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Modi: A journey of Hero to Zero in 40 months

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Narendra Modi

These were the heady days for nation when Modi came to occupy the seat of power in Delhi after putting an end to the ten years of UPA rule. There was lot of excitement and expectation among people and everyone thought that something very good is going to happen.

It was May 26, 2014 and a Bollywood starlet tweeted “Just landed in Delhi” “And even air feels cleaner, #AccheDin”. The crowd which thronged Delhi to celebrate PM Modi’s swearing-in breathed that purified air through the Modi mask which had been elevated to a fashion statement during long election campaign.

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In response to Modi’s triumphant speech, they enthusiastically responded to his call of “Achhe Din” with chants of “Aa gaye” in a symphonic chorus of sycophantic adoration. A nation saturated with meticulously constructed narrative of UPA non performance and policy paralysis had found faith in the mythological Gujarat model. On May 28, 2014, belligerent Modi had a tough talk with Nawaz Sharif , his Pakistani counterpart. On the same day Modi Cabinet in its first formal meeting constituted a Special Investigation Team to bring the black money stashed abroad.

The very next week on June 5, he gave a jolt to the bureaucracy, telling them their leisurely golf games are now thing of past and they should better pull up their socks. The decisions flowed thick and fast and the contrast with the earlier UPA Govt could not have been starker.

On June 11, the Govt asked Supreme Court to take a quicker decision on the issue of MPs with criminal background and on July 30, Govt introduced “lab to land policy” to increase the agricultural output and came out with the slogan of “more crop per drop”.

On August 7, the Govt announced increase of FDI in the key sectors of Railways and defence. A new irrigation scheme was announced on August 20 and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was announced on August 28 under which every citizen was supposed to get a bank account.

On September 17, which was also his birthday he sought his mother’s blessing under the glare of media cameras. Modi became savior of Indian Muslims on

September 20 when he spoke about the injustice done to them and on October 11 he asked every MP to adopt a village. On October 26, he conducted a series of meetings and defence projects worth 1, 20,000 crore were cleared.

It seemed as if Govt had its eyes and its mind everywhere. The focus area was fast identified with jet set speed and profusion. On June 24, Mr Modi focused on redressal of public grievances and improving the centre-state relations. Suddenly the needs of armed forces became a priority issue and emphasis to cut the red tapes in order to meet their long due requirements.

In his very first Independence Day speech on August 15, 2014 he talked about giving an access to a toilet for every Indian citizen and improving the lot of women in India. He talked about “Digital India” scheme to boost the education and healthcare sector on August 22 and on September 25, he launched his flagship scheme of “Make in India’ to boost the manufacturing sector in India.

Image result for narendra modi Americans at Madison square

He charmed the Americans at Madison square garden and even the audacity of wearing a suit with his name embroidered on it was forgiven when it was auctioned for a princely sum of 4.3 crores for the venerated cause of cleaning the Ganga and the nation cheerfully lapped up eulogies to his hotness quotient.

He hopped from one country to another in pursuit of India’s energy future and was hailed by media as an international rockstar. Australia was charmed and returned two precious antiques which had been stolen from India. Times magazine gave an impetus to his soaring image by declaring him as a person of the year.

The markets loved him and shops from Mumbai’s famed causeway to Delhi’s Sadar Bazar reaped windfalls from the sale of Modi merchandise. There were many stories floating in air like five reasons of why Modi is special and a 10 point plan by Modi to improve India in 100 days.

We also heard stories of Modi working tirelessly for 18 hours or more to bring the proverbial “Achhe Din”. The superman Modi had arrived with a magic wand in his hand and he was going to change the destiny of people.

On October 4, 2017 , precisely 1220 days after he became India’s 14th Prime Minister, a querulous Modi was reduced to fudging figures and lashing out at a handful of people for spreading pessimism.

The word on the street was too loud to be missed and it said “Modi is on back foot”. The dissenting voices are proliferating across sector as diverse as agriculture to industry to entertainment and beyond. Suddenly a large section of media rediscovered their voices and these voices are sharp, they are critical, they also excoriate. The opposition has upped its ante on social media which was once BJP’s monopoly and reduced party bigwigs to warning of a tool they once willingly appropriated to their ends.

Fact checking suddenly became the new buzzword and one time cheerleaders are turning apostate. The trusted allies like Shiv Sena have turned fractious and BJP’s own old brigade like Arun Shourie, Subramanian Swamy and Yashwant Sinha have voiced their astringent criticism openly in public and almost dared the party to take action against them, in full knowledge that the now beleaguered BJP cannot afford to have its own people talking in opposition’s voice.

Three years is relatively a very short time in politics, in fact too short a time for a messianic figure to thoroughly lose his sheen. On October 4, 2017,a speech to company secretaries virtually morphed into an attack on his critics and during the course of which Modi compared his critics to the pessimistic Shalya but altogether missed the moral of the story, “Always listen to your critics”

It was way back in October, 2015 when Arun Shourie had attacked party’s lack of original thinking when he pointed out the absence of viable road map in order to become a worthy successor of Congress. He was bang on as no less than 16 schemes of Modi Govt were only rip offs from the earlier UPA’s schemes and were repackaged and renamed projects.

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As Modi enters in the final stretch of his first term as Prime Minister, he has been reduced to someone who renames and reframes these same repackaged schemes with a few coats of irony. So, the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana is now Saubhagya.Mission Indradhanush which was first launched on December 25, 2014,to immunize children against preventable diseases but on October 8,2017 it was relaunched as Intensified Mission Indradhanush.

In tandem with Sinha, Subramanian Swamy also raised waves in September this year which resulted in giving a huge fillip to the opposition’s cause. He severely lambasted the Finance minister Jaitley and said that the economy was in a tailspin and if not corrected, would lead to a major depression.

In June, 2017, almost a month before the dramatic midnight rollout of GST was to take place, Swamy warned that the country is least prepared for it and suggested that 2019 would be a better target date. He further said that if GST is implemented as planned on July 1, “It could become our Waterloo”. Many frontline analysts and economists who echoed his views were conveniently brushed aside as cynics.

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Now in a short span of 40 months the charismatic, confident and the capable knight in the shining armour of May 26,2014 has been reduced to a petulant, fact challenged, constantly sulking Don Quixote tilting at the windmills in his own mind. The much in demand statesman has made himself to be a sulky, embattled politician, who is perennially in a campaign mode and needlessly

litigating an electoral battle he won convincingly three and a half years ago. Modi has suddenly turned into a panicky man who sees conspirators virtually everywhere.

There was once a messiah whose rise to the pinnacle of power in the largest democracy was greeted by adoring crowd in Modi masks in hope of their proverbial “Achhe Din”. Now all that is left of that euphoria and the national outpouring of hope is the dusty fibre masks, most certainly made in China.

 

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

 

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Life after Parrikar’s Delhi airlift doesn’t look easy for Goa BJP

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Manhohar Parrikar

After nearly three decades of Manohar Parrikar’s complete dominance over the affairs of state BJP, the party is now looking at life in Goa without him, who is battling advanced pancreatic cancer and was airlifted to New Delhi’s prestigious AIIMS on Saturday.

With apparently chances of Parrikar’s return to active politics bleak, life doesn’t appear all that smooth for the Goa BJP leadership, at least for now, as it is already battling crises of lack of credible successors, skeptical alliance partners who have sniffed the weakness, and the possibility of an ugly succession battle for power in Parrikar’s absence.

For now, several core Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Goa seem to be in favour of dissolution of the state assembly, instead of allowing leaders from other alliance parties to head the coalition.

Barely hours after Parrikar took off in a specially chartered flight to the national capital on the instructions of the BJP high command, alliance partners Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward have already started scrapping publicly over sharing of power.

“The BJP should appoint the senior-most leader in-charge. Goa has already suffered because of lack of leadership. We need to fill that void,” state MGP chief Dipak Dhavalikar told reporters, throwing his party MLA, brother and Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar’s hat in the ring for the post of officiating Chief Minister.

However, Goa Forward president and Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai has already rejected the option to make Dhavalikar the Deputy Chief Minister, with an ailing Parrikar continuing in the top post.

Both parties had contested the 2017 Assembly poll on an anti-BJP plank but had later joined the BJP-led coalition government on the condition that only Parrikar should head the coalition.

Another proposition, which was discussed by Dhavalikar with the BJP leadership about merging his regional party MGP with the BJP, has seen stiff resistance from the cadres of both parties.

Last week, state Congress president Girish Chodankar in a letter to Goa Governor Mridula Sinha had asked her not to consider the possibility of dissolution of the state Assembly and invite the Congress, which has more MLAs than the BJP in the 40-member House, to form the government instead of dissolving the House.

Party leaders say, under the current scenario, the best option would be Union Minister of State for AYUSH and North Goa MP Shripad Naik, who is a popular leader of the OBC, a significant vote bank which is peeved at the “pro-Brahmin politics” orchestrated with Parrikar at the helm of state and party affairs.

“Shripad is widely acceptable, both as a person and a politician. His nature is to take everyone along,” a BJP leader said.

There are also talks within the party about a possible anti-incumbency factor working for Naik in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. Getting Naik, a three-time MP from North Goa, back into the state politics would serve well for the party instead.

Elder to Parrikar by three years, Naik, 65, is complete counterfoil to Parrikar’s personality. While Parrikar is a sharp, incisive and intimidating, Naik is warm, gentle and known for his warm camaraderie.

Naik, in a way, has also been at the receiving end of Parrikar’s style of functioning, which did not allow any second power centre in Goa to develop.

The other options being touted within the party are Speaker Pramod Sawant and state BJP president and Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Tendulkar. While Sawant’s candidature has been opposed by alliance partners, Tendulkar could emerge as the dark horse in the BJP’s quest for a homegrown CM.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])

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Amit Shah’s 50-year dream: Whistling in the dark?

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Amit Shah

Bharatiya Janata Party : President Amit Shah’s boast at the national executive meeting about the party ruling for 50 years may have been in keeping with his usual aggressive, bombastic style, but it has been interpreted in two contradictory ways.

One was to see it as a sign of arrogance and the other was to discern in the seeming extravagant claim a hint of whistling in the dark to keep up the party morale. Both the surmises have an element of plausibility.

If the assertion underlines hauteur, the reason undoubtedly is the BJP’s belief that it faces no serious challenge at the moment. Notwithstanding the continuing unemployment, agrarian distress, high fuel prices, falling rupee, stagnant exports and the unease among the minorities and Dalits, the opposition has not been able to get its act together.

Because of this failure, there are now doubts about how it will fare in the forthcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh since the BJP’s main opponent in these states, the Congress, which was earlier expected to have an easy run, has been unable to reach an understanding with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and is troubled by its familiar internal squabbling.

Besides, the question as to who will be the opposition’s prime ministerial face is yet to be settled while there has been no clearcut articulation of an economic blueprint. The BJP, on the other hand, is pursuing a well-defined path. Even as “vikas” (development) remains its catchphrase, it also cannily indulges in the ruses of what a dissident saffron intellectual and former BJP minister, Arun Shourie, has called a “one-trick pony”.

The “trick”, according to him, is to foment divisiveness which has been highlighted by the communal uncertainties posed by the National Register of Citizens, which the Assam Chief Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, wants to be extended from his state to the entire country so that the “ghuspetiyas” (infiltrators or illegal immigrants) can be summarily evicted. “Chun chun ke nikaloonga”, as Amit Shah has thundered.

The BJP’s confidence apparently stems from the belief that while the promise of development will keep the youth and the middle class on its side — as has been confirmed by the Delhi University Students Union election results where the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), won three of the top four seats — the party’s nationalist plank targeting “ghuspetiyas” and the so-called urban Naxalites will keep the opposition off balance.

It is obvious that the opposition has found no effective answers to the allegations of being soft on illegal aliens and Maoist sympathisers and has to depend on the judiciary to keep any excesses of the ruling party in check as in the matter of lynchings.

How indifferent the BJP is towards such outrages or the disquiet expressed by the “secular” intelligentsia about its rule was evident from the seeming satisfaction which Amit Shah derived from the fact that the party keeps on winning despite the murder of Mohammed Akhlaq, allegedly for eating beef, or the “award wapsi” of the urban elite.

It is not surprising that he believes that a combination of the promise of economic growth and a depiction of the opposition as unpatriotic will keep the “lion” safe from the “wild dogs”, to quote the similes used by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat while addressing the World Hindu Congress in Chicago to describe the Sangh Parivar and its opponents.

On its part, the RSS has been engaged in broadening its appeal by calling the non-saffronites to its conclaves. It goes without saying that a possible mainstreaming of the avowedly pro-Hindu organisation will help the BJP to shake off to some extent the taint in the eyes of its opponents of its association with the RSS and thereby help in the fulfilment of the dream of ruling India for half a century.

It cannot be gainsaid that at the moment, much is going for the party. It has a Prime Minister whose popular appeal is testified by virtually all the opinion polls despite the government’s palpable inadequacies. The party also has a chief whose micromanagement of the organization has turned it into a formidable election-winning outfit.

In addition, its publicity is boosted not only by its members in the government and the party, but also by an army of trolls who lose no opportunity to pounce on the BJP’s critics with venomous abuses. Not to be left behind in supporting the ruling dispensation are some ‘nationalist’ television channels whose commitment to neutrality is conspicuous by its absence.

With so much in the BJP’s favour, its 50-year project may not seem all that far-fetched — except that the Indian voter remains famously inscrutable. Considering that the BJP secured no more than 31 per cent of the votes at the height of its popularity in 2014, it is obvious that a large percentage of the population do not think much of the party.

It may be this inconvenient fact which made Amit Shah whistle in the dark.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Will Ganesh Chaturthi mark a new beginning for crisis-stricken Goa BJP?

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Manohar Parrikar

As colourful clay idols of Lord Ganesh are ushered into Hindu homes in Goa ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi, the symbolic significance of the deity, as a remover of obstacles and a god of new beginnings, may well dwell on the minds of state leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The party’s top-rung leaders are battling a crisis of loyalty between their party and the ailing high priest of the BJP in Goa, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who in the past has cleared innumerable political obstacles and ushered new beginnings for the party and its cadre. The 62-year-old former Defence Minister’s persisting illness is now threatening to weigh heavy on the fortunes of his party as well as the BJP-led coalition government that he heads.

Parrikar returned from the US — for the third time in six months — after yet another round of treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer last week, but has failed to attend office.

The question of whether and who will replace Parrikar is still not a subject for on-record conversations for BJP leaders like state party General Secretary Sadanand Shet Tanavde and South Goa MP Narendra Savoikar, who insist that “there is no question of a change in leadership”. But in the sanctuary of an off-record conversation, there is anxiety, anguish and worry — both for Parrikar’s failing health as well as the gaining perception that the Goa BJP and the government are virtually leaderless entities.

There appears to be neither hope, nor a consensus, among the party’s senior leadership about who could potentially replace Parrikar for now, especially since his health is worsening, although the Chief Minister’s Office as well as BJP spokespersons insist that the ailing leader is recovering just fine.

Last month, perhaps Parrikar’s only peer in the Goa BJP in terms of longevity and acceptability among cadre, Union Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Naik, made the first attempt to spark a conversation about “alternative leadership” in Goa, while conceding to a crisis. But within a matter of hours of his presser, a planned trip to Delhi to meet the party High Command by Naik himself and other top party functionaries was called off, after some leaders met Parrikar, who was admitted to a Mumbai hospital.

Since then, Naik too toes the line of “no question of leadership change”. Now that the cry for leadership change has been swiftly squelched, the question is now limited to sincere, but muffled murmurs among BJP leaders, who feel that political ground beneath them is slipping, in the face of a series of scandals — the inaction against those exposed for using carcinogenic agent formalin to preserve fish in a seafood-loving state and the never-ending mining ban and the seeming lack of effort by the state government to overcome it, being the two most significant.

It is not that there aren’t options.

One of the few propped up include Speaker Pramod Sawant, who Parrikar, ignoring protocol, had handpicked to lead the government during the state Independence Day parade.

Alliance partners Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Goa Forward Party have also been sounded out or have pushed for merging their legislative units into the BJP as a pre-condition for the top chair, according to sources.

Last week, Goa’s political circles were in a tizzy about former Chief Minister and Congress MLA Digambar Kamat — a favourite of the influential mining lobby — along with other Congress MLAs joining the BJP with the Chief Ministerial berth as a prize for the coup. But Kamat, who on a clear winter day in February 2005 quit the BJP to join the Congress complaining of “suffocation” within the saffron party, has now formally said that no such move was on the cards.

Former Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Subhash Velingkar, who has groomed the top rung of BJP leadership, including Parrikar, Naik and state BJP president Vinay Tendulkar, blames Parrikar for the lack of credible second-rung leaders.

“He (Parrikar) has ensured that there are no second-rung leaders. Laxmikant Parsenkar (former CM), Rajendr Arlekar (Speaker) and Naik have been systematically sidelined, which is the cause of this crisis. Leadership change right now is imperative,” Velingkar told IANS.

One would wonder if Ganesh Chaturthi, with all its inherent symbolism, would usher in a new beginning for the BJP in Goa or, at least for now, clear up the obstacles.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])

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