It is about six months after Narendra Modi stomped back to power, but already his promise of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas (Bring everyone together, Development for all, Build everyone’s trust) seems to be waning.
It is said that no one reads party manifestos before elections. It could also be said that no one reads them after elections. Except Amit Shah. The home minister and BJP president is foisting so many election promises down the country’s throat that it can barely gulp them down.
The economy has gone into an extended funk. Some people are blaming the global slowdown. What global slowdown? The U.S. is booming. Europe is doing well. China has slowed but their economy was overheating, so perhaps they are happy. And Japan, well Japan has been Japan for three decades.
The Afghan end-game is ending, one way or another. In all likelihood the Ghani government will go and the Taliban will take over. India has invested over $3 billion in Afghani civilian infrastructure, which the Taliban will get to enjoy, while also potentially sending jihadis into India. The PM is of course the boss, but he has given in charge of Indian national security and foreign policy to Ajit Doval, S. Jaishankar, and Rajnath Singh. Has any one of them articulated what our Afghan policy is, other than waiting and watching?
Mr. Prime Minister Sir, it is time for some rethink on key portfolios. First of course is the economy. Nobody understands the economy better than Manmohan Singh, but he is too beholden to Sonia Gandhi to help you. Chidambaram could have been coerced but now he is screaming bloody murder. And then there are the experts who have worked in India but feel hard done by you: Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Panagriya, Arvind Subramanian, Urjit Patel.
It is said that a PM needs to be a good butcher. But a PM also needs to be ready to face criticism. You touched hearts by visiting your trenchant critic, the ailing Arun Shourie, recently. Nehru had trenchant critics in his cabinet. So did Vajpayee. One of the economic experts who has left can surely be enticed to return. Rajan seems the keenest to do so. Of course if he does, he will have to focus purely on the economy and not become a savant-at-large expounding on societal ills like intolerance.
Mr. PM, next comes the home minister. Amit Shah’s track record as the home minister has not been good and many say he inspires fear. Also, many see him as your heir-apparent. Some call your government now the Modi-Shah government. People voted for you, for your leadership in Balakot, and not for Shah.
Rajnath Singh, what is Rajnath Singh doing? You announced the chief of defence staff position from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15. Four months on, who is going to be the CDS? Is Singh only lying in wait for you to stumble so that he can ascend the throne?
S. Jaishankar talks in such bureaucatese. He says the trade glass with the U.S. is half full. He enabled Xi Jinping’s visit to Tamil Nadu. Yes, it’s good to be non-confrontational with the U.S. and China, but when are we going to get the UN security council perma-seat? Or membership of the nuclear supplier’s group? Talk of all that has gone into cold storage.
Nitin Gadkari promised a thrilling cricket finish in Maharashtra. He got it. Devendra Fadnavis touted his strike rate. Both, along with Shah, ended up with egg on their faces and with severe embarrassment to you and the president of India. Fadnavis’s wife Amruta promises to return in a few months. Please, let the khichdi alliance be. Let them serve unimpeded for at least 2-3 years.
Mr. PM, your problem I can see is obvious. If you let go of so many people, from where are you going to get someone to fill their shoes? But as LK Advani once said, the BJP lacks ministerial talent. You could encourage defections from the Congress, but the centre there seems to be holding. The Congress believes that you will fail in this term, and then they will romp back to power. It’s for you to prove them wrong.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.