Nitish Kumar on Modi365: ‘Selfie, Not Selfless Leadership’
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough, said Albert Einstein. The Modi Sarkar is set to complete its first year in office. And what has this Government accomplished? Even the most articulate ministers and supporters of Modi Sarkar do not have a simple answer. In contrast, any average person can easily tell you what the Government did not deliver. Ask a farmer, an unemployed youth, a housewife, an informed citizen, an artisan, a daily wage earner, an academician or even the people who voted for Modi Sarkar a year ago – they will have no problem articulating what the Government did not deliver.
Yes, there are no major scams visible on the outside. Coal auctions have happened, though the fallout of that on the prices of power is still to be seen. Arun Shourie, a foremost supporter of Modi’s 2014 campaign, says that the Government’s widely-publicized receipt claim (of 2 lakh crores) is misleading (he says the actual receipt is merely 6,200 crores). The Planning Commission has been replaced by NITI Aayog (though the work is yet to unfold). The stock market has at least maintained its level and the Rupee has remained range-bound. Post the Jan Dhan Yojna, India may also have the most number of un-operated zero-balance accounts in the world today. Of course, there is greater international recognition for Yoga. The Prime Minister has more pictures than possibly all other Prime Ministers combined, and yes, he has more selfies than all the ministers in his cabinet put together. Apparently, some of this has created a new global recognition for India. Really? Is this the kind of agenda people voted for? It is a typical illustration of more style over substance, more raucous about nothing than the music of change to the ears of the common man.
In the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, the BJP and the Prime Minister ran by far the most vast-reaching campaign India has seen. Such was its reach that slogans such as “achhe din aane waale hain” and “abki baar Modi sarkar” became popular even amongst children. The Prime Minister led the campaign from the front, dared the UPA government to prove it had not failed on key issues and unconditionally promised an agenda of change to the people of India. The brilliant but unverifiable imagery of development stories from Gujarat flooded the social media space. The public narrative evolved so quickly that Secularism became a bad campaign strategy and whatever was left of it was consumed by the slogan of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas“. Capitalists opened their coffers to the BJP’s election campaign and media showed massive public support often aided by clever tricks of camera. The magic worked. Enough people (31%) voted for Modi Sarkar to give a complete majority to the BJP and a significant majority to the NDA.
One year on, there is no magic anymore. There are signs of unprecedented rural distress and the prices of all essential commodities continue to rise without the media creating an alarm. There is a wider belief that the Government is not serving the interests of the farmers and rural poor. Unemployment amongst youth remains very high. Poor and backward states are facing an unprecedented resource crunch. The central government is unilaterally pulling out of or diluting critical schemes of social welfare and poverty alleviation, thereby leaving the States to fend for themselves. Upgrading and maintenance of physical infrastructure of the country remains slow even though the demand for it is rising. An unnecessary and unprecedented leadership crisis is visible in core institutions of governance, culture, health and education.
Social harmony is so fragile that other countries are taking notice and issuing advisories to the Government of India. People are questioning the undue proximity between key leaders and powerful capitalists while veterans in industry are speaking about lack of access in driving industrial growth. Probably, the Prime Minister has so far visited more countries in the world than states in India, and he has certainly made more visits than the Foreign Minister of the country. Yet, the border situation with respect to Pakistan and China has gotten worse.
Powerful ministers in the Government appear to be out of sync with voters and the key leaders of BJP are too arrogant to admit this. The people of India watched in disbelief when the BJP President Amit Shah dismissed the electoral promises of the Prime Minister as ‘Jumlas‘ meant to entertain people in rallies. This is the mindset with which the electoral agenda of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” transmuted into spiteful campaigns such as ‘Love Jihad’ and ‘Ghar Vapasi’ and led to finger-pointing when Churches were harmed in Delhi.
The simplest answer about the Modi Sarkar has come from the Prime Minister himself – he asked the people of Delhi to vote for “Naseebwala” in February this year. However, even this is failing. Of late, petroleum prices have risen. The country has also faced the unprecedented fury of nature in the last one year, leading to the destruction of crops, homes and lives. The response to these is limited to visits by leaders from the centre without anything substantial being done in terms of financial commitment.
The common man from any walk of life in India has simple answers about what the Modi Sarkar did not accomplish. People remember the Prime Minister’s promise of bringing back every penny of Black Money, offering 15-20 lakh rupees from it to every poor person in India, and giving 5% – 10% of it as a ‘gift’ to tax-payers, especially the salaried class. The Home Minister (the then BJP President) set a 100 day timeline for it.The Baba of Modi’s Prime Ministerial campaign, yoga guru Ramdev publicly undersigned the commitment through his statements. Farmers of the country know about the Prime Minister’s promise to raise the Minimum Support Price to 150% of the input costs. Our youth have repeatedly heard the Prime Minister making the promise for creating sufficient job opportunities. Families of Defence personnel know about the ‘One Rank One Pension’ promise made by the Prime Minister. None of these have been delivered.
The people of Bihar have seen the greatest disappointment so far. The Prime Minister and other key leaders of BJP have on record promised ‘Special Attention, Special Assistance, and Special Category Status’ for Bihar. What the Government of India has done for Bihar in the last one year is clearly not special. By accepting the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission while making no consideration for states such as Bihar that will lose critical resources, the Government of India has pushed Bihar towards a financial crisis. Even when the Finance Minister of India announced special assistance to Bihar and West Bengal on the lines of Andhra Pradesh in his Budget speech, he did not incorporate this in the Finance Bill that followed, nor has any concrete step been taken to translate the specific promise into something tangible.
The Modi Sarkar that began with tremendous hope a year ago has to now live with immense doubts. People sense that this Government might deliver something, but is unlikely to deliver what it promised. In a recent affidavit filed by the Government of India in the Supreme Court, the Government states that it is economically unviable to offer a minimum support price of 150% of input costs to the framers. Further, farmers across the country are living in undue fear about the Modi Sarkar’s intent to snatch away their land without consent through changes proposed in the Land Acquisition Act. People have also seen such U-turns with utter disbelief when it comes to promises on black money, sabka saath sabka vikas, special category status and more. Politically, the BJP has liberated itself from any trust in the coalition-building process through its conduct with the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal. Further, the BJP President has already invented the formula for transforming electoral promise into votes and electoral pledges into jumla. Taking a cue for the upcoming state elections, the BJP in Bihar is once again out with a battery of promises which would be later reclassified as Jumlas of 2015.
In the last few months, I have gone around Bihar and spoken at a large number of public gatherings. When people hear the audio tape of just a few promises that the Prime Minister in making on issues like Black Money, Minimum Support Price to Farmers, Special Assistance and Special Category Status to Bihar, and Jobs to the Youth, they shrink in disbelief and then titter in disrespect. No Government in India has lost so much trust in merely one year.
People leading this Government love taking selfies. However, now is the time to pause and picture the real India. What the people voted for was selfless leadership and what they have got is selfie leadership. At a time when millions of farmers are slipping into bankruptcy due to crops lost to bad weather, the Government of India is going to spend hundreds of crores for the shallow publicity of one year in Office. In this moment, I feel sorry for the families of the farmers who committed suicide in the distress of untenable farming in India. I wish people of India could rate Modi Sarkar on the poll promises it made instead of being forced to like pictures and stories of accomplishments that were not on the agenda. And yes, we are running the Government in Bihar and I must tell this to some leaders loud and clear – No Scam is not an Accomplishment, it is a duty with legal and moral binding.
This great nation will prosper when Gandhi’s Talisman guides the course of our public policy such that the interest of the poorest and most marginalized citizens supersedes that of the haves. Democracy makes you believe that the Gandhian Talisman will prevail. In the eyes of the People of India, the Modi Sarkar is not only failing the Einstein test, it is also failing to live by the Gandhian Talisman.
(Nitish Kumar is Chief Minister of Bihar.)