100 Days of Modi Optics and Hyperbole

Published: September 03, 2014 12:29 IST
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(Pawan Khera is a political analyst with the Congress party.)

The first 100 days of Narendra Modi provide a prelude to a tenure that will be secretive, mysterious and closed. '100 Days' was a Bollywood crime thriller released in 1991. 100 days of Modi have made Delhi a rumor-ridden city of smoke and mirrors. There is a virtual moratorium on news. While a top minister in the Modi cabinet pontificated, "Media is not supposed to know what happens in the government," rumors, gossip and whispers abound in an atmosphere of intrigue, conspiracy and mutual suspicion with no room for transparency and accountability.

In 100 days, Narendra Modi has finished a party, diminished the cabinet, sent his rivals to political kala-paani, attempted to muzzle free press and is all set to institutionally tame the judiciary and weaken the National Green Tribunal. The grand supremo not only controls the Appointments Committee of Cabinet to centralize decision-making on crucial postings, he also has a blanket portfolio called 'all important policy issues'.

The much-touted foreign policy, of which a hapless Foreign Minister is unceremoniously kept out, has in one stroke legitimized the Hurriyat and weakened a beleaguered Nawaz Sharif who had defied hawks back home in accepting Modi's invitation to attend his swearing-in ceremony in May. The world is grappling with the spreading influence of the ISIS. A stable Pakistan is in our interest.

No one who wishes to be on the side of peace would commit  diplomatic hara-kiri such as this.

The fanfare of his Nepal visit notwithstanding, a crucial power agreement could not get signed. Foreign policy experts have given up trying to understand the need for the Prime Minister to visit Nepal so soon after two high-profile visits by the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Minister.

In Japan, the flute and drums sounded very good but while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cleverly pushed $35 billion worth of investments, he refused to budge on the nuclear deal. As usual, Mr Modi was satisfied with optics and hyperbole.

And therein lies the problem. Modi is more conscious of maintaining his image than addressing real issues. Long spells of strategic silence on raging debates are followed by grand spectacles in theatre- like attire - no offence meant to Troy Costa. What follows is the one-way transmission of a man desperate to play to the gallery.

He has cleverly used oratory as a wall behind which he hides his inaction. The massive myth-making machine that created the unsubstantiated legend of a humble chai-waala and helped him win the election, now works overtime to create an aura around him.

Snatching credit from predecessors is nothing new. Usurping credit for UPA schemes and inaugurating UPA-era infrastructure projects can also be overlooked. The shamelessness with which the  acclaim for quarterly GDP figures for the period between April and June is appropriated by a government which took office on 26th May, was, however, remarkable. Interestingly, food inflation which grew at 9.36% in July from 7.90% in June is blamed on the UPA.

Setting himself a diminutive goal by seeking a 10-year moratorium on communal riots reveals something about him; turning a deaf ear to the polarizing utterances and provocations of some of his comrades reveals everything about him.

There was absolutely no spark for a controversy in his gifting the Bhagwat Gita to Emperor Akihito. Desperate for a polarizing controversy, he took a dig on foreign land saying 'our secular friends will create a storm.... he has made this one also communal'. This shows the kind of narrative he thrives in and the kind of politics India will witness. 

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