The president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, presented the views of ‘his’ government to a joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. This statement from the head of State was important, since it embodied the vision and policy statement of the new government under Narendra Modi that has just been sworn in. Mr Mukherjee’s speech announced a slew of policy initiatives that covered almost every area of governance, from the economy to education. The policies concerning education are left out of the ambit of this editorial: The Telegraph promises to comment on those separately on another occasion. Most, if not all, of the policies that were mentioned by the president were repetitions of the promises made in the course of Mr Modi’s election campaign. There is nothing surprising or wrong in this since it is expected that a new government will attempt to fulfil the promises it made before it came to power. The president’s reiteration of the election rhetoric is, in fact, a sign that Mr Modi’s words were not vacuous. He tends to match his words with deeds. This is welcome, and it needs also to be said that if Mr Modi delivers even on half of what he has promised, he will have transformed large arcs of the Indian economy and society.
In governance and politics, there is always, however, a slip between the cup and the lip. One part of the slip — without being unnecessarily pessimistic — is the looming problem of resources. It would be naïve to deny that the government, with all its good and noble intentions, is faced with a resource crunch. The prime minister and his finance minister, Arun Jaitley, cannot be unaware of this; yet there was no mention of this problem in the president’s address. The question of how the promises will be met without adequate resources cannot be avoided. One, and perhaps the only, way out of this problem is to put the Indian economy firmly back on the path of economic growth. There is enough evidence in the president’s speech that the economy is the top priority of the government. If Mr Modi successfully reduces food inflation, boosts investor confidence, kickstarts the manufacturing sector and creates employment — he will have won one side of the battle. The other side is the drastic reduction of the government’s fat expenditure bill. Mr Modi needs to cut subsidies and thus confront the expectation of rising populism.