi will have to tread carefully in dealing with the old guard - L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Subramanyam Swami and Yashwant Sinha.

During the ministry formation, Modi managed to bring the somewhat arbitrary 75 year cut off rule to exclude many of them.

Though his ministry, thin on talent, could do with the likes of Advani, Joshi, Swami, Sinha or BC Khanduri, his style and temperament demands a ministry where he, Modi, is clearly No.1.

The second is to consolidate the BJP's gains in the elections, especially in states like UP and Maharashtra. In UP, where the party won 71 out of 80 seats the BJP has dented the Mandal parties, but going by their vote share, they remain strong.

What is needed is a new paradigm in UP politics, but how will that come?

Maharashtra, where the NDA won 42 out of 48 seats, is ripe for the plucking, though the death of Gopinath Munde has been a severe loss for the BJP. That the BJP and Shiv Sena are in a coalition of equals, complicates the challenge. Actually this is the time where the BJP needs to pull decisively ahead and show its coalition partner who is the boss.


The third challenge is the failing monsoon. It is bound to come with inflationary pressures.

Agriculture may account for just 18 per cent of GDP, but the sector employs 60 per cent of the Indian workforce where two-thirds of the farmers depend on rain-fed irrigation. But a failed monsoon is likely to accelerate inflationary pressures, as well as create social distress in rural areas leading to mass migration to the country's already stressed urban conglomerations.

The fourth issue the Modi government must confront is the fallout of the developments in Iraq.

Oil prices are at a nine-month high and the Iraqi insurgents are looking unstoppable. Iraq is the second largest oil producer within OPEC.

The Shia-Sunni civil war could spread to other parts of West Asia from where India gets a vast amount of foreign exchange as remittances from workers.

Modi inherited a mountain-load of challenges, and a country like India will also throw up unexpected ones all the time.

All through the past year, he had the luxury of attacking a failing and paralysed government. Now he must meet the expectations he has aroused in his electoral debut.

With power comes responsibility, and with more power, of the kind Modi is accumulating through centralisation, comes with even greater responsibility.

But if there is one lesson staring at him in the face it is - the time for tough decisions is now.

As his term progresses, he will find that his room to manoeuvre will be constrained, and even six months could be too late.

(The writer is a Contributing Editor and a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi) Courtesy: Mail Today

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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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