100 days: Why the hype around Modi Raj is overdone

Here’s why the Modi government is has disappointed more than it has brought cheer.

Chandrakant Naidu September 05, 2014 14:51:09 IST
100 days: Why the hype around Modi Raj is overdone

Conflicting signals mark the first three months of Modi Raj. While the sense of urgency and tenacity of purpose, particularly in economic matters, displayed by Modi have been praiseworthy, he has disappointed the country with his silence on a range of critical issues. While the media have been more than generous in their appraisal of the Prime Minister and his government, there is dismay in several quarters at being sold the Hindutva agenda on the sly. The new converts to the BJP electorate could feel cheated on two counts: first, the slogan ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ which helped the party break the communal barrier for a comprehensive electoral triumph has been conveniently put to sleep with heavy doses of communal polarisation; second, the 100-day deadline to bring down prices, check corruption and bring back black money stashed away in overseas banks looks certain to pass with hardly any semblance of success.

Here’s why the Modi government is has disappointed more than it has brought cheer.

A nation conned

100 days Why the hype around Modi Raj is overdone

Narendra Modi. PTI

When the Narendra Modi-led BJP launched its high on bang value campaign against the corrupt and discredited UPA, the message it conveyed across the board was clear: it would provide good governance, end policy paralysis and kick start economic revival. In short, it would bring sanity back to the business of ruling the country. Three months down the line, the nation has reason to feel conned. Nowhere during the campaign was it told to the voters that the forces of Hindutva and hate-mongers would have a virtual free run of the country, communalising the political and social spaces with reckless enthusiasm. The nation voted for Modi in spite of his party’s silent Hindutva agenda and not because of it. He sought the nation’s trust on the promise of an even-handed treatment to all communities. Now he has virtually made himself blind to the activities of these elements, preferring to keep himself busy with only matters of the economy and foreign affairs. His silence says it all. Under him fears about a slow death of secularism in the country seem to be coming true.

The government’s intents were questioned even in Japan where the prime minister wowed the people with his elocution, drumming skills and bouquets of promises. While he invited investors to profit from the concessions someone in the audience asked him about the contradiction between his brand on nationalism and the promised globalisation. Modi held forth on the Vedic thought of the whole earth as a family (Vasudhaiva kutumbakam) guiding his party. The contrasting reality at home hasn’t, however, escaped the attention in India.

Smothering internal democracy

It is not just within the party that democracy is drying up. The sombre faces of ministers reflect growing mutual distrust within the government too. The 'no-no' lists are much longer than the ‘to-do lists’. The PMO’s control on the appointment of the ministers’ personal staff set the tone for the one-man show at the outset.

The bugging of senior minister Nitin Gadkari's house or the squealing about the Home minister’s son have been denied or refuted by the PMO. But the perception about snooping at various levels of government refuses to die down. Modi's arrival at the Centre is by no means considered his departure from Gujarat, says an Ahmedabad-based editor. He continues to haunt his party members there. The Gujarati political adversaries were subjugated through snooping or through mysterious deaths. Sworn affidavits of the officers involved in the action are being quoted to substantiate that charge.

Events so far suggest that the Gujarat method can be extended to other senior leaders in the north too. Even if the leaders are not being snooped upon, rumours to such effect have had a salutary result. Most vocal MPs prefer to keep off the media. The government has effectively silenced its ministers and other government functionaries. They can’t talk to the media. As is often the case with such gag orders they set the rumour mills going. The BJP and the Sangh should know it better. A newly-elected MP from Madhya Pradesh put it succinctly: "Do you expect a clear answer while asking me whether the PMO is keeping an eye on my movements? You wouldn’t get an official denial from the PMO either. So just ride your conjectures and be happy." "

How often does one see Sushma Swaraj speaking to the media or to the public? Can’t you guess the degree of the freedom we have in the government or the party?" he asks sarcastically.

An MP from Vidarbha also fears his cell-phone may be under surveillance by the prime minister's office. "If I'm caught talking to the press, my political career will be in trouble,” he says.

Conflicts within

Given the media’s continuing love affair with Modi, trust it to gloss over the obvious fault lines in the power arrangement involving his government. If the demands of several coalition partners cramped the UPA government, a three-way conflict of interests has handicapped the Modi government. The government swears by secular, socialist principles while the RSS and affiliates would want it to further the right wing agenda. The party has its political expediencies prompted by friends and foes in different states. The recent loss of face in Bihar shows how the changing equations can create new exigencies. In Punjab the party was left red-faced over the poaching of an Akali member. In Haryana it broke off with Kuldeep Bishnoi outfit on the eve of the elections. Conflicts over the arrivals and departures in the party are also raising considerable dust in Madhya Pradesh.

The gag orders on the protesting members can only provide a temporary solution. The RSS has from time to time told the parivar members to keep their wish list on the hold for two years and give the government a free hand. Can it be possible with gadflies like Praveen Togadia and Ashok Singhal or Subramaniam Swamy having to sustain their visibility before their constituents? With Amit Shah’s appointment as party president the RSS has handed Modi a total control over the party. But that does not prevent others like the Shiv Sena and the MNS from pressuring the government on the eve of elections in Maharashtra.

Personality cult

Though the HRD ministry now says the relay of the prime minister’s address to school children on the Teachers’ Day is voluntary, the Directorate of Education (DoE), Delhi, had indeed shot a notice to all schools in the capital directing them to make arrangements for the address to be telecast.

On the direction of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the DoE has asked schools to “make available requisite number of televisions, set-top box connections, projectors, screens, amplifiers and generator sets/inverters on hiring basis, if the same are not available in the school. The efficacy of the HRD ministry’s denial is therefore anybody’s guess. In Madhya Pradesh, the chief minister has personally called upon concerned department to ensure power supply to all schools during the address. It is another matter that many schools have no power supply in the state.

Modi’s eagerness to indoctrinate impressionable young Indians is understandable. But should it be made mandatory for the children to listen to him? Even the Independence Day speeches of the president the prime ministers have not been made mandatory. The party loses the moral right to criticise the Nehrus and Gandhis for building up a personality cult while it does the same for Modi. The protest from Bengal and Kerala may have forced a rethink on the part of the government. But Modi’s image builders seem to have overstepped the limit.

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