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Issue No.: 573 | March 2015

Thoughts on Recent Political Developments

B. Satyanarayana
It holds a lesson for Modi that in order regain the trust of the voters it is not enough to chant the mantra of development but at the same time the core values of simplicity, honesty and integrity must be the anchor for governance.

The Broom Sweeps Aside the Lotus

The emphatic victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi where it won 67 seats out of 70 in assembly elections humbling the mighty Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which got only 3 seats while the Congress drew blank is indicative of the triumph of democracy. This will send an unmistakable message that the voter now feels truly empowered to bring about change if he only exercises his vote keeping his own counsel. It is also a warning to the elder politicians that their days are coming to an end and that the young and the educated are ready to take over the reins of political power. 

At another level, it presages that the percentage of voters exercising their right will from now on only increase in future elections. It is a good sign for strengthening our democracy. It is also the end of dynasty politics and of money power. At the same time, it is a powerful indication that any ordinary person viz. aam aadmi can compete and win election if only he is armed with values of simplicity, honesty, and integrity. At one stroke what Arvind Kejriwal has done is to create history of cleansing our electoral system. It must be a chastening experience for the BJP and for Prime Minster Narendra Modi in particular to indulge in self-introspection as to what went so wrong that the party received such a summary electoral drubbing as to be nearly decimated. It holds a lesson for Modi that in order regain the trust of the voters it is not enough to chant the mantra of development but at the same time the core values of simplicity, honesty and integrity must be the anchor for governance. 

A perceptive analysis seems to point out to the fact that apart from various issues on which the BJP made serious mistakes or errors of judgment; one was neglecting the development of Delhi in their other preoccupation including Modi visiting other countries. The other factor that played a significant role appears to be that the media played a subtle game to conspire out of pique against Modi because he had kept them at an arm’s length unlike the UPA government which sedulously cultivated them. Despite the heavy electoral drubbing suffered by the BJP and personal dent to Modi’s personality he took the earliest opportunity to congratulate Kejriwal and invited him for tea. Modi has always been punctilious in his attitude of keeping the grace at all times. The immediate test for BJP is its move in the troubled waters of Bihar’s political uncertainty. Modi can take heart that according to a report in Headlines Today the post-poll survey indicates that two thirds of the people still repose faith in Modi.

7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit 

I was in Gujarat during January 2015 when Bharatiya Pravasi Divas was being celebrated during 11-13 January in Gandhinagar. The address by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a huge gathering of 4,000 people comprising guests and high dignitaries from several countries including 2,500 Indian Diaspora was a grand affair. It drew handsome praise and high encomium from persons like the Secretary General of UN, the US Secretary of State and others who were overwhelmed by the stellar role played by Prime Minister Modi to project India’s capacity to create an environment for mutually beneficial commercial enterprises. 

Obama Came, Saw and was Captivated

The above best describes the visit of the President of USA, Barack Obama. Inviting Obama as a special guest for the 65th Republic Day Celebrations was Modi’s masterly strategy. It was the first time that a President of America was coming as a special guest. Several unusual features marked his 52 hours spent in India. The first one was when Modi broke the protocol in receiving Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at the airport in a return gesture of his visit to the USA in September 2014. The high point that invested this year's Guard of Honour was led by the Wing Commander Pooja Thakur leading with great panache a battalion of men from the Army, Air Force and Navy. 

From the time Obama landed, the bonhomie between both the leaders was palpable extending to addressing each other by their first name. There was the usual visit to Rajghat to pay homage to the memory of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi. It must have been a unique and unforgettable experience for him and his wife to sit through more than two hours witnessing with rapt attention the Republic Day Parade displaying India’s military powers in addition to other cultural exhibits. 

Meet the press and Chai-Pe-Charcha

At the one to one meeting at Hyderabad House, they discussed and exchanged ideas touching on national and international politics besides freely talking about personal habits without inhibition like how many hours of sleep they get which Obama referred to later in his address. The most evocative scene was where Modi pouring tea for Obama who was leaning forward to receive the tea cup, made a pretty picture. Its symbolism cannot be lost for Modi rose from a ‘Chai seller’ to become the PM of the largest democracy while the same situation applied to Obama. This demonstrates the power of democracy. Obama charmed Indians with his extempore delivery and captivated the audience in all the forums when in his speech he, mixed with humour, mentioned ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ or few phrases in Hindi to endear himself. When both addressed the press, Obama warned Pakistan on terrorism and punishing those involved in 26/11 attack in Mumbai. It was the first time that such a statement was emanating from America which was refreshingly different from its earlier stand of equivocation so as not to hurt sensitivities of Pakistan. This must have been music to the ears of the government because America has always been guarded to safeguard its strategic interest where placating Pakistan figures high on its geo-political agenda. 

Modi’s Magic at Work

Narendra Modi extempore oratorical skill was displayed when he spoke in chaste English, equally at home in that language like speaking in Hindi which is his forte came as a revelation. Again Modi’s magic was at play when he stole a march when both Obama and Modi participated in ‘Man-ki-baat’ monthly radio programme on 27th February. The visit resulted in many agreements being entered into between the two counties and the most important beneficial fallout has been to revive the civil nuclear deal by removing hurdles in the way for smooth implementation. 

Obama Misses the Script

However, Obama took India by surprise when during his address in Siri Fort Auditorium he seemed to have lost the script. He made a gratuitous remark on religious tolerance, ‘India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines’, served as a weapon in the hands of the Congress to criticise Modi while it did not go down well with the establishment. Obama obviously appeared to be not well informed about the extreme complexity and dynamism of Indian reality and its 5,000 years of history. The fact that India was ravished by hordes of invaders who ultimately got assimilated into the main stream of Indian life style is a testament to its moral strength of being inherently secular which was the running theme of its cultural ethos of an inclusive society. Unfortunately Obama seem to have compounded his earlier indiscretion by further queering the pitch during his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast along with Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama in Washington. 

Obama said, ‘acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi’ and goes on to add, referring to India as a place where in the past years religious faith of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other faith, simply due to their heritage and beliefs. It is easily inferred that the provocation for such a statement was the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ campaign going on for reconversion from Christianity or Islam to Hindu fold which was in the news during his visit. Obviously, Obama was not fully aware of the historical background and the contest of such a move about which lot of myths and contradictions abound. Even otherwise Obama must not be unaware of the part played by Christians and their acts of proselytizing. When there was strong political reaction, the White House clarified that the remarks had been ‘misconstrued’. Whether this is going to impact several trade agreements and mutual investment environment has to be watched.

Jayanti Natarajan becomes the whistle blower

After 30 years of long loyal service in the Congress Party, including serving as minister in the Ministry of Environment, and as an effective spokesperson defending the party policies, if Jayanthi Natarajan quit the party, it must be heart-wrenching and the decision must have been prompted by weighty reasons. The bone of contention revolves round Natarajan withholding clearing of files on the instruction of the Vice President of the party Rahul Gandhi. The tipping point, probably, was reached when she was asked to resign by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December 2013. She felt humiliated being neglected and side-lined. She said "an atmosphere of lies and suffocation” was the reason for her exit. Natarajan being the granddaughter of late Bakthaavatsalam, the chief minister of erstwhile Madras State, she is grounded in the values of a conservative upper caste family. Therefore, it carries conviction when she asserts that she followed the dictates of her conscience. The Congress Party which was in the doldrums after the Lok Sabha elections and now drawing a blank in Delhi assembly elections will probably slide precipitously further.

H. R. BAPU SATYANARAYANA is a freelance writer based in Mysore. 





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