No honeymoon period for Modi

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iol news pic Modi inauguration India Politics~10 AP Narendra Modi was sworn in as India's prime minister in an elaborate ceremony at New Delhi's presidential palace. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)

New Delhi - India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday he had not had the luxury of a 'honeymoon period' since his government took charge a month ago.

Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered a series of setbacks since coming to power, including accusations of failing to act on widespread sexual violence, protests over train fare hikes, and clashes with regional parties over the official language of government communication.

“Previous governments had the luxury of extending this 'honeymoon period' up to a hundred days and even beyond. Not unexpectedly I don't have any such luxury,” the 63-year-old former tea boy wrote in a blog on his official website Thursday after completing exactly one month in office.

“Forget hundred days, the series of allegations began in less than a hundred hours. But when one is working with the sole aim of serving the nation determinedly, these things do not matter,” he wrote in the post.

A week ago the United Nations child rights watchdog accused Indian law enforcement and justice officials of shirking their responsibility to fight sex attacks, amid uproar over the brutal gang-rape and lynching of two girls.

A state minister from the BJP party in central Chhattisgarh state said in the aftermath of the attacks that rapes happen “accidentally”, while a minister from Madhya Pradesh state said rape was “sometimes right, sometimes wrong”.

Then last week the government hiked passenger train fares to their highest level in 15 years, only to announce a partial rollback on Tuesday following protests during which crowds burned effigies of the prime minister.

And after instructing all ministries and public offices to use Hindi in official communication on social media last month, the BJP incurred the wrath of top regional officials in states where English, Tamil and Urdu are commonplace.

Such directives on language are seen as insensitive to India's minorities, including its 150 million Muslims.

Modi claimed in the blog post that “every decision we took has been guided solely by national interest.”

Despite the controversies, analysts say the prime minister has mostly hit the ground running since his first day in office.

They cite Modi's move to hold landmark talks with his Pakistani counterpart and other South Asian leaders and the setting up of a special investigation team to track illicit funds in a bid to curb rampant graft.

The pro-business leader won a landslide election victory with a powerful mandate to reform the ailing economy after voters turned against the Congress party, which became embroiled in a string of corruption scandals during its decade in power.

Speculation has also mounted about what the Modi government would do to address India's economic problems, including creaking infrastructure, energy shortages, high inflation and poor public finances.

Sapa-AFP


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