A 100-day analysis

BY ANAND VARDHAN| IN Opinion | 10/09/2014
The Hindi press took the same stand as the English media on the Narendra Modi government's first 100 days in office, namely, measured praise.
ANAND VARDHAN looks at the assessments. PIX: Hridaynarayan Dikshit edit in ~Dainik Jagran~

Anand Vardhan

When anniversary journalism turned old-fashioned, political stock-taking exercises found a shorter and numerically catchy periodicity of 100 days. However, what political commentators fear is a scenario in which a new government doesn’t falter enough in that duration or doesn’t  provide the usual quota of faux pas for them to pounce on. Their fears have come true.

As the Modi government seems to have settled down seamlessly on Raisina Hill, the political commentaries in the mainstream media feel disarmed, unable to find many substantive issues on which the government could be attacked.

This broad understanding about the 100 days performance of the new regime was evident in edits and opinion pieces in the English press. Did the Hindi press, catering to a large section of Hindi speaking voters in whom this government has found strong electoral support, concur? It has chosen either to give the government a thumbs-up or sit on the fence. It too has not found many reasons to give the government a negative report card.

Besides its clear editorial endorsement of the Modi government’s performance, Dainik Jagran relied on some well known names in the English media, like Pratap Bhanu Mehta (‘Shasan ki kasauti par sau din’, 100 days on the touchstone of governance, September 3), Neerja Chowdhury (‘Badlau ki Jhalak’, Glimpse of Change, September 2) and Swapan Dasgupta (‘Sau Din ka Safar’, Journey of 100 days, August 31) for the opinion pieces marking the occasion.

Interestingly, the Dainik Jagran has also published a piece (‘Vipaksh ke sau din’, 100 days of Opposition, September 5) by Hridaynarayan Dikshit ( a member of the  UP Legislative Council) in which he demanded  a 100 days report card from the opposition and attacked it for its ineffectiveness and failure in performing its duty as a constructive opposition.

Dikshit observed: “Optimism is on rise in the country. But, Congress seems despondent. Opposition has failed in its role... It didn’t accept the electoral mandate. It’s in a shock and opposition parties have not reported back to their democratic duty. As they suffer a dearth of alternative ideas and as they are devoid of any ideology, they are desperate to just gang up against the BJP”.

What’s significant is that Hindustan, known for its Congress-leanings, has given a favourable report card to the government in its edit. While doing so, it strikes a note of guarded optimism like its flagship English sister publication Hindustan Times (‘Modi tenure: Well begun, but far from done’, September 2). Hindustan concludes its editorial comment (‘Sau Din Sarkaar ke’, 100 days of Government, September 2) with the note: “If Modi continues to make the government efficient at this rate, it’s possible that we may witness administrative reforms on a scale which entire administrative reform commissions couldn’t bring.  This government has shown clear direction and power of decision-making. However, the government would face a real test after it completes a year in office when the results of its political, economic and diplomatic initiatives would be known".

Such editorial consonance with the flagship publication of the group  was also seen in Navbharat Times  as its edit ('Sau din sarkaar ke', 100 days of the Government, September 4) aligned well with the editorial verdict of The Times of India ('The promise of achche din remains after 100 days of Modi Sarkar', September 3).

The paper reserved special praise for the government’s  focussed approach to tightening the administrative machinery and bringing the derailed economy back on track, though it suggested that more needs to be done to rein in  the divisive forces threatening communal harmony.

Even Jansatta, which has been critical of Modi throughout his electoral campaign, toned down  the critical pitch  and agreed with the general outcome of the ‘Tracking 100 days of  Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ series of assessment by its group’s flagship daily The  Indian Express

Its edit  (‘Sau Din ka khaata’, Account of 100 days September 3) adopts a fence-sitting approach by praising the government for raising hopes of good governance and economic recovery while cautioning it against emerging questions and insidious controversies.

Similar observations were made in an editorial comment in Amar Ujala (‘Sau din sarkaar ke’, 100 days of government, September 3) which credited the government with initiating measures for good governance and a robust economy. However, it raised concerns about persistent inflation, weakening communal harmony in some parts of the country and the likelihood of some strains in the federal set up and judiciary-executive confrontations as some of the fault-lines which the government needs to address.

However, it was Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s article  in Dainik Jagran which sought to put the nature of the new regime in perspective. He welcomed it as a break from the past and also pointed to some of the emerging concerns. Incidentally, Mehta carried on his arguments from where he left off in his analysis of the PM’s Independence Day speech in The Indian Express, but chose the most-read Hindi daily for an assessment of the government’s first 100 days.

Mehta remarked: “The first 100 days of the Modi government have witnessed the rise of a different form of government. Modi’s democratic understanding is like Charles de Gaulle who was described by his biographer, Jonathan Fenby, as a republican monarch. This phrase was not meant to suggest any contradiction. It was meant to rather capture something: an ability to both wield authority and yet personify the people. Modi’s engagement has a similar quality. It is deeply democratic in the sense that it rested on the conviction that authority does not come from any source other than the people.” 

While applauding Modi government’s initiatives for the economy and foreign policy, Mehta terms its performance on governance a ‘mixed bag’ and  asserts the need for a new direction for ensuring institutional and policy reforms and addressing ad-hocism in key areas like environment policy. He also cautions against the perils of over-centralisation of power.

One of the achievements of the 100 days of this government is that it has brought the assessment of its performance to a point where political analysts and edit writers are willing to analyse the government as an entity which has set itself some tasks to accomplish, a welcome departure from the governance-deficit associated with earlier regimes.

The editorial assessment of the 100 days in the Hindi press also echoed this general sentiment. This echo could be music to the ruling party’s ears if it eventually turns out to be something that millions of its voters in the Hindi heartland also think.

Anand Vardhan is a freelance writer and he writes on a wide range of issues and themes, including media. He has also been teaching civil services aspirants. He can be reached at anandvardhan26@gmail.com, you can also visit his blog at http://patnawalaanand.wordpress.com/

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