During the first 100 days of the NDA II government, Narendra Modi has been spending a lot of time and energy on external relations. From inviting heads of government of SAARC countries for his swearing-in ceremony the Prime Minister’s calendar has been crowded with his own foreign visits to Bhutan, Brazil, Nepal and Japan, as also receiving heads of government from Australia, Sri Lanka, China... These are to be followed by an address at the UN and a meeting with US President Barack Obama. This visit would also provide opportunity for meeting several heads of government who would flock to New York to address the UN General Assembly.
Modi is likely to be over- awed by the attention and coverage by other world leaders, the international media and by the Indian diaspora. Such a crowded schedule followed by his predecessor Manmohan Singh left little time to come to grips with more pressing economic issues. Like P V Narasimha Rao and A B Vajpayee, Modi needs to spend lot more time with the leaders of other political parties and opinion makers including business leaders and the media to build consensus on development issues. This will no doubt be difficult in the divisive Indian politics, but with the poor representation in the Rajya Sabha, the absence of such a consensus is bound to paralyze legislative business; but such effort will greatly help him address the important issues of stagnation and poor job growth.
Walk the difficult path...
However difficult it is, the BJP leadership should endeavor to interact with the Congress and other major political parties. A measure of give and take with a bit of magnanimity would help. Like according the leader of the opposition stature to Congress and to invite some of its senior leaders to lend their expertise on issues of governance. If Modi could take bold to invite Pakistan’s Nawaz Sherif or share the swing on the banks of Sabarmati with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, it should not be anathema to work with Rahul Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal in the interests of democratic functioning. Can he also make bold to invite the Congress to run the Delhi government with accepted minimum programmes? Such a magnanimous gesture can win in course of time such support for NDA’s policies from the other national political parties. This will also help push back the bitterness and antagonism witnessed at the state level like AIADMK vs. DMK in Tamil Nadu or SP vs. BSP in UP. Such initiatives will help evolve Indian democracy on the lines of more mature democracies in Europe.
The severe drubbing that the BJP received in the recent by-elections to the state assemblies is the direct result of complacency on the part of BJP’s top brass. The defeat of such a large number of its candidates within such a short time of the party’s resounding victory in the Lok Sabha elections is bound to have serious consequences: firstly on the morale of the party men; secondly, on the clout of the party to dictate terms for seat sharing with allies in the forthcoming elections to state assemblies and thirdly, to reconcile differences with state Chief Ministers.
The Lok Sabha elections were built on the poor performance of the incumbent UPA government and the evocative campaign by Narendra Modi. In fact, there was no second leader from the BJP who could take credit for the resounding victory. Modi alone ran the campaign. His non- involvement in the campaign for the subsequent state by-elections has caused this damage.
By-elections: Modi can emulate Jaya...
The question could be legitimately asked if the prime minister could afford to campaign in the unending stream of by elections. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo, J Jayalalithaa, provides the answer. Conscious of the importance of maintaining her lead, Jayalalithaa takes every by-election and every other election to corporations, municipalities and panchayats seriously. She campaigns for the party’s candidates with vigour. She meticulously plans to spearhead the campaign ensuring in several cases even the withdrawal from contest of strong candidates put by the opposition.
Modi would do well to emulate Jayalalithaa. In the Indian system of democracy, the winner gets all and the loser nothing. His hard earned victory is too precious to be lost in quick time. He should continue with his proven yen for a strong strategy and sound implementation. It will be worth his taking care of political management leaving administration to others.