With the NDA government's first anniversary in power just over a month away, it is time for Narendra Modi to not just draw up a list of achievements, but understand its failures. It also has to reset the agenda for its remaining four years. Its biggest failures relate to what were thought of as Modi's main strengths: an ability to communicate with the people above the political din, and the ability to manage perceptions and image so as to retain control of the political agenda. The slippages are on these fronts despite the government's considerable successes. The government's achievements relate to the economic and diplomatic fronts, where it has performed fairly well. Growth is on the cusp of revival, inflation is nearly tamed, and business confidence is still positive, despite some carping at the sidelines. The passage of key legislation, the decontrol of diesel, the shift of LPG subsidies to direct cash transfers, and the successful conclusion of the coal and spectrum auctions suggest that there is clear forward movement on reforms. Luck â€“ especially the fall in oil prices â€“ played a key part in ensuring this, but it would be churlish to deny the government some credit for it all. Modi also scores high on the diplomacy front, with all his foreign visits (and the domestic visits of his foreign counterparts) helping to sell the India story. Most of Modi's moves have helped consolidate India's rising stature on the global stage, and in partially countering China's bid to erect an anti-India alliance around our shores. Ties with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are set to improve, though not with Pakistan. But then, nothing was expected in this area, given Pakistan's unstinting support to terrorist activities against India. Ties to China may hopefully improve when Modi visits that country later this year. The successful evacuation of several thousand Indians from the Yemen battlezone deserves praise of the highest order. The government's setbacks, on the other hand, are in two areas: it has not been able to recalibrate public expectations, built on the open-ended promises made before the Lok Sabha elections, to levels it can reasonably hope to deliver in five years; and, two, the "secularâ€ opposition and the Lutyens media mafia continue to set the political agenda. Among other things, the Modi government continues to carry the burden of being seen as anti-minority, pro-rich (and hence anti-poor), and anti-farmer. For a Prime Minister who understands the importance of brand perceptions, Modi has not so far been able to reposition his party. In the wake of the much-tomtommed "church attacksâ€, Modi called the Delhi police commissioner to give him a talking to; he also directly tried to assuage Christian feelings through a speech at a meeting called by the church to celebrate the canonisation of two Indians by the Vatican. But the narrative about Christians being targeted continues to endure. The media has merely shrugged off the rape of a nun in Ranaghat in West Bengal after going to town claiming it was another example of the Sangh's anti-minority activities. The problem is actually simple: it is not possible for the BJP, with its Sangh and Hindu roots, to either change its spots or even perceptions no matter what it does. In fact, trying to do so too conspicuously, such as the alleged effort to drop references to "omâ€ in order to get all Indians to accept yoga, will actually end up alienating its base rather than wooing the minority voter on the periphery. Human beings do not change their perceptions all that easily, and so even if Modi were to stand on one leg and recite the Koran, or meet the Pope in the Vatican, he is not going to be called secular by his rivals. Or be given the benefit of doubt by Muslims and Christians. Every time he says the right things, his rivals will merely shrug and say, "good, but not good enough.â€ He is fighting a losing battle with perceptions formed over decades. The same goes for his pro-business and anti-farmer image. After spending the last few years marketing the Gujarat model, no one is going to believe Modi even if he spends all his waking hours thinking about the poor. And as his government pushes ahead with the Land Acquisition Bill in the teeth of political opposition, there will be more farmers willing to believe the worst about him than those willing to give him a patient hearing. Pro-business often sounds anti-farmer in political language. The only logical way to deal with perception issues is to reaffirm them and make changes at the periphery. When you reaffirm your brand image, it is believable.