Special to Times of Oman
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, beyond doubt, begun pretty well. He has put up a coruscating performance by unveiling a ten-point plan for time-bound implementation and setting into motion a 100-day action plan for his ministers.
Most important, his government has set up a high-profile SIT (Special Investigation Team) to bring back black money stashed abroad by Indian citizens. Our request to the authorities is that it should not be another wing-and-prayer effort. We all know how the UPA government had tip-toed around the issue for yonks.
Modi has said that the requirements of the states will be given priority. One hopes that he wouldn't show discrimination against non-BJP states and wouldn't give Congress chief ministers the runaround lest he be branded as a BJP prime minister.
True, some CMs refused to attend his swearing-in ceremony, but that was to placate their respective constituencies back home.
The fact that Modi has given thrust to core areas such as education, health, power, water and roads and flagged them under the ten-point plan shows that he is up to speed with the nation's dire needs.
So far, so good. We expect Modi to walk the talk.
The touchstone of success is the implementation of the multifarious initiatives that the government intends to carry though.
The decision to set up an SIT to unearth black money, estimated to be over $1,000 billion, is indeed a step in the right direction. In fact, this is the first decision of the Modi government, something which is consonant with Modi's campaign promise. Unearthing Indian black money is, certainly, no shoo-in. Obstacles are far too many.
Foreign banks may not cooperate, especially when several of them market aggressively as tax havens. Over 70 countries are said to be tax havens and to crack this problem the SIT needs to act with extreme dexterity and diplomacy.
It is common knowledge that the bulk of the black money account holders in foreign banks comprises politicians and corporate bigwigs. Modi may not have much of a problem regarding the first category.
But when it comes to corporate unaccounted money, which could form the chunk of the black money, Modi may face humongous pressure as many of the corporate top guns are friendly with him. Will the government then reveal their names? That's the question that surges in one's mind now.
Furthermore, if the BJP politicians are involved, will they also be brought to light?
Yet another issue is the domestic black money. Is there a mechanism by which such dirty money can be unearthed? Everybody knows how black money flowed into the recent poll campaigns of various parties, especially the BJP though there is no tangible evidence. The government should come forward and admit as such and crack this domestic menace as well.
For argument's sake one can say that the SIT is accountable to the Supreme Court and not to the government and hence everything would be done in a transparent way.
But the Indian system of governance has any number of loopholes by which the law would catch up with only opposition politicians and unfriendly individuals.
So let's wait for the end results. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
As regards the new cabinet structure, it is as clear as cut-glass that Modi's writ would run in pretty much every portfolio. Almost all ministers are either staunch loyalists or light-weights or freshers. It is significant that Modi loyalist Jaitley has two crucial portfolios — finance and defence.
This is perhaps Modi's way to forestall any opposition that might arise following the decision to allow 100 per cent FDI in defence. Jaitley says the defence portfolio will go to some other person in due course. Modi may well be in search of a right, loyal person for this post.
By hiving off crucial portfolios like HRD, power, commerce, industry, broadcasting and the like to junior MPs, Modi has ensured that only he will pull the levers of power. For him, it seems immaterial who handles these portfolios as long as they carry out his orders.
Therefore, what difference does it make if the HRD minister is headed by a graduate or non-graduate?
It seems Modi has given the bureaucrats carte blanche to take decisions and they are given assurance that they wouldn't be hunted after their retirement for anything.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.