Prime minister Narendra Modi’s reply to the debate on the president’s speech in both Houses of Parliament was noted for the total lack of triumphalism. In conformity with his post-election stance, he seemed determined to pursue a consensus-based approach to national issues. His desire to take the Opposition into confidence was apparent in his espousal of the bipartisanship that he seeks to follow. His conciliatory approach can be explained in two ways. The comfort he enjoys in the Lok Sabha, where the BJP is in majority, allows him to be magnanimous to the Opposition. He also wants the Opposition, which has a majority in the Upper House, to respond to him in equal measure.
Bipartisanship is not just a matter of rhetoric for Modi, as it seems to be an article of faith for him. Some of his decisions as prime minister also bear this out. Though the BJP had objected to the “hasty” announcement of Lt. Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next Army Chief by the previous government, he concurred with the decision. For reasons of continuity, he granted an extension of six months to cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth. Nor did he effect a wholesale reshuffle of secretaries to the government. What’s more, he has asked his ministers not to rename existing government programmes and schemes. All this shows that he is not in a hurry, as he is in for a long haul.
In a federal set-up, where the Centre cannot do much without getting the states on board, whether it is on land acquisition or sales tax reforms, a spirit of bipartisanship will certainly stand the nation in good stead. If the prime minister fulfils his promise of creating a Team India working together with his political rivals over the next five years, he would have strengthened not merely his own hands but that of the nation in tackling the myriad social and developmental challenges before it. That will also help him fulfil his promises like a house for every Indian by the time India celebrates its 75th Independence Day.