It was in the 1990s that the “100 days of government” concept began to be treated as a significant milestone and an occasion for publicising initiatives on the government’s part, as an instance to point out deficiencies by the Opposition parties and as a time for a fair assessment by the media. At that time, governments did not either last for their entire term, or were fragile coalitions pulling in different directions from within. Although this is no longer the case, the stability of the Narendra Modi government cannot be doubted -- more so now than in 2014-- as a leader, the Prime Minister is not one to allow a watershed milestone pass by without covering the government with glory. Yet, this marker is significant because it provides an opportunity to take stock of events since Modi 2.0 assumed office and to determine how this government is marking a course at variance to the path it chose in its first term.
It would be worthwhile to recall that the 100-day marker first appeared on the political horizon almost eight decades ago, when then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who assumed office amid the Great Depression in America, initiated a series of schemes and laws to overcome the problems that his country was facing. On the completion of the first phase of his programmes, FDR realised that it had taken him precisely 100 days to accomplish what he had set out to achieve in the first round. Thereafter, many global leaders have followed suit, and some even had books written on the first 100 days of their government.
In Narendra Modi’s case, the excitement has been greater because he has few peers matching his communication skills. He is also skilled at spotting a good occasion to hard-sell images, and the “cause” being pushed at that point in time. This was the case in 2014, and it would be surprising if the fanfare is not repeated this time too. It is all the more so as this time, in comparison with his first term, there are more “momentous” achievements to boast of. It is a different matter that many of these may not be what the nation so direly needs.
The 2019 verdict is at variance with that in 2014 because the reasons why Narendra Modi was given the endorsement back then were the dire necessities. There was indeed a “policy paralysis” and the country needed a whiff of freshness, both in terms of ideas and leadership. Mr Modi raised hopes and provided legitimacy to aspirations. As Elections 2019 neared, much of this trust had been dishonoured and there were fears that the BJP would struggle to return to office. The Pulwama terror attack and Mr Modi's belligerent response in Balakot, and the success in securing global support, changed the electoral narrative to the Prime Minister’s advantage. The election was then fought and won on a narrative which was not based on the basic needs of people, but on issues of national pride and security. People were willing to accept Mr Modi despite little to cheer when it came to personal betterment. They opted for him because they sensed in Prime Minister Modi a leader who was willing to talk tough and roll back the imagined humiliations of the past.
The first 100 days of Modi 2.0 stands out not for achieving the “fixes”, that were required in the economy, but for giving a push to the ideology and programmes of the BJP and its ideological affiliates in the Sangh Parivar. Rarely has a government achieved so much when it comes to advancing its contentious programmes. In the first session of Parliament, the BJP successfully secured the passage of several bills which would not have been possible during the tenure of Mr Modi's first government. The government has successfully turned the Triple Talaq Bill into law, altered the constitutional and political status of Jammu and Kashmir, diluted the much-appreciated Right to Information Act and brought in a key amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The last, in particular, which arms the State with the power to label any individual a terrorist, and jail the person for up to two years without trial, has disturbing similarities with the Rowlatt Act, which British had tried enacting but had to give up after it almost single-handedly enabled Mahatma Gandhi and other Congress stalwarts to alter the course of the national movement.
In addition, the Supreme Court is hearing the Ayodhya land dispute case at almost lightning speed. Even if the court’s verdict is unfavourable, the “legislative route” exists. Mr Modi has also put the Sangh Parivar’s demand for population control on the table.
In the past few weeks, the government has also announced a slew of economic measures, starting with the rollback of some announcements made in the Union Budget. But the biggest challenge which Prime Minister Modi continues to face is how to put additional earnings in the hands of the people. Instead of being able to initiate any credible move which would provide economic relief to stressed citizens, the government is confronting a slowdown in one sector after another. Much was made out during the general election of how the government had rolled out the Mudra scheme, and that this was a spectacular success. The government had asked people to stop being job-seekers, and become job-givers. The Indian economy, it was claimed, would henceforth be driven by the spirit of entrepreneurship. The latest data on Mudra loans, however, shows that just 20 per cent of the borrowers actually began businesses, while the rest used the loans for other purposes, and these are likely to become NPAs.
Undoubtedly, the Modi 2.0 government in its first 100 days has shown political commitment, and furthering the ideology and programmes of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar has been prioritised. One of the major gains for Mr Modi is the way he has broken into the Opposition’s ranks and secured support for each of the politically contentious laws and measures. This suggests
that Mr Modi has successfully secured a political turnaround in the national consensus. The theme of “unity in diversity” is now passé, and now the belief is “oneness”. The first 100 days of Modi 2.0 provides a clear indication of the things to come.