Although the prime minister’s Mann ki Baat monthly radio programme, in which he takes up a particular focus area of his government and explains the policy stance on it to listeners, has been hailed by many, critics say the issues are cherry-picked and the format makes the discussion a monologue with only a few responses via mails or calls featuring in the PM’s talk. Therefore, the government mulling over a Jan ki Baat (the people’s voice) connect—direct feedback from citizens on government schemes—represents a welcome change.
Although the recent state and local body elections and BJP’s resounding victory in many is strong feedback itself, Jan ki Baat will no doubt give the government a better understanding of what people’s expectations are. For the BJP, it is an important exercise, given general elections are now only two years away. It will also give critics a platform to voice grievances, meaning feedback will be more well-rounded.
While prime minister Narendra Modi is one of the most active politicians on social media, the platform has its limitations—citizens without net access, much less a Facebook/Twitter account or the PM’s app downloaded on their phones, are likely to have found it difficult to get themselves heard. What form Jan ki Baat will take and what platform it will use is not yet clear. The government needs to be careful to not repeat past mistakes—though demonetisation sailed through politically, the government wouldn’t want soliciting feedback to be styled like the survey it conducted to assess public perception of the move.
The questions had been criticised as being geared towards eliciting favourable responses only. For Jan ki Baat to be more than just a perception management tool, the government must let it draw out criticism as much as support.