By Sanjay Jha
To start with, I cannot fathom what is so consecrated about 100 days as to demand such a colossal consumption of both newsprint and airwaves, but since a touchstone for a performance appraisal has through some divine intervention been arrived at, it is pertinent to look at PM Modi’s quarterly review ( the BJP, we hopefully agree, is incidental). They say a week is a long time in politics, so I have taken the liberty of giving Mr Modi’s regime a charitable concession.
Perspectives need to be established upfront; India’s problems cannot be solved with a silver bullet, but Mr Modi’s strident yet pregnant with promises electoral rhetoric that assured a magical transformation , won him a landslide victory . Evidently, Mr Modi is now done a noiseless U-turn, realizing that he is no alchemist. The flawed but well-marketed Gujarat model won him hosannas from disillusioned critics of UPA, but now the chickens are coming home to roost. In short, Modi raised public expectations sky-high, but so far appears myopic, ill-at-ease, and ill-equipped to lead 16% of the world’s population, also a chaotic, diverse, argumentative democracy.
I assume that many will suspect political prejudice in my commentary, and a sense of schadenfreude in the palpable bloomers of Mr Modi. But that is okay. Unlike many political pundits whose sugar-coated columns come with a sufficient accompaniment of caviar and champagne , whose criticism is mealy-mouthed, I had rather be straightforward. Lollipop-serving columnists after a point only yield a yawn.
The PM seems to be in love with himself, which is not a bad thing, but juxtaposing oneself on happy young souls courtesy an intimidating official fiat on Teacher’s Day was outrageous.
The choice of Yogi Adityanath ( chosen to represent BJP on a debate on communal violence in Parliament) , whose incendiary instigations further fuelled communal stress in Uttar Pradesh may have been a clever ploy to deploy salami tactics , but exposed Mr Modi as someone whose 10 year moratorium exhortation was nothing but hollow rhetoric. Also disingenuous. Mr Modi’s commiserations for the minorities is clearly cosmetic, lacking both credibility and coherence. Love Jihad dominated airwaves, an absurd concoction that ridiculed love and distorted Jihad, a double whammy. The result was rising social tensions and for BJP their targeted consolidation of Hindu vote-bank . 600 communal incidents in sensitive bye-election territories was not a cosmic coincidence. The September 13 elections seem precariously polarized.
The RSS has overwhelmed the BJP; the latter appears like the timid third cousin under the penetrative gaze of a bullying burly brother. Every day someone or the other , including the RSS chief talked of a Hindu Rashtra, and Mr Modi tweeted some banal stuff, pretending to be oblivious, as if Nagpur was in Netherlands. This dumb and dumber strategy has a limited shelf life, and has now become the logical talking point of a dumbfounded nation. Just what has happened to the once non-stop garrulous man , when he should be talking to us, the poor 125 crore mortals called Indians?
The corporates sang paeans for Mr Modi in the hope for an amendment in the Land Acquisition Act and some quick-fire approvals from the environment ministry. Stock markets have boomed even as a clairvoyant Raghuram Rajan has warned of an asset bubble reminiscent of 2008 on account of easy money monetary policy of the US Fed. Honeymoons are usually short, inflation not so, which raged like an uncontrollable inferno skywards.
Dina Nath Batra’s interpretation of history sounded like a warped mythological treatise , but given the luxury of a personal imprimatur by Mr Modi himself , has found itself in 42000 schools in Gujarat. Worrying? Of course, and we could not gulp Wendy Doniger because her publisher, evidently under psychological fears, had pulped her book. The late UR Anantamurthy got threat calls from Namo Brigade promising him a one-way ticket to Pakistan.
Nihal Chand Meghwal, a rape accused is in the Modi cabinet, while we are sermonized from the Red Fort about respecting women. Really, is India that dumb according to you , Mr Prime Minister??? Sanjeev Baliyan too is happily ensconced in ministerial privileges, and Sangeet Som wanted Z+ security and a Mahapanchayat on Love Jihad. As India embraced 4G and gets ready to queue for IPhone 6 it has concomitantly taken a backward leap into the Dark Ages. A strange uneasiness pervades. Young followers of Facebook were arrested for posting anti-Modi write-ups.
Modi , whose predilection for macho is legendary, has introduced in our political lexicon, a dumbbell impact, called muscular diplomacy, an oxymoron. Diplomacy is subtle, nuanced statecraft not a WWF show. Pakistan discovered that rather abruptly as Foreign Secretary talks were called off, but without realizing it’s long-term consequences, nationalist sentiments gave it a thumbs up! Temporarily, it looked good for BJP with the J&K elections looming round the corner. But what about India’s foreign policy consistency? What next with Pakistan?
28% of Modi’s cabinet has criminal allegations, so it appears a tad difficult to swallow the governance gyan. UPA appointed Governors were shoved off rather unceremoniously despite a Supreme Court advisory, and RSS men including Kalyan Singh( who wrote an affidavit to the SC that he would protect the Babri Masjid) were substituted in magnificent bungalows. Gopal Subramaniam was ingeniously elbowed out using craftily planted media leaks about whirlpools in a swimming pool.
India during the three months of BJP is like the Bollywood of the 1980’s; crass, crude and cantankerous. BJP spokespeople constantly remind us Congress folks of our 44 seats, their pathological arrogance shining through. Yet they appear timid, tentative and on tenterhooks, perhaps insecure about their abilities despite 282 seats. Internecine wars have commenced, and Rajnath Singh is clearly not feeling at home, and perhaps Nitin Gadkari carries multiple mobile phones. Rumor is ostensibly the new medium of communication.
BJP’s dynastic and destiny’s children in Sadanand Gowda and Rajnath Singh’s sons were clearly not upping their brand image, as was their Delhi chief caught on camera doing the donkey-work of horse trading, a la Bangaru Laxman.
What should one expect from Mr Modi? More PR, publicity and propaganda in well-rehearsed one-sided speeches and “ impromptu’s” laced with alliterations ( speed, scale and something), quasi- Vajpayee-like pauses, liberal dose of tacky sound bytes and sanctimonious sermonizing. The BJP has ceased to exist, the NDA is just an alphabet soup. It is all Modi.
As for Acche Din, what the hell is that ????