“For 60 years you have chosen rulers,” said Narendra Modi, now the prime minister-elect. “I appeal to the people, you have given 60 years to the rulers, now give just 60 months to this sevak (servant).”
At one point during the campaign, this had even come down from 60 months to just six, but what exactly is it that Modi – who was given a massive mandate by the voters – is promising to achieve in this time?
1. Bullet trains
India has had a Golden Quadrilateral project before, which involved building highways to connect four major cities across the span of the subcontinent. But Modi has promised something even more impressive: a Diamond Quadrilateral, connected by high-speed rail. During his campaign, the PM candidate spoke often of revamping Indian Railways in the same way that Japan had overhauled its rail infrastructure. Since exit polls and election results have been out, rail stocks have been buoyant and sources have suggested that the BJP might move to announce a push on high-speed rail on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad and the New Delhi-Patna routes as soon as possible.
2. 100 smart cities
Never one to shy away from a big number or, for that matter, from urban voters, Modi has promised to set up 100 new “smart cities.” The plan is actually an extension of a programme he had implemented in Gujarat, promising to bring in lakhs of jobs through the construction and development of new urban spaces. The crucial question standing in the way of this promise, however, will be Modi’s approach to land rights. The UPA managed to pass through long-awaited changes to the controversial land acquisition law last year, but it remains to be seen how a BJP government will treat one of the most contentious issues in order to fulfill their promises.
3. River Linking
Not everything from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime has been shunted out of Modi’s plan. Chief among the relics from that age is the grandiose BJP plan of inter-linking all of India’s rivers, a complex idea endorsed by the Supreme Court but widely believed to be potentially dangerous for Indian ecology. Modi’s own record at building canals and field channels in Gujarat alone ended up being abysmal, but he has still managed to sell the massive inter-linking idea as being one that can alter the future of India’s water problems.
4. Tax reform
For a prime minister who attempted to insist throughout the campaign that he was selling an economic dream, all eyes are likely to be on how a Modi sarkar will change government revenues and expenditure. A key part of that is tax reform, something that forms a major plank of Modi’s manifesto and has been mentioned by plenty of aides over the last year. The manifesto promises to provide a “non-adversarial and conducive tax environment and rationalised and simplified the tax regime,” which some have even gone so far as to expect will mean an end to the income tax and the implementation of a bank transaction tax. More conventionally, forward movement will be expected on the Goods and Services Tax as well as the Direct Tax Code.
5. Spreading Institutes
Everywhere Modi went during the campaign – and he went almost everywhere – he promised to bring an Indian Institute of Technology or an Indian Institute of Management along with him. So, the party eventually put the promise on paper: a Modi sarkar would bring either of the flagship IITs, IIMs or a branch of the All India Institute for Medical Sciences to every state in the country. That would mean setting up 13 new IITs, 15 IIMs and 21 AIIMS across the country.
6. Brand India
Brand NaMo has won over India, now Modi hopes to use his team’s marketing acumen for the rest of the country. He has promised to alter India’s image across the world and, in proper branding jargon, even has a quick catchphrase to explain how he’ll do it: “with the 5 Ts: talent, tradition, tourism, trade and technology."
7. Black Money
Along with his campaign partner, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, Modi has often spoken of how black money stashed abroad has been detrimental to India. He’s now promised to bring most, if not all, of that money back within the first 100 days of his government, whether it is by passing legislation or by signing agreements with other countries to see this happen – although managing to plug all the loopholes that allow cash to be hidden offshore will be tough. Once the money is here, the manifesto even promises special courts that will prosecute those who were hoarding it away.
8. Housing for all
Entitlement-based reform tends to be associated with the outgoing United Progressive Alliance, the coalition that has just been routed in national polls. Yet, one of the key planks of Modi’s platform is his promise to provide affordable housing to every Indian family. The BJP manifesto aims to see this rolled out in time for every family to have a pukka house in time for India’s 75th anniversary of independence, but estimates suggest that would mean 19 million low-cost homes and a cost of $150 billion.
9. Clean Ganga
Whatever Modi’s legacy will be, it is now inextricably connected to the city of Varanasi and the Ganga. Having been "summoned by the river" to contest from there, Modi has also promised to turn a special focus on the river by deeming it a national project and even, per some speculation, instituting a separate ministry to focus on rivers with a special emphasis on the Ganga. The crucial challenge with the Ganga is cleaning the holy river, which has over the years filled up with sewage, pollution and effluents.
10. Indian century
“I want to make the 21st century India’s century,” Modi said, after it was clear he had won. “It will take 10 years, not very long.” Beyond building Brand India, that promise also suggests a different approach to India’s foreign policy, where all the focus will be on the new prime minister’s approach to Pakistan (which the BJP has promised to be tough on), China (which Modi is expected to woo for investment) and the United States of America (which is expected to drop its visa ban against him).
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