Plato must be pleased. The new prime minister seems to have taken the Greek philosopher’s advice. “The beginning,” said Plato, “is the most important part of the work.” And what a beginning it has been for Narendra Modi. He has hardly put a foot wrong in the past two weeks. He has displayed a sureness of touch, a firm resolve and an inclination to take tough decisions. He has lived up to his campaign promise of “small is beautiful”.
The minimalist approach is conspicuous in cabinet formation. In the process, the prime minister has had to ruffle some feathers, but the unhappy task was executed with grace. Meanwhile, the boldness with which he overcame hurdles to appoint his principal secretary should worry his adversaries. What Mr Modi wants, Mr Modi gets. This is the message he is sending out.
Cabinet formation is a messy business. Resignations, tantrums, threats are a commonplace. Therefore, consider the way L.K. Advani and M.M. Joshi have been marginalised. There has been not one word of protest from the two heavyweights. They will probably walk quietly into the sunset.
Now the PM’s masterstroke. His decision to invite SAARC leaders, including Nawaz Sharif, intrinsically transformed the complexion of the swearing-in ceremony. Even if one accepts that the Pakistan prime minister’s presence in Delhi was nothing but inspired atmospherics, Mr Modi has softened his image as a Pakistan-baiter and critic of biriyani diplomacy. The effusiveness with which Mr Modi greeted his Pakistani counterpart—the extended handshake said it all—has set the stage for more substantive parleys between the estranged neighbours.
Praise is also due for Nawaz Sharif. He took a huge risk by accepting the invitation defying the army/ISI, Hafiz Saeed, refusing to meet the Hurriyat, playing down the Kashmir issue and concentrating on trade and economic ties. Mr Sharif’s behaviour in Delhi was impeccable. On his return home, he did not change his tune, reiterating the criticality of better India-Pakistan relations, and his determination to pursue them.
Given my reputation as a pseudo-secularist, I must point to one black spot. The prime minister has rewarded one of the MPs named in last September’s Muzaffarnagar riots, an MP who spent time in jail. Sanjeev Baliyan is minister of state for agriculture. His presence in the list of ministers is unfortunate.
Of course, the prime minister has a long way to go and he has a full in-tray. Moreover, expectations are sky-high, with the usual coalition difficulty alibi no longer available. Thus, I am mystified how the PM has allowed the Article 370 debate to erupt. It is a fatuous debate, incapable of resolution in the prevailing environment. Mr Modi and the BJP, one thought, had abandoned such issues. The prime minister must put out this fire quickly and ensure non-issues remain non-issues.
Those who did not vote for Prime Minister Modi should avoid judging the new occupant of 7, Race Course Road, by his past. They should judge him by the way he governs India in the present. I am delighted the first signs are promising.
Apropos Vinod Mehta’s piece The Big Boss (June 9), in the nine out of their 10 years in office, Mr Mehta was all praise for the UPA, its chairperson and its prime minister, devouring their coffee and their cake. Then suddenly in the last year, he took a turn and began criticising them and seeing untold merit in Narendra Modi. After trying to cosy up to the new Modi regime for a while without success, he is back to batting for the Dynasty.
Sanjay H.P., Tempe, US
I’m a bit disappointed in you Mr Mehta. Perhaps you could have sold yourself a little more dearly.
Kannan Srinivasan, Melbourne
Yes, Mr Mehta. For all the fears your magazine raised through some purveyors of pseudo-secularist colours, they must be pretty disappointed with the way things have started, right?
S.N. Ram, Chennai
Narendra Modi is being called autocratic and his appointment of newcomers such as Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani are seen as his having the last word. But at the same time he has given bureaucrats a free hand, indicating that all he is concerned with is one thing: results. Performance alone is the bottomline for him and he knows well he can get the desired output from newcomers and at the same time groom them for higher responsibilities. Modi means business and the 14-15 hour workday he puts in and expects of others are of a piece with a corporate work culture, where performers will be rewarded and non-performers thrown out.
Bal Govind, Noida
Mr Mehta, while on the subject, Plato also said, “Whatever deceives seems to produce magical enchantment!”
Rohit Desai, Mount Prospect, US
A long-time Sonia admirer praising Modi’s brilliant start! With such transformation, one can hope Modi will fight to finish positively as he did in his innovative campaign.
Swamy N.K., Hyderabad
Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary is always a must-read in Outlook. Modi had said that as PM he’d refrain from the politics of vindictiveness. That such a path would leave him with no energy for development and governance. Unfortunately almost all states are caught in a cycle of retaliation and violence. Development is stunted. Murder, violence, electoral rigging, corruption etc has blighted the landscape. In such a situation, when India needs a genuine statesman, Modi’s coronation as PM might be a silver lining.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur
Mr Mehta’s endorsement of Smriti Irani is neither here nor there. Her educational qualifications are a red herring. India is facing a demographic challenge. Very soon, there’ll be tens of millions of young Indians who’ll need basic education, followed by higher studies or vocational training. How to educate and train these millions so that India can prosper is the only cogent question.
Rama Ratnam, San Antonio
Mr Mehta batting for Ms Irani is welcome, though surprising. As he rightly pointed out, after independence, the Oxbridge brigade, including Nehru, focused on higher education at the expense of education for the masses. Shamefully, India still has one of the highest proportion of illiterates in the developing world. It’s comparatively easy to allocate funds to iits and iims, but the expansion of primary education so that it covers the entire country is a much more formidable task.
Dwarka Bose, on e-mail
There is a proverb in Marathi—Sarsi tithe parsi, which translates as people always bow to the rising sun. Does Mr Mehta remember his columns about Modi? How he changed his cap so quickly is appalling.
Ramesh Raghuvanshi, Pune
Mr Mehta, Sonia and Rahul’s biggest sycophant, is praising Modi left, right and centre! Is it a pre-emptive measure to save himself, so that he doesn’t face the heat in future?
Kunal Dhulekar, Pune
It was unfair of you, Mr Mehta, to club Albert Einstein in the list of distinguished people who did not go to university in your diary. He did finish a PhD in Theoretical Physics. That may take poor Albert a notch or two down in your estimation and rob Ms Irani of some ‘fine company’. Just shows that lack of education is not the only criterion for success. Even us lowly Physics PhDs can get there with hard work and talent.
What a sea change, Sonia devotee Vinod Mehta eulogising Modi (The Big Boss, Jun 9). Everyone has to fall in line after Narendrabhai’s glorious victory, it seems.
This refers to Vinod Mehta’s opinion on Narendra Modi (The Big Boss, Jun 9). I think a little less democracy would do no harm to Indians. India needs a tough PM who can make decisions.
The big boss sold snake oil. He does not know fiat currency economics and follows Rajan's nonsense economics and is fascinated with FDI. When TRADE DEFICITS exceed FISCAL. DEFICITS, as is very likely, we will have an economic crash and with it Modi's govt too. The economic balance is FISCAL DEFICIT = BHAGYALAKSHMI = TRADE DEFICIT + NET PRIVATE SAVINGS. If he does not know this, it is highly unlikely the the economy will NOT crash.
There is absolutely NO way for the economy to grow without an increase of BHAGYALAKSHMI. We are in trouble right from the start.
Mr.Mehta would be happy to see Rahul as the PM, whom Mr.Swamy calls a buddhu. He has nothing against Soniaji, who according to Swamy, has amasses billions. If Mr.Swamy is wrong, she could take him to court but she did not. And why Mr.mehta is silent on Robert Vadra? Vadra is not your son-in-law Mr.Mehta.
A little less democracy would do no harm to the Indians. India needs a tough PM who can make decisions.
Modi has asked all secretaries to list out ten laws that can be repealed in their depts. Very good initiative.
But Im a bit disappointed in Mr Mehta!
Perhaps he could have sold himself a little more dearly?
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