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Practising political trapeze

Practising political trapeze
The Narendra Modi government has now been in the office for nearly a fortnight more than the 100 days against which its performance has been evaluated to death by the newspapers and the news channels. As some have rightly pointed out 100 days is too small a period to examine a government’s success or failures. The first unit test, when a child goes to a new class, doesn’t ever reveal much. So is the case with the Modi government.

Secondly the prime minister has come to occupy the high office riding a very popular wave and he is no Arvind Kejriwal to fritter away the advantage through eccentricities. Though some of his detractors do point out that he has focussed more on the gimmicks than governance; too bad for them as Modi has so far showed ability to ensure the success of his shows carrying the burden solely on his shoulders.

He has the authority to take decisions through people’s mandate and he is making a show of it in taking these decisions. He has no qualms in calling himself a hard taskmaster, he said so at the nationally televised interaction with children on the teachers’ day, and it was lapped by people who suffered through lack of governance during the second term of the Manmohan Singh government.
If somebody were to ask me what his single most important achievement was, I would say attempt to end the influence of the Delhi club within the top party leadership. He makes no bones about he being an outsider in Delhi, he referred to this in his Independence Day address from no less a place than the ramparts of the Red Fort, and relishes his position of being an outsider to demolish the existing social and political protocols of the national capital.

While some have in their analysis limited the ‘iconoclasm’ being practised by PM to his relations vis-a-vis the media and the government, what is not to be ignored is that he has used his position to take a complete command of the party- both the organisation and the legislative wing. It cannot be a mere coincidence that a Yogi Adityanath suddenly emerges as the party’s lead speaker on a discussion on communalism in parliament and also its star campaigner during the upcoming assembly by polls in politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.

This is a novel experiment, as the group of Modi eulogists would want us to believe. They say that Modi has been ‘at the receiving end of cosmopolitan derision for insisting that a modern, indeed, global India has to be rooted in traditional values and cultures, and that social harmony necessitates national pride.’ Now how does one define words like traditional values, culture, social harmony and national pride?

Probably there is no desire or need to define these. The idea is to make people believe that the PM is the epitome of these values. The appointment of his protégé Amit Shah as party president, the composition of Shah’s team of office bearers and goodwill gesture towards former chief justice P Sathasivam, all indicate that the prime minister has his roadmap very clear. The energy for his attempts at good governance could be supplemented and complemented by liberal practise of the Hinduvta agenda by Shah and his team.

I have no doubts about the PM bewing a practitioner of several personal qualities, which made him a remarkable chief minister and leader of a high-voltage political campaign decimating the adversary. However, what is to be watched is his ability to ensure that the policy to govern is not dictated by the singular desire of decimation of the opponent. The adversary would stand worsted if the government succeeds at achieving a decent level of governance.

While, as mentioned earlier, it would be too early to comment at the functioning of the central government, the aura of Narendra Modi is definitely fraying at edges when it comes to governing Delhi city. The perception about his government’s ability to deliver in the national capital has been pathetic with law and order ebbing to new low and civic governance left orphaned in the absence of an elected government.

The Lieutenant Governor’s administration has not been able to meet even the basic challenge of maintaining the standards of lifeline services like the Delhi Metro. The city’s main transport service in absence of accountability and governance is today a pale shadow of what it was used to be a year back. This year the city faced the worst ever power crisis in the past 10 years. The onion and potato prices have refused to climb down. All these are indicators of the failed performance of the centrally administered city government.

There is a perception in the BJP leadership too that they are fast losing ground in the national capital, and therefore they have been making strategies to defer dissolution of the state assembly and delay polls. Herein lies the challenge of governance which would be put to test. A star campaigner in the mould of Yogi Adityanath cannot win Delhi for the BJP. It can be won only on the basis of the perception a party creates on its ability to deliver on the fronts of combating corruption, inflation and maladministration.

Delhi represents urban India, the biggest political constituency in the country today. The mandate Delhi’s residents gave to the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, the party won all the seven seats, replicated the mandate the party got across urban India. The role of urban India cannot be over-estimated in government formation at the Centre. Manmohan Singh too had formed government in 2009 winning in urban India, including the seven seats in the national capital.

The question which the PM and his eulogists should ask is whether he has done enough to retain confidence of urban India? If they are confident about it, they are on the right course.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
Sidharth Mishra

Sidharth Mishra

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