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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 9 New Delhi February 16, 2019

Narendra Modi is the Actual Accidental PM

Sunday 17 February 2019, by Sandeep Pandey

Anupam Kher’s film Accidental Prime Minister has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor, Narendra Modi, seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Manmohan Singh’s government gave this country the Right to Information, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, National Food Security, Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights), Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabi-litation and Resettlement, Criminal Law (Amendment) also known as Nirbhaya, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending), Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Acts, some benefits of the earlier mentioned ones that have reached the people while the others are still to yield results. However, the Narendra Modi Government has hardly done anything the benefits of which have touched the lives of common people. His Jan Dhan Yojana and Ujjwala schemes have come a cropper. While during Manmohan Singh’s government you could hear people talking spiritedly about the RTI, MNREGA, Forest Rights Act, etc., in Narendra Modi’s government one doesn’t hear anybody talking about Jan Dhan or Ujjwala with the same enthusiasm, except in the government-sponsored advertisements. Demonetisation, which was really ‘remonitisation’ as the government introduced bigger denomination notes, betraying the reason that it was meant to be an action against ending black money, and implementation of Goods and Services Tax have made a dent in the economy from which it is still recovering. A common perception now is that Narendra Modi-Arun Jaitley have little understanding of the economy and the government has been manipulating data to show better results. The duo was also unable to retain competent experts like Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel with the government.

The Narendra Modi Government’s biggest failure has been on the law and order front. Hardline elements of the Hindutva brigade appear to have had a free hand in perpetrating criminal actions which have terrorised the society at large. While Member of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party Raghav Lakhanpal Sharma attacked the residence of Senior Superintendent of Police of Saharanpur in April 2017, various fringe elements attacked Muslim citizens on the suspicion of having consumed beef or simply when they were carrying cattle; some of these perpetrators were garlanded by Central Minister Jayant Sinha in Jharkhand.. The Yogi Adityanath Government has indulged in encounter killing of more than fifty people and if the police is not killing citizens, then the mob is killing policemen in Uttar Pradesh. Legislators threaten people, who feel insecure under the present dispensation, with bombing, something for which a person associated with the Left-wing ideology could be labelled as an urban Naxal and put behind bars.

Narendra Modi has probably travelled abroad more frequently and widely than any other PM. However, his foreign sojourns did not do any good to India’s relationship with most countries, especially, its neighbours. The PM of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has shown a rare goodwill gesture by opening the corridor to Kartarpur for the visit of Sikh pilgrims from India to the Darbar Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan without the requirement of passport-visa. Narendra Modi appears to have been caught in the politics of anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan that his party is traditionally used to. He is not able to grow out of his 56 inch chest-size syndome, declared publicly during the last elections, to respond to the friendly overtures from our neighbour. On the other hand, it is unclear what the most bravado action of surgical strike achieved for India, for incidents of cross-border terrorism continue unabated. The relation-ship with Pakistan during Manmohan Singh’s regime had improved relatively. In spite of the terrorist attack on Mumbai that government did not take an intransigent position of not engaging with Pakistan.

Narendra Modi is constrained to use the icons of the freedom movement, led by the Indian National Congress, like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Subhas Chandra Bose, to counter the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty of the Congress as he knows that ideologues of his parent organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, like Hedgewar, Savarkar and Golwalkar will not go down well with the masses as they were not faithful to the freedom movement of this country. Having formed the government with just 31 per cent of votes, incidentally the lowest vote-share of any party to have won a majority of the Lok Sabha seats, Narendra Modi has also deserted from some of the RSS agenda like anti-reservation in an attempt to gain wider acceptability.

As the next Lok Sabha election is approaching the Ram temple issue has started dominating the political narrative as if this is an important demand of all Hindus. Without having solved any of the major problems facing the country like farmers’ suicides or child malnourishment, unemployment or sub-standard education and health care system, the Narendra Modi Govern-ment is clearly fanning this issue.

People in Kashmir and Assam are more disenchanted with the government after the BJP came to power. The BJP projects itself to be a champion of women’s rights when arguing for banning the practice of triple talaaq among Muslims but it is against the right of Hindu women of menstruating age to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Narendra Modi’s estranged wife Jasodaben has been denied a passport lest she causes embarrassment for him abroad.

As if India didn’t have enough problems to cope with, the BJP Government has added a totally unexpected problem to this list because of its love for the cow. Stray cattle, which were once domestic but now have no buyers, are roaming around freely destroying standing crops in the field. This one issue alone may be enough to decisively turn the tide against the BJP in the next elections.

All the above-mentioned things point to the fact that Narendra Modi has mismanaged governance compared to the Manmohan Singh Government. Narendra Modi consolidated his position after the 2002 Gujarat communal violence by polarising Hindu votes first in Gujarat and then in the whole country. He used false promises to lure some other sections of society. Ambani and Adani provided him the definite financial advantage over other parties and leaders within the BJP. He sailed through in the 2014 elections based on these factors but now it appears to be an accident to the people of the country. Never before have the people ridiculed any PM with epithets for his false promises as are being used for Narendra Modi nor has any PM lowered the dignity of office with such actions as putting on an expensive coat with his name inscribed on it in the form of strips.

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.

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