‘Feel like a misfit…’ — at council of ministers meet, Modi rues freebie politics, harps on 2047 goal


New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi caught his Cabinet colleagues by surprise as he showed “signs of fatigue” over the politics of freebies followed by parties while sidelining the cause of nation building.

“Sometimes I think that I am a misfit in today’s politics as the politics of freebies is replacing nation building and every party has been compelled to do so to beat the competition,” Modi was quoted as saying by a minister who attended Monday’s meeting with his Council of Ministers.

It was to this end that Modi advised the ministers as well as secretaries to look beyond 2024, when election is due, and to bring more positivity and problem solving attitude to complete infrastructure projects for changing the face of the country.

Another Union minister told ThePrint that “ministers were stunned after hearing the prime minister”.

“He always inspires (us) through his ideas, but it looks like the recent Congress victory in Karnataka as well as the Congress and the AAP promise of freebies… and the growing trend and acceptability (of freebies) among voters may have haunted the prime minister,” the minister said.

A second Union minister told ThePrint that “the crux of the remark was his comment that sometimes he (Modi) thinks he is a misfit in today’s freebie politics”.

“The message was that there is a competition of promising reckless freebies to win elections, that the political system is not considering its impact on the economy and that there is no vision for next generation infrastructure development for the future,” the minister said.

At the meeting held in Pragati Maidan’s newly built convention centre, the ministries of foreign affairs and road transport and highways gave presentations on their vision and development outlook for the next 25 years, respectively.

In his observations regarding infrastructure development and its blueprint, the PM asked the minister and the secretary not to focus only on 2024 but also look at a broader timeline till 2047, when India completes 100 years of freedom.

“New projects should be avoided while priority should be given to those which are nearing completion and inauguration,” the second minister said.

“The prime minister said that the country is changing day by day and so are people’s aspirations. Voters are smart and well-informed today. That is why we have to find ways to meet the aspirations of people. We can use technology to solve the complexity of changing patterns and to reach people,” he added.

The minister added that they were told that merely implementing the scheme was not enough and instead reach villages and tehsils to inform people about the benefit of government’s programmes to them

For the next nine months, he said, the ministers were advised to reach out to the people and detail the government’s works of the past nine years

The railways outlined its plan to connect small cities with modern services through separate modern trains similar on the line of the Vande Bharat Express.

The prime minister sought to know the preparations for enabling an ecosystem to boost the national electric vehicle infrastructure. “His queries include those on EV infrastructure like charging stations and the status of battery manufacturing and their easy availability  and the new emerging technologies we are introducing,” said a person present at the meeting.

By 2030, the Modi government intends to have EV sales accounting for 30 percent of private cars, 70 percent of commercial vehicles, and 80 percent of two- and three-wheelers.

Union minister Piyush Goyal, meanwhile, said that the budgetary outlook is less for such massive transformation. “It should be more realistic,” he said.

At the meeting, Modi narrated an incident from his days as chief minister in Gujarat to highlight how he changed the attitude of bureaucracy to usher in growth.

“When the earthquake struck the state (on 26 January, 2001), an entire city was destroyed. I asked authorities involved in rebuilding the city about their target and the deadline to complete it. A March deadline was given. I told them that everybody will ask questions on completion of one year of earthquake in January about what the government has done. First, they (civil servants) thought I had no experience. But after my firmness, they understood how things had to be done,” he said.

In an indirect taunt at the bureaucracy, Modi remarked that civil servants love their batch and the March cycle. “They should have problem solving attitude, and not that of an obstructionist,” he asserted.

The remarks come as the Modi government is expected to go on a blitzkrieg in rolling out schemes ahead of the 2024 general election.

Accordingly, the PM asked ministers and secretaries to implement all projects, including the promises made in the 2023-24 Union Budget and ensure capital expenditure infusion by January 26 next year.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: ‘Showcase flagship schemes, fast-track projects’, PM Modi tells ministers ahead of 2024 polls



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