Offering 6 Suggestions for the PM
As PM Modi is about to complete 3 years in office, his popularity across India is on the increase, going by the results of state elections, by-elections and several opinion polls. Most of us are happy that, after years of poor performance and ‘policy paralysis’ of the UPA, we now have a Government that really works.
While the PM may rightfully feel elated about this, he also realises that the expectations of the people are extremely high; unless his Government’s performance matches their expectations (which are much more than from the past PMs by an order of magnitude), his popularity could turn into disappointment. And he knows that if his performance matches their expectations, he can go down in the history as the best PM ever; he’s surely straining every nerve to do his very best.
As a Modi admirer, I’m offering here 6 suggestions on how I believe he can measure up to people’s expectations. These suggestions are, by no means, the best nor exhaustive, but a good wish list to get started with.
1. Create Task Forces To Suggest Ways To Solve Major Issues Of National Importance: There are a few key areas where the performance of the Government matters most; e.g., Agriculture, Economy (Jobs, GDP, Investment, Inflation, Interest Rate and Exports) and Social Justice.
The PM can set up Task Forces of experts to advice the Government in these areas. Expertise in Niti Ayog may be limited, but it can serve as coordinating agency. Task Forces could make sweeping suggestions which can’t be implemented given the constraints (financial or otherwise); so, their brief should include the constraints so that their recommendations are readily actionable if the Government accepts them.
2. Present Report Cards of All Departments and NDA CMs, At Least Once A Year: Though media present periodic Report Cards (often biased) of State and Central Governments, and the Central Government itself publishes interesting Info-graphics, and the PM mentions some of the accomplishments in his “Mann Ki Baat” programmes, the comprehensiveness of the Government’s performance is not public knowledge.
At least BJP State and Central Governments should formally publish reports of their performance in every realm in detail, at least once a year (if not every Quarter); if some weak spots get exposed, so be it. Critics keep posting articles and WhatsApp messages that question the Governments’ performance. The best way to counter them is by official reports.
3. Become Friend, Philosopher And Guide To All NDA CMs: Though many of the BJP CMs are stalwarts in their own right, Modi is the tallest leader in not just BJP, but the entire country, miles ahead of others. (I’m consciously avoiding the word ‘Mentor’ as it could sound authoritarian). Many CMs benefit from the brand image of Modi. So, whenever states fail to perform, people expect Modi to hold them accountable and get them to perform. Though Modi can’t double up as CM of several states and also be the PM, this is what people expect.
So, Modi should find time regularly to discuss state issues with the CMs of NDA (at least BJP) states at great length and act as their friend, philosopher and guide and help them measure up to the respective states’ expectations. True, such a meeting took place on 23 April 2017, but we don’t know if it is happening regularly. When this happens regularly, the performance of the state governments will improve significantly. And the perception that Modi is monitoring the performance of the states will substantially comfort the people.
4. Create Competition To IAS Cadre And Make Them Perform Or Perish: One of the biggest bottlenecks to governance is the bureaucracy, led by IAS officers. Any system would perform well ONLY if there’s competition. The ruling party has competition in the form of the opposition parties. Business has competition within the country and outside. But IAS has no competition, and so they are very inefficient and ineffective.
The Government should start recruiting professionals like doctors, engineers, scientists, accountants, lawyers, etc to a new stream (say Indian Professional Service). State and Central Governments should have the option to appoint these professionals to head various bodies and even the Secretariats, instead of IAS officers. This will prevent IAS lobby from becoming a cosy club, and help the Governments get the best out of bureaucracy.
5. Institute Better Systems To Tap Ideas Of Citizens For Social Good: In this age of “Business @ Speed of Thought”, we should also be thinking about “Governance @ Speed of Thought”. Ideas can be key to governance success. Sure enough, Modi has created several platforms like eGov to tap the ideas of the people, and a system to escalate good ideas upwards. But, in reality, most good ideas get screened out, frustrating the competent people who give excellent suggestions that can even save the Government lakhs of crores of Rupees.
Just recognising those who give suggestions in the form of Certificates will enthuse people to start thinking of ideas, and get people closer to the Government. Many critics will become supporters. Modi should enhance the Idea Screening systems, ensuring that not a single good idea of significant value is lost.
6. Train Government & Party Office Holders (MPs, MLAs, Party Leaders, et al) To Behave Responsibly, In Public & Personal Lives: A lot of good done by the Government, esp Modi, are undone by some of his party MLAs, MPs and other leaders. True, motivated media magnify a few odd mistakes and even twist non-events into events, but in this age of electronic and social media, mistakes when shown magnified, create misperceptions. The PM should find occasions to meet the MPs, MLAs and party leaders regularly, wherein they should be reminded of the ‘Dos and Don’t’s in no uncertain terms, and that they should avoid controversies at all costs. They can even be trained on issues like political correctness, rule of law, behaving responsibly, etc.
Is there a guarantee that these steps will solve all the problems? Many key problems may be solved and some may still not be, but the people will see the sincere effort being put in by the PM in solving their problems in every possible way. Perception matters even more than reality.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.