By Sanjay Jha
It must be stated upfront that indeed it is true that 30 days is a remarkably abbreviated period to do a performance appraisal report on a newly formed government of the world’s largest democracy. Irrespective of political differences and despite an election campaign that fuelled an overabundance of gooey vitriol, the fact is that everyone celebrates a new beginning, pregnant with dazzling expectations, especially a new dispensation that has promised much, assured aplenty.
On the face of it, the terms honeymoon and politics seem mutually incompatible, thus bringing their ludicrous hybrid association to a premature end. This so-called “ honeymoon period” assumes both subterranean and sunshine serenity, the implicit assumption being that post this rose-tinted time-zone , some domestic turmoil and turbulence is inevitable. In short, you have a near carte blanche for a while , so if some miscalculations misfire badly, all is forgiven. Clearly, we are obsessed by media milestones; a honeymoon period is force-fitted into 100 long days, because that number meets rudimentary human comprehension, like a cricket century. Seriously, what is so sacrosanct about 100 days? Why not two months? Maybe 150 days? Considering we concomitantly say that a week is a long time in politics, this honeymoon period perhaps needs certification from a matrimonial expert with empirical household evidence to boot.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has made some right noises alright, but they have flattered to deceive on several major fronts. For instance, no one will quibble with improving processes ( this must be an ongoing exercise), motivating bureaucracy, absence of nepotism in ministerial appointments or ensuring discipline in working hours. The brutal slaughter of an innocent young software engineer in Pune by a rightwing militant group was a leviathan tragedy, much like the hapless Nirbhaya. Yet, condemnation from the government was both muted and muffled, and the Prime Minister himself maintained an eloquent silence on that ghastly episode for far too long. Similarly, a similar wrong signal is being sent by keeping a controversial minister from Rajasthan ( Mr Nihalchand Meghwal) in the cabinet who has been accused of rape. Badaun was a horrific manifestation of the sexual violence that rages against women and rape cases are escalating at an exponential rate. It should worry the government, even if law and order maybe a state subject. The imposition of Hindi language on social media by government departments received prompt opprobrium from Tamil Nadu; linguistic fiats can be counterproductive, and extremely divisive given the fact that we have 22 languages and a history of regional conflicts arising out of the same. The hurriedly issued Ordinance to appoint the PM’s principal secretary by amending TRAI Act was symptomatic of decisiveness alright but also revealed disregard for parliamentary protocol.
The railway fare hike and the government’s immediate capitulation as an aftermath to the pressure from the vox populi reveals the susceptibility of leading a government based on irrational expectations. When your ad slogan is an enchanting Acche Din Aayenge , people expect instant miracles from their dream-merchants ; after all, they were assuaged by BJP’s own overcaffeinated promises. Then a bitter pill, even if justified on pragmatic economic considerations, becomes difficult to swallow. That is likely to be the BJP’s peculiar predicament for the remaining five years, oversold, over-marketed and overdone promises. The chickens are already coming home to roost.
The Gopal Subramaniam case has understandably created gargantuan apprehensions on judicial independence being encroached upon. The not- so- subtle nudge to evict Governors has also raised eyebrows , despite a cautionary SC ruling of 2010, reminding one of the famous Mufti doctrine ( attributed to former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) ; change of political party at the Centre must mean a change of Governors. Greenpeace has clearly seen red over an attempt to use an IB report to smother its voice of remonstrance, as have other NGO’s on what appears like a doppelganger of Big Brother exerting some extra muscle power. It needs sensitive handling, not a callous, cursory dismissal.
The sudden Iraq crisis caused by a raging, virulent ISIS has caused a global migraine with repercussions not just on our territorial boundaries but also the threat of rising crude oil prices which could adversely impact the current account deficit. Such unpredictable global events cause economic headwinds, such as accentuating inflationary spiral and delaying growth plans. When the UPA talked of the catastrophic Great Recession caused by the mortgage crisis of 2007/8, the BJP ridiculed it as a flimsy excuse, but the truth is that international economic happenings have a full-bodied impact on our financial bloodstream. Running a government is a lot harder than making vociferous protests from the TV studios.
Mr Modi has indeed leveraged social media very effectively, it has thus come as a huge surprise that the Prime Minister has personally not condemned the several arrests being made all over the country on those who have posted adverse anti-BJP/Modi comments. Democracy thrives best under passionate dissent and alternative opinion , and giving civil society unencumbered freedom to express itself is primordial.
The forthcoming budget will be the BJP-NDA’s first among several acid tests ahead. It will help the government if it is not hyper-sensitive to scathing criticism. Often an absolute majority can create a soporific arrogance which can be self-destructive. The truth is 44 voices in Parliament may appear to be a numerical nadir for the Congress party, but it is the qualitative dimensions of that collective crescendo that will matter more. The Congress remains integral and embedded into the soil and soul of India despite its dissipated arithmetic in the Lok Sabha. Besides, in a democracy, even one voice is enough, even outside of Parliament. Even one among 125 crore people.