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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 16, April 11, 2015

Ever More Gas

Sunday 12 April 2015, by Mukul Dube

We are to believe that the ass is actually a horse because Modi and his people choose to call it that.

In the months since Narendra Damodardas Modi campaigned for the general election and then became the Prime Minister, there has been a barrage of claims and statements from him and his team which a young friend describes as an enormous, unceasing release of gas. If the analogy is taken further, the object of the flatulence seems to be to so envelop us in a foul miasma as to render us unable to see beyond it by denying us fresh air.

The latest release of gas concerns what is, in a poor country like India, a central matter. “With the government battling the perception that it is pro-rich and pro-corporate, the BJP has decided to aggressively counter ‘misinformation’ by ... spreading the message that the poor are at the centre of all reformist policies.” (The Indian Express, April 5, 2015)

How will this be done? “[T]he message from both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah was clear: the BJP should act as a bridge between the government and the people, the government should ensure [that] its flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat benefit the poor,....” (source as above)

Let us examine this piece by piece. The “perception that [the government] is pro-rich and pro-corporate” is called “misinformation”, and it is to be countered by “spreading the message that the poor are at the centre of all reformist policies”. All this points merely to a propaganda war: “misinformation” is to be countered with a “message”.

There is no mention of objective, measurable indices of policies’ being pro-poor. The so-called misinformation is based on many analyses of the government’s schemes and policies and their actual functioning. Without exception, the indices tell us that only the wealthy can benefit or have benefited. Merely to describe something as pro-poor is not to make it pro-poor in reality. This is much like the stupidity of seeking to abolish caste by not recording it in censuses.

Then we have “the BJP should act as a bridge between the government and the people”. This converts the party in power to an arm of the government (and presumably it will be paid for its work indirectly). It tells us that the government has neither the means nor the will to speak with the people. It tells me that if I want something from the government I must approach not a sarkari afsar but the local party boss. I do not need to remind the reader of what used to happen in Hitler’s Third Reich.

Here is another gem to be marvelled at. The Prime Minister and the chief of his party both say that “the government should ensure [that] its flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat benefit the poor”. Nothing absurd, is there, about the Prime Minister giving directions to his government when speaking to a gathering of his party?

But that is the least of it. Conveniently, “Swachh Bharat” is described as a “flagship programme” and there is an attempt to push through, along with it, the rapacious land acquisition measures which have invited protests all over the country. While there can be little doubt that the poor, like all Indians, shall benefit from cleanliness, it is just as clear that they shall suffer when their land is snatched away from them. You cannot grow a crop of anything edible on a field of words: not even if the Modi sarkar promises to give you a fine road and plenty of electricity. A promise is worthless if it cannot be turned into reality: and in almost one year of the present sarkar we have been stared in the face by a cruel reality that is worlds different from Modi’s honeyed promises.

The author is a writer, editor and photographer.