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It’s Politics, Stupid!

Modi has made a start with the advisory council. Expect more such moves in the runup to the 2019 elections

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The economy is on the downslide. Growth rates have been going southwards for the last five quarters. The promise of “achche din” has remained just that — a promise.

Even by these standards, former Yashwant Sinha’s op-ed in a national daily on how PM Narendra Modi’s Finance Minister “was working overtime to make sure that all Indians see poverty from close quarters” was nothing short of a bombshell.

The question that Sinha’s op-ed and countless interviews thereafter give rise to is — Is the Government oblivious of the ground reality? Or, are the faithful fearful of raising relevant economic issues for discussions?

Faced with this in-house criticism, PM Modi himself chose to answer the critics, and at a gathering of company secretaries, he said that demonetisation had ushered in “a clean era in the country”.

The country is worried. So is Corporate India. But when we commissioned a poll, we found out that Corporate India is still rallying behind Modi.
The issues that Sinha raised — including the contentious demonetisation and the GST rollout — are being debated across all media. So, why do Sinha’s charges fail to stick?

The Modi government is well aware of the economic downturn. While government spokespersons continue to defend demonetisation and GST, they say the results would show in the next three to six months.

Even at the BJP’s recently-held national executive, the economic message was not lost on anyone. The ministers fielded to take reporters’ questions were the ones
who have done exceedingly well in their ministries — Piyush Goyal (former Power) and Nitin Gadkari (highways).

At the recently-concluded World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit, again, the performers in the Union Cabinet — Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Smriti Irani were showcased.

The question that arises is — when the government is acutely aware of the sentiments, why is Sinha not being taken seriously? Only because he chose to show up at a book launch of Congress leader Manish Tewari, and compare the leading lights of the government with Duryodhan and Dushashan?

No. The real reason is that there’s a history to it.

In the BJP of the past, when L. K. Advani used to be the face of the party, leaders like Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha were important but Jaitley ruled the roost even then.

When Jaitley was made the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, after he had presided over a failed election bid of Advani (who was the NDA PM candidate), leaders like Sinha and Singh had raised objections. They had asked whether “they put a premium on failure”.

Jaitley’s excellent relations with the media too didn’t go down well with a clutch of leaders including Sinha and Singh.

In the Modi regime, such open tug of war is a thing of the past. Leaders like Advani, M. M. Joshi and Sinha have been made members of the “margdarshak mandal” after they crossed the age of 75, with little role in active politics or decision making.

Many members of this group continue to hold a grudge against Jaitley, for reasons that are steeped in history. It’s for this reason that Sinha’s tirade is to be taken with a pinch of salt.      

Does this mean that there would be no course correction?

There are few politicians who read the pulse of the people better than PM Modi. He has made a start with an advisory council. It’s not merely for optics. Expect more such moves in the run-up to the 2019 elections.