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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2527

Anniversary Blues For Modi

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

While there is no doubt that Narendra Modi continues to stay ahead of all other leaders in popularity, his ‘bhakts’ will have noticed that there is a perceptibly less ardour for his government than was evident when his coronation took place under international glare on May 26, 2014. The captains of industry and the ‘larger sections of the media’, a term used by the Aam Admi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal in a different context, are still beating his drums but with the volume scalded down. Only the government-controlled media has been on an overdrive in blowing his trumpet with daily ‘exclusive’ interviews with his ministers.

The flurry shown by AIR and DD in magnifying the so-called achievements of the government is only to be expected. But the moot point is whether all that effort will be able to erase a rapidly increasing negative image of the Modi-led government which has attracted a lot of unwanted attention because of the glib and irresponsible talk by many of its stalwarts.

From its past battles against its opponents, the BJP will know well that ‘public perception’ matters.. It cannot be anybody’s case that after coming to power the BJP has done nothing that can be showcased. It will be as erroneous as saying that the country made no progress in the last 67 years. But what the BJP has overlooked is that often indiscreet acts and words spoken by ruling party members contribute a lot to inducing an unflattering perception of the government.

It is easy to dismiss these voices as coming from ‘fringe elements’ but they do strike a chord with many people. Those who think that the ‘scientific temper’ and scholarliness in the country will be encouraged by highlighting mythology are not helping the country or its ‘aspirational’ youth. Denounce the US evangelists by all means, but if a scare is put in the minds of the minorities at home the country suffers. The minister who announces that he grows plants in his bungalow with his pee is not enhancing the country’s image. But thank god, he did not add that his lawns turn lush green with human manure!

Modi’s ‘rocking’ efforts on foreign soil have made him a better known Indian leader abroad but within the country the label of ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ has found wide resonance. There are signs that Modi has not been able to strike off the ‘anti-farmer’ and ‘anti-poor’ label from his government. Ironically, he is no more drawing fulsome praises from the rich industrialists either.

For all the encomiums that he attracts for showing a flare for foreign affairs, the fact remains that relations with Pakistan have nose-dived with no apparent benefit to India and the Chinese intransigence over Indian territories has persisted as before. Foreign investors are yet to respond to his ‘make in India’ appeal.

A TV interview by Arun Shourie, just days ahead of the first anniversary of the Modi rule, must have dampened the spirit the Modi army which attacks his adversaries on the idiot box every evening with hackneyed arguments and irrelevant arguments. If only his ‘bhakts’ had cared to pay attention to just two or three points that he made they would have known that what Shourie said was shared widely in the country. Shourie’s BJP credentials were not in doubt till the BJP spokesmen questioned them inelegantly after Shourie’s TV interview.

Let’s begin with his contention that the ruling establshment has been reduced to a show of a triumvirate consisting of Modi, his finance minister Arun Jaitley and the BJP president, Amit Shah. Actually, Shourie was a little generous because most observers have been saying that the BJP has become synonymous with Modi alone. The only voice that matters in the party ‘with a difference’ is that of Narendra Modi. The notion of ‘collective leadership’ that the BJP used to tom-tom has been buried for all practical purposes.

Those who disagree have to consider this. He made sure that party veterans, beginning with L.K.Advani who was hoping to be crowned on May 26 last year and not Modi, were sidelined after his ascendancy to the throne of Delhi. When it led to some murmurs, he had the party appointed Advani and Co on a newly-created body within the party in which the elders were appointed as ‘mentors’. That was the last time one had heard of this body of the ‘mentors’. Meanwhile, many BJP supporters have noted that Modi is being projected as the biggest icon of the party; someone greater than Atal Behari Vajpayee who had held that position with universal consent.

A glimpse of the growing unhappiness among the BJP members of parliament was available close to the last day of the budget session when the meeting of party MPs was abruptly ended following an expression of resentment against ministers by an MP from UP.

By a coincidence the news of this meeting was followed by a big dive by the stock market, the biggest in many months. The Sensex may not be a true index of the state of the economy, but it has to be seen in the light of the concerns that have been expressed by some influential economists who had anticipated a big push to ‘big ticket’ reforms and a decisive turn-around of the economy within weeks, if not days, of Modi taking over as prime minister.

The budget session of parliament ended without pushing through most of the major ‘reforms’, allegedly because of non-cooperation by the Opposition parties. The BJP is hardly on a moral wicket in criticising the Opposition on this score when almost throughout the five years of the previous Lok Sabha it had adopted a non-cooperative attitude as part of its drive to discredit and oust the Manmohan Singh government.

The confrontationist attitude that the BJP has continued even after its impressive Lok Sabha victory has further ensured that it will not be smooth sailing for the government in parliament. How a little touch of humility helps matters was shown by a BJP minister who is one of the senior party leaders reportedly unhappy with the way Modi has commandeered the party and the government.

Sushma Swaraj, the external affairs minister, earned all-round applause in parliament for the way in which she piloted the bill on land exchange between India and Bangladesh. All she did was acknowledge that the groundwork for the bill was done by the previous government and thanked the Opposition parties for their help in the passage of the legislation. What might have surprised some was that this BJP minister had not very long ago announced that she would tonsure her hair if a ‘foreigner’, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, became the prime minister of India. If some media reports are to be believed the two ladies have since established ‘cordial’ relations. A lesson in political diplomacy for the Modi government!

- Asian Tribune -

Anniversary Blues For Modi
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