Four Years Of Modi Regime; A Victim Of Sycophants
The pertinent question that baffles the mind of many is what led Prime Minister Narendra Modi to choose the ‘frail reed’- in form of his non-performing sycophants- to rely upon and keep ‘dark horses’- in form of performing ministers- on tenterhooks?
Populist measures exercised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 4-year stint have virtually succumbed to inaction by his nonperforming team. The high-profile team of his ministers could not ensure the projection of his flagship schemes in the past four years.
If implementation of the much-acclaimed schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and ODF under Swatch Bharat Mission have gone awry, the spurt in fuel price, violence along international borders and inept handling of demonetisation and other graft cases have rendered the commendable steps to introduce health protection insurance at a mere Rs 12 per year, Jan Dhan Yojana and the Start-up India scheme infructuous for want of proper monitoring and guidelines issued by ministers concerned.
Beneficiaries under PMAY include economically weaker section (EWS), Low Income Group, Middle Income Group and Women. Interestingly, they have been identified as per the data available in 2011 census and the ministry concerned did not bother to conduct a subsequent survey to identify possible claimants who did not, somehow, figure in the Census. As such, a large section of beneficiaries remained deprived of the much-acclaimed scheme that was launched in 2015 in 2508 cities across 26 States of the country with the avowed objective to provide housing for all by 2022.
Indeed, as per the official dossier, over 3 lakh villages and 300 districts in the country have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) across 10 States and Union Territories with the construction of over 6 crore toilets. But, in reality, toilets built at the cost of Rs.12,500 each are hardly used for want of water – particularly in the villages. At least two to three buckets of water every day are required to keep toilets clean and villagers prefer to go for open defecation at places adjacent to waterlogged fields.
Whether it is his ministers such as Arun Jaitley, Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goel or Ravi Shankar Prasad, none of them have shown the kind of results that would have got the government and the Prime Minister accolades in the past four years. If Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been widely criticised for the flawed economic policy that has led to a financial imbroglio in the post-demonetisation period, in particular, including currency shortage, bank frauds and a limping GDP, the HRD ministry under Smriti Irani – who continues to remain in controversy for her own educational qualifications – and Prakash Javadekar earned the peoples’ displeasure for mismanagement that led to leak of question papers of the Class XII examinations. Piyush Goel – who wields enormous power after having been entrusted with the task to look after key portfolios including power, coal & mines, railways and now temporary charge of Finance as well – has neither improved the power situation nor could he address passengers’ plight to protect the credentials of the Government. More, most mines remained inoperative dealing major blows to the Government coffer. Handling the ministries of Law and Justice and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad is being held responsible for accentuating differences between the Judiciary and Executive over the issue of the collegium system and breaching privacy of online users who have been victims of hacking of their Aadhar details and Facebook accounts.
Irani stood condemned in eyes of people in general and opposition parties in particular for the alleged dubious role of her ministry to compel Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula to commit suicide. Similarly, in the issue pertaining to the JNU students’ union controversy, Irani improperly defended the Government’s stand.
At her behest, two central university vice-chancellors were sacked that led to worst-ever feud between HRD ministry and other VCs too. Subsequently she made abortive attempts to introduce Sanskrit in IITs in order to promote the subject in educational institutions and tried to replace German with Sanskrit as the third language at the ministry-run Kendriya Vidyalayas. It eventually turned out to be a diplomatic issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel raising the matter with Prime Minister Modi when they met at the G-20 summit in Brisbane in November 2014. During her tenure at the HRD ministry, Irani also tried to encroach upon the jurisdiction of IITs and Director of IIT Delhi R K Shevgaonkar tendered his resignation in protest against her interference in the institute.
Notably, the minister’s educational qualifications came under a cloud soon after she took charge in May 2014. It was contended how a person who had not even gone to college could be made education minister. A case was filed against the minister over allegations that she made contradictory claims about her education in documents filed in different years with the Election Commission.
Subsequently, she was embroiled in ‘Fake News’ controversy as I&B Minister. She had to bear the wrath of the Prime Minister who intervened in the matter and she was divested of the I & B portfolio.
Likewise, her successor in the HRD Ministry, Prakash Javadekar maintained the legacy of controversies. He began with frequent irrelevant changes in the education system and failed to keep a close vigil on the functioning of educational institutions that were under his ministry. In a development, the system plagued with unscrupulous acts – ostensibly by a section of errant functionaries – witnessed the leak of question papers of the crucial Class XII examinations.
More, he was mocked for uttering distorted historical facts while paying respects to freedom fighters at a public meeting in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara. Javadekar had said, “We salute our freedom fighters. So many bravehearts – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Pandit Nehru, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru all were hanged, revolutionary Savarkarji and all other great fighters.”
The HRD minister’s intellectual bankruptcy about historical facts put question marks on Modi’s political acumen for the choice of HRD minister as Sardar Ballavbhai Patel died in 1950, whereas Former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru died in 1964. Although the debate is still on over the cause of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s death, successive Governments have been articulate enough in getting their views across that he died in an accident. A Union Cabinet note had suggested that he died in an air crash.
After Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goyal is the most high-profile minister in the Modi Government holding charge of the Coal, Power, Railways and Finance (temporary charge) portfolios. He has been in controversy time and again. Financial dealings made by Goyal and his family-owned business houses have delivered major blows to the credentials of the Modi Government. As per media reports, the Goyals are accused of committing financial irregularities while dealing with a consortium of public sector banks and private business entities as well. A story published by The Wire claimed that a Mumbai-based company called Shirdi Industries was owned by Union Minister Piyush Goyal as its chairman. The firm had owed Rs. 650 crore to eight public sector banks for its expansion in 2010, but it could not repay the loan amount and it was declared a sick company in 2015 after defaulting on loans. Despite its unimpressive financial credentials, Shirdi Industries, however, gave a loan to a firm owned by Goyal’s wife, Seema and son, Dhruv Goyal.
Likewise, Goyal is alleged to have sold the entire stock of a privately held company, Flashnet Info Solutions (India) Private Limited, that he and his wife had owned, at nearly 1,000 times the face value to a group firm of Piramal Estates Private Limited (PEPL) owned by Ajay Piramal.
IT and Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad has been in controversy over the perpetual clash between the Judiciary and Executive on certain issues including constitution of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) replacing the decades-old Collegium system and the galloping rise of pending cases in High Courts and the Supreme Court for want of appointment of judges. The Modi Government had to suffer major loss of face as the Supreme Court refused to accept the NJAC in place of Collegium system.
Indeed, there are a few ministers in the Modi Government who have hardly been in controversy and are believed to have contributed their mite to bolster the image of the present dispensation in the past four years. Interestingly, these ministers do not belong to the pro-Modi coterie.
The Road Transport and Highways Ministry under Nitin Gadkari has been one such ministry. It is to the credit of Nitin Gadkari’s commitment that the country could witness the Delhi-Meerut Expressway. It is India’s widest 96 km long controlled-access expressway in a sequel to Mumbai-Pune Expressway, India's first six-lane concrete, high-speed, access controlled tolled expressway, that he dedicated to the nation as Transport Minister in Maharashtra Government in the past.
Although the portfolio of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and that of Defence Ministry have been allocated to considerably able leaders such as Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman respectively, the Prime Minister is believed to be holding the ministries himself by proxy. Whether it is initiatives to strengthen relations with world leaders or strike non-proliferation treaties with different countries, the Prime Minister has made his presence felt while dealing with these issues. The two lady ministers are, however, meant to comply with his dictates in the course of discharging their subsequent responsibilities.
Unlike Arun Jaitley, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal, Home Minister Rajnath Singh does not belong to Modi’s team of sycophants and has often salvaged the image of the Government. For instance, in a recent exercise of counter-offensive measures against the outcry over the Government’s decision to declare a ceasefire along the international border in J&K during the holy period of Ramzan, Singh was diplomatic enough to dub the move as the temporary suspension of operations instead. His statement could neither be questioned further nor could it be stated as at variance with the Government decision to put a moratorium on military operations on the border. He also made the message loud and clear that the Modi Government was concerned about across the border operations by stressing upon the need to speed up the recruitment process of the border forces by raising two new border battalions of Jammu and Kashmir police by March 2019.
To top it all, the pertinent question that baffles the mind of many is what led Prime Minister Narendra Modi to choose the ‘frail reed’- in form of his non-performing sycophants- to rely upon and keep ‘dark horses’- in form of performing ministers- on tenterhooks? The rhetorical answer that can be gauged: he preferred to be flocked around by sycophants in order to ward off the possible threat to his leadership from his purported adversaries and party stalwarts such as Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari - albeit being unencumbered by what achievements would he recount to woo the masses in the run-up to general elections in 2019?