Reform Blueprint Readied for India's New Government

Key government departments have drawn up a slew of proposals to populate an ambitious reform agenda for the first 100 days of Manmohan Singh's second term, as the re-elected UPA coalition talks up expectations and sets itself up to be judged early into its new stint in power.

While Prime Minister Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hold parleys with senior party leaders and alliance partners to put the new Cabinet in place, top bureaucrats in crucial economic ministries have been readying a 100-day policy timetable, aimed at giving growth a leg-up. By Tuesday evening, the specific plans of each of the ministries had reached the desk of cabinet secretary KM Chandrashekar at Raisina Hill.

"The prime minister will take up the comprehensive programme put together by the cabinet secretary as early as Wednesday," a top bureaucrat in a key economic ministry said.

After an unexpectedly strong showing by the Congress-led UPA coalition, which is just 11 seats short of majority in Parliament, the prime minister appears keen to make up for lost time. He had already prepared the broad contours of an economic revival plan to be taken up within days after the new government assumed office, a senior Congress leader said. Even as the election campaign was in full swing, a confident Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi had started work on an economic revival package, the Congress leader said. A panel of experts from various sectors had been informally constituted and asked to be ready with an action plan for the first 100 days of the new government.

"The 100-day programme is expected to be taken up by the new Cabinet in its first meeting," commerce secretary GK Pillai, a favourite to become the Cabinet secretary when the incumbent retires in June, told ET.

Led by the Cabinet secretary, the key officials working closely on the plan include finance secretary Ashok Chawla, commerce secretary Pillai and agriculture secretary T Nandakumar.

While the Congress manifesto has provided the main blueprint for the 100-day agenda, the unfinished reform programmes of various ministries too find a place.

While recommendations to revive growth and ease the credit squeeze are likely to find a place in the plan, tax proposals are expected to be taken up as budget recommendations, a bureaucrat who has been involved in devising it said.

"The Congress manifesto has called for increased oil and gas production and we are working towards meeting these objectives by getting new projects on stream shortly," petroleum secretary RS Pandey said.