MODIfication: – What does the future hold?

Let’s all accept that we never thought the coalition era was ever going to end. The BJP however, has proved all critics wrong and has received a massive mandate surprising the entire populace. The markets were on a bull run due to the exit polls results and have stayed at all-time highs. The Rupee has reached an 11-month high which is quite astounding. The important thing is that a Modi Sarkaar has the majority and doesn’t need to strike deals with regional parties to ensure its existence. No parties have a bargaining power. What’s more, the anti-incumbency towards the Congress has borne fruit and it now stands in a position where it cannot even claim to be the opposition party. Modi humbly suggested that it is India that has won while the Congress family also accepted the blame for its show.

So what are the challenges? A weak economy, standstill infrastructure projects, unemployment, a probable bad monsoon. The nation has assumed Modi as the modern-day wizard with a magic wand. One must give him room for error as he inherits a fragile nation with his not-so-co-operative party. The old cadre of the BJP still remains disillusioned by the meteoric rise of a man who was never talked about in Delhi’s power circles. Some egos are definitely hurting. Modi must ensure that all these leaders are satisfied while also fulfilling his promises.

His critics should realize that it will take time to generate an economic turnaround because of the nature of the economy he inherits. Fiscal deficit maybe in control but can rise if Modi’s policies don’t bear fruit soon. Manufacturing is down as well while the nation stares at a possible weak monsoon due to the El Nino effect. A weak monsoon may create havoc and puncture Modi’s plans as it may lead to poor agricultural produce thus affecting the entire nation. Also worrisome is the fact that India languishes at a lowly 179th rank on UN’s Ease of doing business index. This is attributable largely to the outgoing Congress’ revival of license raj through policies like the archaic Land Acquisition Bill, making it tougher and costlier to acquire land for business. Modi must also understand that due to the Congress’ debacle with the economy the country has very high hopes from him and a mediocre turnaround will be blasted by the opposition (whichever party that is).

The BJP must also concentrate on a foreign policy centered on collaboration with China. Border skirmishes with the Chinese have created a false animosity among Indians of the Chinese. Modi has had a positive track record with the Chinese as Gujarat’s CM. He must build on it and boost bilateral trade which can only benefit us. While Obama may not be the most pro-Indian leader, India must not back down from its stance in the WTO and ensure that fair treatment is meted out to it against US allegations of patent infringements. Dealings with Pakistan must be firm and not weak as displayed by UPA-2. As Modi stated in an interview that talks cannot exist among the sounds of tanks and guns. Ceasefire violations must not go unanswered and diplomatic and economic channels must be used as replies. India must not chase the most-favoured nation offered by Pakistan and instead push them for a deal on Kashmir. Modi’s decisiveness does give us hope that on the foreign policy front these would be our achievements.

While the biggest challenge to Modi is the minorities. Not only Muslims but also Christians are largely alienated by Modi’s model. The track record of Gujarati Muslims post 2002 must be brought in light. Modi should ensure inclusive growth by shedding away RSS ideologies which he has done in Gujarat. He has alienated Gujarat’s right-wing organisations in order to boost his secular image. The hype surrounding his treatment of Muslims by the media, as evident in Madhu Kishwar’s ‘Modi, Muslims and Media’ is for all to see. After the mandate that Modi has received, one cannot argue that Muslims haven’t voted for him. A hundred percent track record in Gujarat and 73 seats in UP definitely points to the fact that Muslims too have voted for him. The so-called protectors of minorities must let the Muslims themselves decide their fate. One must understand that India has a strong judiciary capable of punishing the guilty and instilling fear while the Prime Minister’s chair imparts a level of dignity which no person can violate. On the day of the result, the Supreme Court acquitted death row convicts due in the Akshardham attack case due to lack of evidence. The Gujarat government had tried hard for their prosecution but justice prevailed. This shows the court’s impartial nature. Also, hounding Modi even before he takes the oath of office is misguided. Instilling fear among people for something that happened 12 years ago is unfair. Not to mention that Modi has been given a clean chit by the SIT. People must learn to cut him some slack. He has made promises of inclusive growth so give him time to deliver on it instead of propagating an impression of him which is unproven.

As far as I’m concerned, minorities have nothing to fear. Modi is no ‘Maut ka Saudaagar’ and has an excellent track record in economic and agricultural development in Gujarat. The youth must give him room to work and growth may not pick up for at least 2 years. He must not be hounded within 2-3 months of acquiring office as multiple infrastructure projects have been stalled due to want of clearances after the ruling Congress increased red-tapism. India has voted for development but that doesn’t mean India doesn’t care about secularism. As long as people can live in harmony and unity, I believe the agenda of secularism mustn’t raise its head.

 

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A Candid Review on ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’

accidental pm

Recently released book, ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, by Sanjaya Baru, Manmohan Singh’s media advisor in UPA-1 has become a bestseller in no time. It talks about the reign of the Congress party and the existence of two power centres in the government. Politicians of all parties were abuzz with their ‘expert’ opinions. The Congress denying any culpability while the BJP maintained that it was an open secret. However, upon analysis one realizes that the book is neutral as far as political parties are concerned and merely talks about the difficulties faced by the PM and his role, or the lack thereof, in the government.

Singh has himself acknowledged that power in the party was dual in nature and was exercised by none other than Sonia Gandhi. This was quite evident in the fact that Singh was not allowed to select his own Cabinet and nor could he completely exercise his freedom while dealing with a tough coalition comprising the Left. My personal opinion is that the book does more benefit to Singh than harm his reputation while talking about his failures due to him being ‘selected’ and not elected (Singh was the first PM from the Rajya Sabha). Baru talks about how senior party leaders owed their portfolios to Sonia and Singh was merely a titular head. Decisions were taken by the NAC or the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia. We also read how major populist measures thought out by Singh were attributed to Rahul Gandhi in order to enhance his reputation as a comprehensive leader. The book goes on to describe Baru’s tenure with Singh and one can get a glimpse into the working of the PMO.

Baru describes in detail, the Indo-US Nuclear deal, which was perhaps the only significant achievement of Singh. His dealings with Bush and the Left (which was strongly objecting the deal) are quite remarkable. He managed to influence not only his own party but also the Samajwadi supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav into supporting his government. His commitment to this deal was evident in the fact that he tabled his resignation to Sonia Gandhi as she shied away from supporting this resolution. This is when we realize that he wasn’t entirely spineless.

At the end of the day, one can conclude that maybe Singh valued the chair more than his self-respect. He was constantly humiliated by the party top-brass while he wasn’t given his due credit for the re-election of his government. Under such circumstances, any self-respecting person would have hanged up their boots or handed in their papers. His impeccable reputation preceded him to the office however, the fact that he turned a blind eye to his corrupt colleagues cost him dearly. He himself was indecisive and when he tried to control the party with a firm hand, was side-lined and shunned. Baru always said that Singh’s mistake was not seeking election through the Lok Sabha so as to become the legitimate head of state in the eyes of the populace and his party as well. The expansion of MGNREGA, which was principally his idea, was credited by the party to Rahul. Manmohan Singh believes that he will be treated kindly a few years down the line but, questions must be asked as to why did he never resign from the post which did his reputation more harm than good.

The Significance of the Nehru-Gandhi Nexus

Nehru

Dynastic politics has come across sharp criticism from all sections of the society. It leads to the dynasty assuming a ‘holier than thou’ attitude and contributes to stagnation of growth and prominence of the country’s other leaders and intelligentsia. Something the country has been experiencing incessantly over the decades. It is this phenomenon which has fueled the anti-incumbency of the present UPA regime. India has seen three Prime Ministers from this family and will unfortunately see more. However, it wasn’t like this always.

I have seldom come across a person who endorsed Gandhi’s decision of choosing Nehru over Sardar for the top job. I myself had always been a staunch critic of this verdict of Gandhi. In hindsight, however, I’ve come to view the situation differently. At the time of independence, the Indian National Congress was the sole significant political representative of the people of India. There was no ideological opponent and the INC was the nation’s only hope. Nehru, who ascended the throne in 1947 and continued till 1964, was one of the best peace-time leaders of the country. To guide the country through war, chaos, economic uncertainties etc., required a man with courage. His economic and industrial policies kick started the growth process. Looking back, we realize how tough a job it may have been and to imagine the ascendance of another person is unimaginable, to say the least. He guided the country into an era of peace and his Non-Alignment Policy (of which I’m not a supporter) was quite exceptional.

indira

Upon his death, we saw the coming and going of Lal Bahadur Shastri whose stay was brief. Upon his death, the party was split as most Congress leaders opposed Indira’s anointment. In retrospection, Indira’s appointment by the leaders of the Syndicate was a political masterpiece. Indira was quite inexperienced when she became the Prime Minister and her sole qualification was her relation with Nehru. Indira was decisive and not afraid to take a stand. The nationalization of banks led to a banking revolution as banking facilities were opened to the rural sector as well. Although her declaration of Emergency was the nail in the coffin but the way she emerged after that says something about her. In the brief change in government, we saw a loose coalition of the Janata Party which could not last long and had no set objectives or defined principles. It was the declaration of Emergency by Indira which led to the development of stringent political opponents with various ideologies.

Upon her death, came Rajiv Gandhi. Again nominated based on the same logic that Indira was. He was seen as a youth leader with revolutionary ideas and vision. However, it was his appointment and subsequent death which reveals how the Congress Party was a loose coalition and could never have sustained without a top leadership who were looked upon by the rest with pure admiration because of their genetic superiority. Actually, the party that ran the world’s biggest democracy was a monarchy itself and still remains one. Therefore, at the time of independence and up until the early 80’s, there was no significant opposition and the Congress party wasn’t able to function unless it was ruled by The Family.

Instances of this can be seen in the government of Narsimha Rao when the party was teeming with jealous and ambitious individuals. It can also be seen when two major party patriarchs, Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram, left the party in search of greener pastures when the top leadership either collapsed or was unsuitable as per their imaginations.

Nevertheless, we have now entered a time when significant opposition exists and is capable of forming a stable front, as displayed by Vajpayee. The Congress has become a much more cohesive group but still may go for a tailspin if The Family were to desert the party. The MPs are always vying for closeness to the Gandhis as they run the party with a firm hand. Even today, no leader can claim the Prime Minister’s job unless he/she represents a different party or he/she is ready to become the acting and/or a pseudo-leader of the country under the Gandhi family. Congress may not have officially declared its Prime Ministerial candidate but if by some minute chance they form a government, there are no doubts in anyone’s mind as to who will take control of the THRONE!