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Is CM Modi is letting down PM Modi?
Is CM Modi is letting down PM Modi?
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Is CM Modi is letting down PM Modi?
Oneindia | 20th Jul, 2017 06:00 AM

In India's political history only a few times have chief ministers gone on to lead the country. Of these, no one has had as much experience in leading a state before becoming Prime Minister as Narendra Modi. With him leading Gujarat from October of 2001 till he took over as the leader of the Union government in May 2014.
Though such a shift in the choice of a leader from the state level to head the country as a whole can be considered a good thing given the positives it could bring in terms of a leader who may be more in touch with ground realities, as well as, having actual experience of heading a government. It can also have its drawbacks like a fixed mindset and an inability to see the big picture of larger and more complicated challenges that a country faces.
Such negatives and those specific to Modi's term in Gujarat can be looked at as the reasons behind the shortcomings that have recently been highlighted during his current role, especially now with the government getting criticized in and outside Parliament.
The connection of these criticisms seems linked to Modi's style of governance, which closely resembles that employed by him during his tenure as chief minister. While the lessons in politics he learnt in Gujarat have continued to serve him well, it is the model of governance that he successfully used in the state, and has tried to replicate at the centre, that is letting him down.
The sheer size of the country and its government apparatus, make it impossible for steps thought to increase efficiency in governance at the state level, to deliver the same results when applied on the national level. This is true for a host of them.
Sidelining Key ministers
Strong Chief Ministers in India have a history of not only being the focal points of their government but also sidelining other leaders and ministers by keeping a number of portfolios with themselves or bypassing them in key matters. Modi was no exception to this and in many ways he even exercised control to an extent that few others have in the 70 years since independence.
Even if he might not have kept ministries with himself after he became the Prime Minister, he has in effect made sure the ministers in charge of various departments are more or less bypassed in deciding and executing plans related to them.
While this holds true for most ministries, it has been truer in some of the most important ones like External Affairs, Home and Finance. And it is in areas considered under these, such as border face off with China, the Kashmir unrest, Indo-Pak relations, demonetization exercise, the implementations of Goods and Services Tax, cow related lynchings in various states, the maoist problem etc., which have gotten him the most criticism.
The reality is that it is nearly impossible to handle it all alone without taking help of at least capable ministers, a model he followed in Gujarat, given the mere scale and size of the country and responsibilities. Above these, the expertise and 24-hour vigil that has to be given to issues of critical importance is too difficult to provide with the chief ministerial style of working in the office of the Prime minister.
An example of this being the mode of foreign policy he has embarked upon based on personal diplomacy. Something that works well when it comes to getting investments for a state, but leaves much to be desired in case of the complicated field of forming relations between countries based on strategic concerns and realities.
Bureaucratic 'Steel frame' too rigid to improve
Before and after the general elections of 2014, that brought him to power at the centre, he had promised the deliverance of a system of 'minimum government maximum governance.' This was to be done by getting government out of the business of doing business as well as streamlining of the system by changing the working of the Indian bureaucracy, known as the 'steel frame' of the country.
This though, as his critics have pointed out, has not become a reality even though three years of is tenure have passed. The problem, according to those trying to explain the cause behind such a failure, is the over reliance of Prime Minister on the bureaucracy, similar to his time in Gujarat.
The administrative services, popularly described as the steel frame of India, for all its advantages has also been labeled as one of the major stumbling blocks in the growth of the country. Staying true to his model of governance as chief minister, he has put officers and those who he trusts in control as de facto heads of deciding policy and action, even though ministers bear the responsibility. This can be seen in the importance of National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, and, RSS and BJP leader Ram Madhav, in most national issues.
Modi also showed an inclination towards micro-managing the details of not only managing 'Vibrant Gujarat' like events but also the entire governance of the state. The approach, while possible and mostly successful when in charge of a state is highly unlikely to have a similar impact on a national level.
In addition to over reliance on the administrative services, the decision to bring in outsiders, no matter how qualified, such as Doval and Madhav to lead the line and his choice to stick with them, no matter what the nature of results, has given out the image that they have no accountability for their actions.
RSS is no VHP
In this case, the problems for him arose from the fact that he was unable to handle the situation unlike in Gujarat.
The sidelining of the Hindu hardline group the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its leader Pravin Togadia by Modi is no secret. The group has been touted as having played a major role in the Gujarat riots in which more than a thousand people died and took place only a few months after Modi took charge of the state. As Chief Minister, he took steps not only to reel in the VHP but also make sure that the organisation was unable to malign the image of his government and not help in setting the agenda in the communally vulnerable state.
His supporters, who have not based their backing of Modi as a Hindu leader, rather on one as modern day Prime Minister whose focus would be on good governance, economics and secular motives, felt and hoped that he would be able to deal with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the same way.
If political observers are to be believed he did try, even though the major role of voter and support mobilisation played by the Sangh in his victory is well established. The reality that the RSS is no VHP seems to have dawned on Modi, who was once a part of the Sangh.
This was cemented by the role that Sangh has played in the various elections held in states since 2014, and the realization that statements by its leaders or a no show during them could cause electoral reverses. Seen during the Bihar elections or in the state of Jammu and Kashmir were while the party performed admirably, it could have clearly done better if the equations between Modi and the RSS were not strained during them.
The importance of the RSS has also gone beyond the election process, with chief ministers, union ministers, heads of institutions and policy, of its choice finding their place in Modi's government. Such interference, along with issues related to the RSS and its cultural push, seen as a reason behind controversies, like lynchings of minorities surrounded by the issue related to cow, have been one of the major sources of merited criticism against the government.
The intolerance to criticism
He has carried other baggage from Gujarat such as his relation to and controversies regarding Adani business group, Gujarat riots, as well as heightened expectations following his much publicized successes that he had supposedly achieved during his near 13-year reign as chief minister, and the hope that he will be able to immediately replicate them at the Centre.
Along with such concerns, he has also brought with him followers, which have grown in number, and have made sure to drown out any criticism of Modi, no matter how well meaning, making it impossible for it to be taken into consideration and helping in improving the running of the government and the country.
With most media and may be the people as well still on his side, the fact that there have been serious problems that have come up in his tenure so far, though ignored by many, need to be looked into with the hope that they might help solve such concerns.
One of the main advantages of a chief minister becoming the leader of the country was that of him being in tune with the voices from the ground level, including the criticism. And if this fails to be so, a situation might develop where the current leadership could end-up being very similar to past national leaders, who ultimately became disconnected with the masses, such as Indira Gandhi.

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