Modi government flatters to deceive

Opinion Friday 03/June/2016 17:09 PM
By: Times News Service
Modi government flatters to deceive

In the two years since coming to power, India’s Narendra Modi government has flattered to deceive on several fronts. Modi, who led the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian Peoples’ Party) to victory in the 2014 general elections had raised popular expectations to a feverish pitch. This worked in his favour.
There are several ways of assessing the Modi government’s performance. If one takes the academic route, there can be considerable quibbling, say whether the GDP has gone up or down, if foreign investment has increased etc etc. The realm of statistics is always open to manipulation and any figure can be conjured by mandarins to prove or disprove a point. The other method is to rely on ministers who obviously will make claims to show they have been successful while opposition politicians dig out information that project the government as a failure.
An alternative way of examining how the government has fared is to go by events that have hogged the limelight since its coming to power. Eventswise, the BJP dispensation has managed to rake up several controversies, polarise opinion on issues that were thought to be well-settled and surreptitiously push its majoritarian agenda a.k.a Hindutva.
A pet Hindutva project, the ban on beef-eating, was drummed up into a feverish pitch leading to the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq of Dadri village in Uttar Pradesh state on suspicion that he had stored beef in his refrigerator. Some of Modi’s handpicked colleagues have made statements directed against minority communities triggering widespread resentment and insecurity. Modi himself has chosen to remain silent on most issues giving the impression he did not mind these controversies or that he was unable to keep his colleagues in check.
One BJP criticism against the Congress’s Manmohan Singh was that as prime minister he was silent, never reacting to anything. Ironically, Modi has surpassed Singh. In fact, the prime minister has not addressed a single media conference since coming to power – a practice followed by his predecessors. These conferences are an opportunity for the media to question the prime minister on any issue. They also make it possible for the prime minister to have his say, enabling transparency.
Instead, Modi has taken the safer way out by inviting select journalists for informal interactions or preferred one-to-one interviews.
The BJP government has not exactly covered itself with glory, thanks to its obsession with educational institutions, their autonomy and the attempt to exercise control over students of top universities. Its move to appoint a small-time actor, a BJP supporter, to head the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) triggered a prolonged battle with students leading to violence, arrests and academic disruption. The government at the instigation of the BJP’s student wing, came down heavily on the students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Using doctored videos, students were made to look as if they were anti-national giving the government the excuse to clamp down on them. A diktat from the central government triggering events that caused the death of Rohit Vemula, a student from the underprivileged Dalit caste, was a serious goof up that officials found hard to explain.
Modi supporters point to his innumerable official tours abroad to declare what a great success his foreign policy has been. This would have been understandable if India under the previous governments had been in isolation. On the contrary, since the 1990’s India has opened up extensively to foreign investment and collaboration. So, Modi’s high-pitch tours abroad defy explanation. If at all, he has succeeded in reinventing the wheel many times over.
Overall, despite the Modi government’s professed dislike for its predecessor UPA, the policies it follows are those of the previous government – the unique identity card (Aadhar) project, financial inclusion of the marginalised and the rural employment generation project (MGNREGA), among others. The BJP, in two years, has yet to come up with a genuinely original programme that has the potential to make a difference to the poor and marginalised.
(K S Dakshina Murthy is an Independent journalist based in Bangalore, India)