Pluck out the thorns in his path to power
by Sandhya Jain on 22 Apr 2014 10 Comments

Even as Narendra Modi’s march to Delhi seems unstoppable, two unnecessary irritants threaten to take the sheen off his triumph, the like of which independent India has never seen. The Gujarat Chief Minister is resented in some circles not for his non-Congress background, but because he represents the first break in continuity with elites bequeathed by the colonial raj and nurtured by the Congress raj. This patronage covered every sphere of life, from the professions / academics to the performing arts and the noisy dissidence of well-funded activists. Soon, as their gravy train vaporises, they will seek to discredit the new regime. Their ranks will be swelled by those who jumped off the sinking Congress ship and do not get the coveted advantages from the new regime.


Hence it would be in order for Mr Modi to soothe the rising disquiet over the appointment of the new Army Chief and the so-called emissaries to separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The proposed Chief of Army Staff is the next in line. To supersede him in favour of a close relation of a former Chief cum BJP star, especially after controversy in the appointment of the new Navy chief, would taint the incoming regime, demoralise the armed forces, and upset the veterans whose unstinted support gave an early boost to the Modi juggernaut.   


The so-called problem of Jammu & Kashmir is not the top priority of the incoming regime. Yet a senior leader from an allied organisation was reputedly present in the State around the time that two Kashmiri Pandits met Mr Geelani. As neither belongs to the BJP, which was not in the loop, the party denied sending feelers to the separatist leader. As the news has upset the uprooted minority, the initiative must be unequivocally disowned.  


Nothing should tarnish the most epochal moment in our modern history. As Mr Modi gives interviews to television channels with varying footprints, he outclasses the arrogant and inarticulate dynasty, leapfrogs the muckraking over his distant marriage, and mesmerises the nation with the promise of ending the stagnation and decay of the past ten years. This is where he must retain national attention.


A fundamental takeaway from Mr Modi’s interviews is that despite his corporate-friendly image (invoked to malign him), there will be no deconstruction of the public sector, no sale of loss-making public sector units. In Gujarat, he ended the political interference and exploitation that caused loss-making units and turned them around through professional management and technological upgradation. His assertion will bring relief to organisations like Coal India, which was the target of intense hostility for ‘non-performance’ after Coal-gate revealed massive irregularities in the allotment of coal blocks to large industrial houses and sundry cronies.


The most disturbing facet of crony capitalism is when the State helps private capital to acquire monopoly over an industry, service, or natural resource. The Sheila Dikshit regime gave two private firms monopoly over power distribution in the capital, though they did not produce the electricity or even upgrade the transmission network, but twice changed the electronic meters.  


Electricity bills went through the roof with official complicity, and DESU workers were replaced with casual labour, even as the firms acquired real estate worth thousands of crores of rupees, free. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rose on the crest of public anger over this loot and the lethargy of Delhi-based BJP leaders. Ms Dikshit also planned to privatise a natural resource like water and resisted harvesting the abundant rains during her 15-year tenure. Nor did she promote solar power.


Mr Modi lays emphasis on the promotion of small and medium industries which form the backbone of industrial development, and cooperatives to empower farmers in marketing their produce. Farmers and traders could similarly take the cooperative route for setting up cold chains and warehouses for agricultural produce. Should this happen in tandem with the proposed expansion of roadways and railways, employment generation across the nation could be exponential. Possibly as a response to the huge mining scams in several States, he feels India must stop exporting raw materials (e.g. iron-ore) and set up manufacturing units and create jobs at local level in States with raw materials, rather than crowding the big cities.


One of his most promising initiatives involves changing the tenor of Centre-State relations, to respect regional aspirations, and give States flexibility in deciding their developmental priorities. A surprising fact revealed during interviews is that Mr Modi did not apply the ‘Gujarat model’ uniformly in every district in his State, but tweaked it according to the ground reality. It is not rocket science that uniform planning has been a disaster, but it has taken Mr Modi to insist that Himalayan regions, deserts, coastal States, urban, rural and landlocked regions, flood or drought prone regions, must be treated differently.


To his credit, despite hysterical ranting by the Congress and others, he has not swerved from his endeavour to craft a new grammar of politics, speaking of the people as a whole (six crore Gujaratis, 125 crore Indians) and addressing national constituencies on a non-partisan basis as youth, farmers, women, aged parents (senior citizens). Breaking away from the politics of caste arithmetic (KHAM, M-Y, et al), he has also resisted hints to appease minorities. This is as it should be. As Muslims mainly wear the skull cap during prayer, it is a mockery of Islam for non-Muslims to flaunt the cap to harness votes. More pertinently, however, as he explained, “I have to respect my own tradition as well although I respect all traditions”. Hitherto, no politician has had the courage to be so guileless.


Treating rape with the gravity it deserves, he refrained from criticizing Mulayam Singh Yadav’s statement that rape is a minor offense for which capital punishment is not justified, saying it is not an issue for scoring political points. Instead, the need is for greater sensitivity, to feel that every daughter of India is one’s own.


To conclude, the BJP election campaign is Modi-centric because the people will not have it any other way, as attested by the thin, even negligible, audiences at the meetings of other leaders. As people rally around the Gujarat veteran as the symbol of their hope and aspirations to salvage the 21st century, the BJP owes it to him and to them to ensure that there are no thorns on the road to South Block. 

The Pioneer, 22 April 2014

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