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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2373

Modi Raj In Public Perception

By Atul Cowhish* - Syndicate Features

Rather than regretting that he was denied the pleasure of a 100-day ‘honeymoon’, Narendra Modi, the prime minister, should be pondering about the negative public perception of certain actions his government taken soon after assuming power. Of course, there are not decisions like the Saarc constellation at his swearing-in ceremony that have been universally hailed, though the worth of those gestures will be known only later.

But the government has also taken decisions that have affected the independence of important constitutional institutions. It has the potential to bring Modi down from the pedestal on which he was installed during the high decibel, invective laden poll campaign.

The first of these questionable acts must be the manner in which the Modi government sabotaged the elevation of Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court. The efforts were clumsy when applied through government agencies like the CBI and the IB and politically motivated when seen in the context of the rise of Amit Shah, perhaps the closest confidante of Modi, and the new BJP chief.

“Stories” from the usual leaking roofs landed in the media to run down Subramanium, using reports of the CBI and the IB. That the CBI and the IB have made some adverse entries against him is in itself puzzling. From the time of NDA-I, headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee, these two organizations have trusted his advice and consul in many sensitive matters.

And what in the CBI and IB reports was found wrong with Subramanium who was one of the three eminent lawyers whose names were recommended for elevation to the apex court by a collegium of the court? That he was prone to turn towards God by retiring for prayers!

Coming from a BJP-led government it sounds downright absurd if not hypocritical that a man who believes in prayers cannot be appointed a judge of the highest court. If the BJP thinks that a man who turns to prayers lacks rationality and, therefore, unfit for a seat in the highest court of the land then it must explain why during NDA-1it tried to include astrology, which is mumbo-jumbo for the rationalists, clubbing it with ‘science’, in the syllabus of university education?

The reason to keep Subramanium out of the apex court would appear to be political rather than his spiritual proclivities. He was a court appointed counsel in certain riot-related cases from Gujarat, including a ‘fake’ encounter case in which the name of Amit Shah, Modi’s Sancho Panza, had figured prominently.

It did not look like a sheer coincidence that when the Subramanium controversy was raging the judge of a special court in Mumbai trying the Gujarat riot cases was transferred. The judge was not inclined to agree that Amit Shah should be given exemption from personal appearance in the court. Probably, this was taken as a hint that he might not take a ‘lenient’ view of Shah’s role in the ‘fake encounter’ case.

Indira Gandhi was condemned for floating the idea of ‘committed judiciary’. It was seen as a severe assault on the independence of judiciary. The attack on Indira Gandhi then was led by the BJP. The same BJP under Modi is now trying to emulate her example. Modi may try to subjugate the higher judiciary and other independent institutions with the help of his ‘brute majority’, but instead of success he is more likely to invite hostility on a broad scale.

The health of the higher education in India is perhaps not better than that of the economy. The Modi way of toning it up is to interfere in the autonomy of educational institutions, as seen in the case of the four-year undergraduate course controversy in Delhi University. That the course was good or bad is not the point here; it is the way the University Grants Commission was used to do a U-turn and force the university to take back a decision that was approved by its academic council—and by the UGC itself under the previous regime at the centre.

The next move in the field of education will perhaps be changing the textbooks to give them a ‘Hindutva’ colour. It may be accompanied by the injection of a lot of moral doses so that subjects like ‘sex education’ are thrown out of the textbooks. Efforts are also likely to be made that universities receiving grant from the centre banish English from their curriculum so that Indians rediscover their ‘pride’.

After dramatically touching the steps of Parliament and shedding tears while addressing members, Modi is getting ready to display his respect for that most important institution of democratic India. He will like his 300-plus supporters in the 543-member Lok Sabha to forget how the BJP, then an Opposition party, had started wrecking parliamentary sessions almost from day one of the previous government. The then prime minister was not allowed to introduce his council of ministers, budgets had to be passed by voice vote, sessions after sessions were lost to pandemonium - all the while blaming the government for not letting the Opposition be heard.

What is to be seen is if with his ‘majority’ Modi is able to show tolerance to dissent within the House and restore its lost dignity. The question has become relevant because the Congress has begun to emulate not only the “past” BJP model but also Kejriwalism.

* The author is Delhi based senior journalist

- Asian Tribune -

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