The office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi exercises such an extent of control over policy matters that it could be impeding implementation, suggested to Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, who is on a brief visit to the U.S.
Speaking at a private event at the World Bank focused on his new book “India Shastra” Mr. Tharoor, who is also the Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, said, “Mr. Modi has said a lot of the right things. The challenge is going to be in doing the right thing, which so far, in ten months, we haven’t seen him doing that.”
While the former Under-Secretary General at the United Nations said that he “applauded” Mr. Modi’s articulation of specific national objectives requiring the government’s attention, he emphasised that bureaucrats in Delhi testified that they were actually are much more paralysed now than they were thought to be in the “alleged days of policy paralysis under the UPA.”
“Everything is now controlled by the PMO. No one moves without an ‘ok’ from the PMO. Every file gets stuck in the PMO. There is a real worry about how much is going to get done,” Mr. Tharoor said.
He also hit out at the Modi government for not delivering on certain promises, including the Swachh Bharat Mission, for which he said the government had slashed sanitation infrastructure funding, a reference to the latest budget’s Rs. 635 crore-cut for that scheme.
Mr. Tharoor argued, “You’ve got a fancy new label, implying a new objective and a national mission [and] you’ve got less money than the old, unsuccessful schemes had,” adding that the current budget was “particularly dismaying” in that funding cuts rendered it impossible to meet the basic objective of constructing 340,000 new toilets in the next five years.
“It is really political hypocrisy, I’m afraid, of the worst kind, and it’s rather sad,” he said.
However Mr. Tharoor conceded that the BJP and Mr. Modi were likely to be judged on their economic performance because, “Although it is a party that has been built on identity politics and Hindutva bigotry, the fact that Mr. Modi’s election campaign was entirely about development, getting results, [and] creating jobs.”
In response to a question from The Hindu on the Congress party’s defeat in the 2014 general election and whether that had led to introspection on the continuation of the dominant role of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in the party he replied that such reform was “actually Rahul Gandhi’s calling card.”
“He wants to change the way the party is functioning, the way it is organised, the way that it does in internal elections and picks up people, [and] the way in which people are able to rise from the grassroots on merit,” Mr. Tharoor explained.