On the eve of the cabinet reshuffle, the second of his 25-month-old government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday said the exercise would reinforce his government’s focus as outlined in the Budget this year — the Budget had focused on the agriculture sector and development of women and weaker sections.
In an interaction with a group of journalists, the Prime Minister underlined that he was only “expanding” his cabinet and not “changing” it. He said the expansion was a natural event after two years.
“It will be according to requirement,” Modi said. Asked if the approaching assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh would be kept in mind during the cabinet expansion, he said the state had elected 72 BJP MPs even before the party’s government was formed at the Centre.
In a separate conversation with The Indian Express, the Prime Minister said that after two years in office, his greatest “regret” was his failure to “convince or persuade” a section of the media “which strongly hoped that we would not win (in 2014)” to “our point of view”.
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Stating that the biggest gain for his government in the last 25 months has been the people’s “belief” and hope “in the government, he said: “A strong foundation has been laid for a take-off. This transformation from gloom to confidence in the future and from economic decline to sustained growth has the potential to transform India.”
Asked about his regret, Modi said: “As regards regrets, I am not sure if my answer will be to your liking. Before and during the parliamentary elections, there was a section of the media which strongly hoped that we would not win. My regret is that in the last two years, I have not been able to convince or persuade that section regarding our point of view. My challenge is to win over these sceptics and persuade them about our sincerity and good intentions.”
The Prime Minister, who had declared Minimum Government Maximum Governance as the motto of his government, said he has already been able to implement that – from reducing time for preparation of a cabinet note from three months to 15 days or one month, bringing in ease of doing business and by changing the style of working in silos.
“In Hindu mythology, one would get Moksh if one took a journey to Chardham. But in India a file never used to get Moksh even if it took 20 dhams. This is changing,” Modi said.
Referring to the terror attack in Dhaka, the Prime Minister, who has called for unity of all nations against terrorism in almost all international fora he has addressed, expressed concern over the delay in the United Nations for defining terrorism.
“UN has not been able to define terrorism. There is definition for war, weapons etc… We have to pressurise for bringing clarity in this,” he said. While addressing the Indian diaspora in Belgium in March, Modi said it was unfortunate that the UN was still unable to define terrorism and act on a resolution which prescribes action against countries which support or give shelter to terrorism.
“Whoever has trust in humanity should come together to fight terrorism,” he said.
Rejecting allegations of jobless growth, the Prime Minister said certain steps taken by the government would certainly produce more jobs which may not be “visible” immediately.
“Like our decision to allow malls in big cities to remain open 24×7, we have sent a model Bill to states to let small shopkeepers keep their shops open continuously. In order to do that, shopkeepers will have to employ at least one person and we have millions of small kirana shops in the country. Among the 3.5 crore beneficiaries of Mudra Yojana, 70 per cent are women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These people will get into something or the other which will provide jobs to others and some will expand further. This sector, I would call, like the private and public sector, the personal sector where there will be prospects for jobs. All our policies in future also will be keeping this sector in mind.”
Modi also described as a key reform measure the government’s decision on no-interviews for recruitment to junior level posts in central ministries and departments. This, he said, will ensure transparency. Another major step he said was the establishment of the Bank Board Bureau to recommend appointments to leadership positions and boards in PSU banks and advise them on ways to raise funds and go ahead with mergers and acquisitions.
Criticising the Congress party for “obstructionism” in Parliament, Modi reiterated his hope on the passage of the GST Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament and said the government’s attempts to build a consensus over it were continuing. He said the the government has been in “comprehensive dialogue” with the Opposition because the government has more “responsibility” in maintaining a working relationship with the Opposition parties.
“The fact is that baring one party, the Opposition has been constructive in pursuing the larger national interest.
The whole nation knows that it is only one party which, unable to adjust to the reality of its defeat, has made obstructionism its response to every issue, regardless of the negative consequences for the nation,” he said.