Things that will need immediate attention to pull India out of the rut
The sun set on the old regime at 6 pm on May 26 at Rashtrapati Bhavan as Narendra Modi became India’s 15th prime minister. There was dehydration due to the acute heat, enthusiasm in the largest gathering ever for a prime ministerial swearing-in, curiosity to get a glimpse of the SAARC leaders who attended, and a minor hustle when the top guns of industry beat the BJP footsoldiers and Modi strategy loyalists to the best seats in the house. For them, the moment would have been quite sublime, truly ushering in a new Indian order. Yet, there were some ridiculous touches too—a commentary about the wonders of the building played out as if it were a gathering of tourists, even as people jostled for seats, searched for water and warmly greeted those who they had fought fierce battles against.
That setting sun moment has now passed and new power equations are firming up in Delhi. First, let us be clear that it is Narendra Modi who has shown the nation that it is he who is in control of the script. He has since the swearing-in held many cabinet meetings and, among other engagements, paid tribute to the statue of V.D. Savarkar, spoken to Chinese premier Li Keqiang on the telephone (besides the numerous SAARC heads of state he hosted). A Press Information Bureau release also stated that he “took a round of the PMO”. The man is not lacking in energy and purpose, and like the new PM or not, the country has a decisive leader.
Having said that, let us also be clear about the nature of the party he heads. It is a loquacious party, from an ideological tradition. If the past is an indicator of the future, then expect the new crew (some of whom are repeats from the Vajpayee establishment) to every now and then make unrestrained statements. It is in their DNA. Some are raw, brash and ambitious and will be in a hurry to prove themselves in their individual ministries. On infrastructure development, particularly roads, BJP regimes both at the Centre and the states have a much better performance record than the Congress. And they are raring to go.
Corporate Presence: Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani at the swearing-in
Let us also emphasise that the entire class character of the new council of ministers is very different from those at the helm of affairs during the 10 years of UPA rule. There are no children of privilege here and many are more comfortable in their regional language than in English. Modi has deliberately not given ministerial berths to the offspring of BJP leaders. Having been given a straightforward five years at the helm, unencumbered by coalition pressures, the BJP and Modi enthusiasts will certainly set out to create a counter-establishment in Delhi.
At the heart of it all will be Arun Jaitley, minister for finance, corporate affairs and defence. What is often not stressed when Jaitley is described as a “suave lawyer” is the fact that, unlike the many legal stalwarts of the UPA establishment, he was not an inheritor of a flourishing practice and built one up himself, working his way up from the lower courts. At the age of 37, he was appointed the additional solicitor-general of India by the V.P. Singh regime, during which tenure he played a role in putting together the papers leading to the Bofors investigation. President of the Delhi University students’ union, he spent 19 months in jail during the Emergency. He is, therefore, a self-made man, for years now one of the more influential individuals in Delhi with cross-party contacts, friends in media and big business.
Jaitley certainly has his job cut out for him. It is possible that Modi has rewarded him both for application to the task (he was also critical in evolving legal strategies to deal with the riot and encounter cases of Gujarat) and his proven loyalty. On the face of it, individuals who Jaitley supported (such as Harsh Vardhan in Delhi against the faction led by Vijay Goel) have all found their place in the sun. There are many leaders whom he encouraged over the years who are in. Most significant is the manner in which most economic ministries have landed with individuals who would have great comfort working with Jaitley. MoS Dharmendra Pradhan gets independent charge of petroleum and natural gas, MoS Piyush Goyal gets independent charge of power, coal and new and renewable energy, while Nirmala Sitharaman gets independent charge of commerce and industry (she will also be under Jaitley in finance and corporate affairs). As for the affable I&B minister Prakash Javadekar, who also gets environment, forests and climate change, he too is very comfortable with the new finance minister.
Equally, it cannot be ignored that those who were close to other factions in the BJP have not found a place in the new Modi dispensation. L.K. Advani has been quietly retired, as have other leaders older than 75. Sushma Swaraj gets the significant external affairs portfolio, but without commerce attached to it, as had been expected. Sources say that she was sounded out for the HRD ministry but indicated she needed to be in a portfolio that ensures membership of the cabinet committee for security. She’s got that, but some argue that HRD is possibly a meatier ministry in terms of its impact on education. That’s gone to Smriti Irani, who has been built up as the new-age woman leader of the BJP. Now that the 38-year-old cabinet minister is caught in a controversy over her educational qualifications, there are some who suggest she would be changed. But sources close to Modi say that the greater the attack, the more he will dig in his heels in support of Irani.
Clearly, there is an inherent problem with the quality of some MPs who would be non-entities were it not for the simple fact of a vacuum in politics being filled by what evolved into a mandate for Modi, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Many of those who won, therefore, are not the sort of people whose ability or talent has been proven. They were just lucky. They thus cannot be touted as the “fresh blood” in a council of ministers. There is still a search for talent that is ongoing in the Modi regime.
Nripendra Mishra Key bureaucrat. (Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari)
Consider the manner in which Modi chose Nripendra Mishra as his principal secretary. He was given a list of six to seven retired bureaucrats that was vetted by people in the BJP who are close to him. Intelligence reports on these officers were scrutinised. Then Modi personally conducted interviews and asked questions and made his own assessment. He chose Mishra, and once he had made up his mind, he was willing to let go off the niceties of convention and legality and issue an ordinance to appoint the former chairman of trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) as his principal secretary. That is an indicator of how the new PM will conduct his affairs. For all the focus on the politicians, the bureaucrats will be key to the way he operates.
Without doubt, Narendra Modi is in control of a situation of his making. He is travelling along new vistas and changing the terms of engagement. It’s certainly the sunrise moment for Modi and his ideas of nationhood.
Apropos Cometh the Hour (Jun 9), the commentariat predicted that Modi would induct technocrats and other experts as ministers. But he has proved them wrong and put together a reasonably good team from the talent pool within the bjp. Women have been well represented and the top-rung ministers belong to the post-Independence generation.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Not so great start: The economy is most important in governing a nation. Ideologies do not matter. If the economy crashes, nothing else would matter.
It is highly likely Modi will crash the economy. The balance of a money creator is
FISCAL DEFICIT - TRADE DEFICIT = NET PRIVATE SAVINGS and when TRADE DEFICITS increase because of Modi's favourite spending via. FDI and exceed FISCAL DEFICITS, thereby allowing NET SAVINGS to become negative and crash the economy. Chidambaram almost did and Modi has not identified this problem. If I were a betting man I would say the odds of this happening is 7 to 3.
RSS and Modi do not understand the economy. Almost all economists also do not understand fiat currency economics. India is out of luck.
Definitely a good start. It is time Saba and her editor, looks something positive in Modi. Enough of negative remarks. Congress is now a past for the next ten years or so. And Rahul is no match for Modi.Modi has done a good job, handled his detractors well, and raised hope in those who oppose him. Even Shahsi Tharoor is admiring him.
I wonder who changed from apple to orange? Narendra Modi or Saba Naqvi?
" The man is not lacking in energy and purpose, and like the new PM or not, the country has a decisive leader."
" The man is not lacking in energy and purpose, and like the new PM or not, the country has a decisive leader."
From divisive to decisive, that is a huge leap of faith, Ms Naqvi.
Another interesting tweet by
Finger of India @IndiaFinger 1h
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