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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 23, May 31, 2014

Team Modi Takes Charge

Sunday 1 June 2014, by SC


With Narendra Modi sworn in as the PM of the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre on May 26, a new era of post-independence history has unfolded before our very eyes.

Indeed the mandate in the 2014 elections was not just for the BJP, but for Narendra Modi as the leader of the party. In fact in the team of 45 Ministers sworn in with Modi—23 of them are in the Union Cabinet (while 10 are Ministers of State with independent charge and 12 are Ministers of State)—several of them owe their position to him alone.

However, the RSS is calling the shots at present on major questions much more than in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s time. The NDA allies have no say today unlike in 1998-2004 during Vajpayee’s stewardship which is why the three contentious issues—construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 in the case of Kashmir, and introduction of a uniform civil code—were kept out of the NDA’s National Agenda for Governance then; but now the BJP is bold enough to declare its intention to implement those and its allies are silent on the subject. Already one MoS in the PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, has stirred the hornet’s nest by calling for a debate on the question of abrogation of Article 370, the constitutional provision that guarantees special status for J&K. As a conse-quence the National Conference and PDP as well as the Congress and CPI have condemned the suggestion while J&K CM Omar Abdullah has warned that such a step could peve the way for separation of the State from India. The RSS has taken Omar to task for such an utterance.

There has been, however, one silver-lining. The invitations to the heads of state and government of our neighbouring states of the SAARC (including Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif) and Mauritius to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony constituted a positive move by the PM-designate, although the idea was first mooted in order to placate the Muslims of our country who have by and large abandoned the BJP across the nation and convey that Modi was not anti-Pakistan. Much spin was given after the Modi-Sharif meeting on May 27 to insist that the issue of terror was powerfully placed on the table by the Indian side; this was done to implicitly draw a distinction from the previous government’s stand in the matter. Also the fact that Sharif did not raise the Kashmir issue in the talks on the ceremonial occasion was unnecessarily underlined without realising that this could weaken the position of the civilian administration in Islamabad. Nonetheless, the Pakistani authorities have described the Modi-Sharif meeting as being “better than expected”. This speaks volumes of the success of the meet.

The decision to set up a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to oversee investigations into cases involving allegations of unaccounted black money taken at the first meeting of the NDA Cabinet is also a positive move and has been welcomed by the BJP’s political adversaries like the CPI.

As Team Modi takes charge, one needs to wait and watch how the government functions in the near future.

May 29 S.C.

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