The first 30 days in office for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were not rosy. He had gone on record sharing his disappointment that his government was not even being allowed honeymoon period.
It was the same story when Modi completed two months in office July 25. The euphoria generated by his unprecedented electoral victory had started petering out. The Modi government was being hemmed in by Pakistan and China on the foreign policy front. Price rise — his major electoral plank during the bitterly fought April-May general elections — continued to be as much a bugbear for the Modi government just as it was for the previous government led by Manmohan Singh.
But now that Modi has just completed hundred days in office things have changed drastically. International fuel prices have maintained a declining trend with oil prices falling below $100 per barrel. Monsoon, which means a lot for the largely agrarian Indian economy, was forecast to be substantially below normal. But rains picked up momentum — and so did the Modi government.
Indian GDP registered a healthy 5.7 percent growth in the second quarter (April-May-June), allowing Modi to heave a sigh of relief though much of this was the result of the policies of the previous government. The Congress party claimed as much and its senior leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram said in a statement that the credit for 5.7 percent GDP growth in the second quarter should be given to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of Manmohan Singh. Polemics and politics apart, in the people’s eye it is the Modi government, which is responsible for sprouting of green shoots in the Indian economy.
Even when the third month was running for the Modi government, its stock was not very high. Modi appeared to be no different from Singh whom he had berated for close to a year and eventually replaced him. Food prices refused to go down. Pakistan continued to pose a stiff challenge to Modi’s foreign policy. The Line of Control became a Line of No Control and troops from both the sides exchanged heavy fire so many number of times and with such ferocity that had not been witnessed in over a decade. India-Pakistan bilateral relations were back to square one when India unilaterally canceled the foreign secretary-level talks, which were scheduled to be held in Islamabad on Aug. 25. The shawl-and-saree diplomacy that had begun between two nuclear armed arch-rivals since Modi’s unprecedented move of having his May 26 inauguration attended by eight neighboring leaders, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The cancellation of talks brought Modi’s Pakistan diplomatic initiative to naught.
Around the same time, Modi’s party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) miserably lost six out of 10 seats in the Bihar assembly by-elections. The BJP had already lost all three seats in Uttarakhand during assembly by-elections, a state where only a few months ago the BJP had won all five parliamentary seats. The Modi magic was clearly waning.
But something magical happened just when Modi government was nearing its 100th day landmark. Two events took place just before Modi’s 100th day in office.
Modi’s state visit to Japan, his first bilateral visit outside South Asia, proved to be a game changer. The Japan visit (Aug. 30-Sept. 3) brought forth a slew of concrete deliverables, which bolstered his popularity in the Indian public perception.
During his Japan visit, Modi netted so many achievements that no Indian premier had been able to do in one foreign trip ever before. Modi won a pledge from his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for investing $35 billion in the next five years. He won over the hearts and minds of Japanese companies by assuring them that only red carpet, not red tape, awaited them in India.
In Japan, nattily-clad Modi beat drums (literally), lectured to young students and broke security cordon to meet members of the Indian community — thus carefully choreographing his image of a confident man who is steering the Indian ship. Abe threw diplomatic protocol out of the window and flew from Tokyo to Kyoto, to personally receive Modi — something that he has never done before for a foreign leader.
Abe demonstrated his fondness for Modi and agreed to help India in its growth story in a big way, from bullet trains to smart cities to infrastructure projects to highly sensitive defense hardware and technology by agreeing to sell the US2 amphibious search-and-rescue planes. These decisions of Abe showed why Modi is one of the three persons he follows on Twitter.
The Japan trip restored Modi’s popularity among the Indian masses. This was proven by an opinion poll conducted by CNN-IBN (a premier Indian TV channel) and Today’s Chanakya on the occasion of Modi’s 100 days in office. Majority of people supported Modi on issues like foreign policy, Naxal violence and price rise. As many as 69 percent respondents, or seven out of ten, rated Modi’s foreign policy as either very good or good. According to the CNN-IBN, the survey was conducted in 14 cities (Jaipur, Bhopal, Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Bangalore, Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Patna, Kolkata, Surat, Hyderabad, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram) from Aug. 26 to Aug. 31.
In conclusion, one can safely say that Modi has completed 100 days in office on a high note. However, the next 100 days will bring forth his test by fire when four states — Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Jharkhand — go for assembly polls. The BJP is not in power in any of these states.
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