In identifying the government’s priority areas and fixing deadlines to meet targets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have already set the pace for his Council of Ministers just days after the swearing-in. But drawing up plans is always the easy part. Even if the Prime Minister’s Office functions as the nerve centre of the Modi administration, providing policy inputs to all the Ministries and acting on their feedback, the challenge for the new government will be in maintaining the momentum of the proposal stage right until the final stage of implementation. More than tight monitoring from the top, this would require greater accountability and sharing of responsibility at all levels of government. Indications are that Mr. Modi is alive to the nature and size of the tasks before him. Although known to favour a top-down approach to governance, he ensured that among his first set of instructions to his Cabinet colleagues was to respond promptly to representations from Chief Ministers, to take the views of Members of Parliament seriously, and to involve Ministers of State in decision-making. The stress on listening to the States is welcome. The dominant impulse of a party with a majority of its own at the Centre and with only a few States under its control would be to concentrate all power at the Centre. That Mr. Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party have resisted any such temptation could mark a good beginning in the government’s relations with States ruled by rival political parties. One of the positive outcomes of the coalition era at the Centre in the last two decades was the rising importance of State governments and regional parties. Decentralisation and transparency go together, and are integral to good governance. Mr. Modi seems to have realised this, moving up as he has done from being the Chief Minister of Gujarat to the Prime Minister of India.
The much talked about ten-point charter of the new government that includes growth, education, energy, infrastructure and price control covers all important sectors. Listing out priorities and spelling out timeframes for implementation should help many of the relatively inexperienced members of the Modi Cabinet to keep a twin focus on short-term goals and long-term policy directives. Most of the BJP Ministers, while assuming office, have stressed on their adherence to the party manifesto. But the BJP, which included some controversial issues in its manifesto, would be well-advised to exercise caution, and engage in wide-ranging consultations before it takes up sensitive subjects. That the initial Cabinet meetings stuck to the development and growth agenda is, hopefully, a pointer to the direction the Modi government would take.