Time to Talk?
Modi’s popularity has crossed borders’’. That was
Ramvilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party, an ally of Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) in the ruling National Democratic Alliance. The hard reality is that NDA is neither national nor democratic. Modi’s aggressive diplomacy has failed to improve India’s relationship with its next door neighbours—it is still no different from the ‘neither better nor worse’ situation. Being one more Babu Jagjiban Ram of Bihar Paswan has reasons to shower praise on Modi. What people in the corporate media are saying—or not saying—about Modi in America or Japan matters little to the men in the street. His ‘popularity’, much to the dismay of his die-hard apologists like Paswan is declining even by Indian standards. He seems to be a free rider, not a contributor, in national politics, making U-turns on key policy issues while shamelessly copying policy orientation of his predecessor without acknowledging it. After all his saffron enthusiasm to do something unique other than what Congress did in the past now mocks at himself. The steady economic decline in this big nation of 1.2 billion people is creating new problems, not new opportunities for the aggrieved across the country. Progress in Modi’s republic is designed to bury BJP’s pre-poll ‘India Dream’ that featured better days, renewal and improved livelihoods.
Ironically though, Modi’s government doesn’t face any effective opposition from any quarters despite their naked imitation of Congress policies. Rahul Gandhi’s sit-in agitation against the Modi governments’s ‘U-turns’ while highlighting ‘umpteen somersaults’ on a range of pre-poll promises, is too feeble to be heard beyond the campus of parliament. The parliamentary opposition as a whole seems to be in a state of self-indicted paralysis, waiting for subsidence of saffron wave. When Congress could gain anything substantial, politically or otherwise, simply by criticising Modi for behaving more like a Congressman than a saffron crusader is anybody’s guess. In truth they cannot do much other than blaming themselves for the pathetic state they have been in.
After thoroughly trashing the controversial ‘Aadhaar’ scheme of the Congress-led UPA government, BJP was now promoting it with a kind of religious zeal for the same reasons that Congress batted for. The real aim of Congress to introduce Direct Benefit Transfer Plan in LPG and other areas was to dismantle the subsidy regime in phased manner as per wishes of overseas market-lords. The other day the BJP Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said he could cut government subsidy by Rs 2000 crore by resorting to cash transfer scheme. Before coming to power Jaitley’s party described cash transfer plan as a ‘game being played with poor people’ with the objective of unofficially buying votes through official measures. Nandan Nilekeni, being the architect of hated ‘Aadhaar’ that consumed huge public money for no valid cause, lost parliamentary election as a Congress candidate in Karnataka, very badly to his BJP rival Anant Kumar, who actually cashed in on ‘Aadhaar’ pitfalls to woo middle-class voters. Apprehending adverse impact on election results Congress had to abandon this project in the middle, possibly at the advice of Rahul Gandhi’s advisers. With electoral compulsions gone, the Modis and Jaitleys have no problem in reintroducing this unpopular programme otherwise beneficial to bureaucrats and vested interests, including foreign security and intelligence agencies. In the real world of governance bureaucrats rule and they matter in every policy formulation irrespective of the colour of the government. Nilekeni, the most disgraced man for initiating such a heinous scheme may laugh the last laugh.
Not that opposition parties initially raised hue and cry about ‘Aadhaar’. It was the civic society that took up the cudgel through a PIL and the Apex Court ruling made it irrelevant, exposing its illegality and non-approval by parliament. The situation has not changed since then. Nor does it possess required legal sanction at the moment. Yet the Modi government is hell bent on legalising an illegal device. Surprisingly civil libertarians are shockingly absent this time as they find no justified reason to agitate over the government move though they thought otherwise during the Congress rule.
As for the official left the less said the better. They never raised the conspiratorial aspect of ‘Aadhaar’. They only reacted to it when some rightist or centrist parties were making noises about it during electioneering. With every passing day they are losing their relevance even to their reserved constituencies—urban and rural poor. Like Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s Congress they too are waiting for goods days to return. Meanwhile, a top CPM boss in the capital hit out at the Modi government, somewhat naively while hoping against hope, that people will soon realise the mistakes they made by electing the saffron party to rule them. They think it is a matter of time that people (or voters) will be vocal against the misrule of Modi’s dispensation at every level. With mounting inflation and price hike, people will soon get disillusioned. So they can wait!
No doubt inflation in the country is basically fuelled by oil prices in global market. Now that international oil prices are being slashed by about 50 percent but Modi’s government is reluctant to adjust the domestic prices in the same range. In other words the actual benefit that percolates down to the people through retail markets because of slump in global oil business, thanks to American withdrawal from international market, partially though, by switching over to domestic sources, is just to the tune of 10-20 percent. But it is not an issue for the left. They occasionally take to streets to show the world that they are still alive. Too much dependence on spontaneity won’t deliver. Modi’s party is maintaining a low-profile strategy and its rebalancing is likely to imply a slight shift towards the centrist position but this cannot be taken as a sign of natural decay.
Vol. 47, No. 23, Dec 14 - 20, 2014