Millennium Post

Of the man and the myth

For the past few months one had been witnessing a frenetic effort by the BJP to create a political wave in its favour, riding on the shoulders of Narendra Modi (his well-measured chhapan inch chhatee should endow him with broad shoulders, one would assume), in turn, making him seem the all-powerful scion of the Sangh Parivar. Small wonder then, that he would not fail to grasp the opportunity to humiliate the Congress-led UPA government and its leader, Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, even on the solemn occasion of an Independence Day.

Modi did that with the elan of a usurper that he is, in his speech delivered at a college in Bhuj, his Gujarat backyard. One didn’t know whether the Bens and some of the Bhais, swooned at his chhappan inch, but his rhetoric certainly stirred those VHP and Bajrang Dal types to crawl out of their holes and again seek to drum up the Ram Mandir issue. But, unsurprisingly, neither the talk of Modi’s perceived sense of the country’s weakness on the face of aggression from Pakistan, China and ‘even Italy’ (the seamen fracas), nor his continuous refrain about his Gujarat model of development – though the latter has been shown to be quite hollow – appear to be resonating with the people at large, especially in the country’s vast rural hinterland. Evidently, this is the reason why the VHP is trying to launch their crusade on the Ram temple issue rouse the rural electorate. However, what neither the Congress Party nor the BJP has quite got are the issues that will define this general election and state legislature polls in a few states like Delhi, are the issues of unbridled mehengain, the failure by most states in providing sau deen kay kaam, and zameen ki adhikaar. On all these counts, the BJP is equally culpable as the Congress party. Look at their record in the few states where they have been in power. Let’s take Gujarat, for example, in terms of implementation of MGNREGA. The state is clearly a laggard. Modi’s state government could enroll only 6.8 lakh households under programme for the year 2012-13. Of that, only eight per cent of households were provided 100 days of work.

On the other hand, about 23 per cent households found work for less than 15 days. And, even in the state where only milk and honey flows (according to Modi and his chelas), the state has defaulted for more than a month to the extent of 24 per cent of total amount allocated. Now, let us take another measure of governance action: to curb the high inflation the country is facing. Actions on this parameter flow from the Concurrent List of the Constitution. So, both the central and the state governments are liable to take limiting actions on account of inflationary pressure. What has Gujarat government done till now? Nothing, to be precise. After much hand wringing by the Planning Commission on the issues of the state’s terrible record on mother and child malnutrition, healthcare and education, Modi presented the state budget this year with 42 per cent allocation for human welfare. This, after almost 11 years of being in the helm, is merely cosmetic.

On the issue of land acquisition, Modi had been ruthless. He had passed a legislation titled Special Investment Region 2009. Under the law he could acquire farm, grazing and fallow land more easily. When the land agitation in Singur, West Bengal, made the Tatas withdraw their Nano project in West Bengal, Modi  had quickly given them land in Sanand in the state at a rate, which some say, actually accounts for a subsidy on each Nano made and sold.

He is currently facing farmers’ agitation in at least six areas of the state, where the peasantry is opposing a Maruti factory; a nuclear power plant; and even an university. For a man who thinks his is the only writ that runs in the state, this is a serious challenge. His government has been even hauled up for  diverting water from the Naramada river project for industrial purposes at the cost of supply of irrigation water to the farm lands in the villages. With this kind of record, Modi’s brazen wooing of the electorate and the BJP’s last gasp attempt at grasping for power seem comical at best. On the other side of the coin is the Congress party, whose leaders know that they do not have a hope in hell in winning even enough seats that could take them to triple digit respectability.

And at the rate, the two parties are losing allies – for Congress, the Samajwadi Party and for BJP, the Janata Dal (United) – their valiant attempt to create a notion that there’s the party that would be at the heart of a coalition, which would rule the country in the next five years, make it seem they are on a permanent diet of moonshine.

When the effect of that wears off, will they realise that there has been subterranean change in the characteristics of the society at large. But, unfortunately, the time for catching the drift of this societal change would then be long passed.

The author is a senior journalist

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