When Modi stole a march on Congress with his pro-poor pitch

india | 02 July 2016 3:50 AM (UTC)
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Has the BJP stolen the Congress’ clothes and become a party of the poor, for the poor? It would seem so from the public iterations by the BJP leaders, from Prime Minister Modi down to Amit Shah and other lesser figures that the party’s foremost objective is to reach the benefits of development to the poor.


Not that Vajpayee and Advani were not pro-poor, but given the ascendancy of the Congress Party in their time, it was hard for anyone to try and steal the Grand Old Party’s brand.


With the Congress now in terminal decline, Modi finds it advisable to make a strong pro-poor pitch. His recent interview to a private television channel fully bears out the marked shift in the political discourse. The PM now insists that the objective of his government is to provide succour to the poor.


He reels off the names of various schemes and yojanas, the harnessing of the digital technology, provision of huge additional funds, etc., with the sole objective of improving the lot of the poor.      


But a caveat may be necessary here. While the Congress talked left, it acted right -- supping with the capitalists, the more unscrupulous the better. Run through the who’s who of the country’s corporate world and you will find the active hand of the Congress behind their rise. Collusion helped enrich both Congress leaders and crony capitalists.

It is notable that a few weeks ago, the Mauritius route to launder black money was shut. Now it is the turn of the Cyprus route to be closed. No wonder big business is unhappy at this frontal attack on its kala dhandha.

Why, all through the UPA’s decade, moneybags could be seen walking majestically through the corridors of the North and South Blocks. A Mumbai industrialist would fly down every week in his private jet and his first port of call would be Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary TK Nair and next, the presiding deity in the North Block. (The same Nair whose daughter is now under investigation for allegedly receiving unaccounted ₹45 crore through hawala route from Dubai.) That routine ended abruptly when Modi shut his door on moneybags.


Thanks to him, ministers too are reluctant to meet industrialists. Yes, a conducive policy environment must be created for the corporate sector to grow but there would be no personal favours. No one should feel the need to meet ministers when bottlenecks and policy obstructions are being cleared anyway.                      


Another stark message which distinguishes Modi from his predecessors is his frontal assault on black money. Never mind the propaganda about his being pro-business, Modi minced no words in warning those sitting on piles of black money to go legit or else face stringent penal action, including jail.


In a telling remark in that interview, the PM said, “I do not want to raise taxes, I just want taxes to be paid honestly. I won’t let it get stolen…”


It is notable that a few weeks ago, the Mauritius route to launder black money was shut. Now it is the turn of the Cyprus route to be closed. No wonder big business is unhappy at this frontal attack on its kala dhandha.  


It is not that Indira Gandhi did not speak such language. She did. But the vital difference is that she and her ministers talked socialism while supping with the moneybags, thus helping create quite a few widely known rags-to-riches stories. But in the case of Modi there is no ambivalence.


At least, thus far there is no evidence that any particular business house has received favours.


Ambition is the first step for achievement

In 2006, when the UPA Government fielded Shashi Tharoor for the UN Secretary-General’s post, everyone knew it would be very difficult for him to succeed, especially given the opposition of China, a permanent Security Council member with a veto on such selection.


Yet, the Manmohan Singh PMO and the MEA went on a wild goose chase, traversing the far corners of the world in quest of an unattainable objective. But soon the matter was forgotten.

Unlike that stillborn bid, Prime Minister Modi’s determined pitch for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group is set to succeed, sooner than most critics might like to believe. To say that Modi needlessly staked India’s prestige on an unattainable objective is to be blind to the actual proceedings at the recent Seoul plenary of the NSG.


In fact, at Seoul India has already got its foot inside the NSG door, knowingly kept ajar by its friends, even as the NSG members clarify a few points before formally granting it admission. Though China would not like India to become a member, but thanks to Modi’s personal diplomacy with a number of world leaders, it does not want to be singled out as the lone objector.


This can be noticed from the fact that a number of Chinese diplomats have been at pains to denythat China stood in the way of India’s membership at the Seoul plenary.


Yet, specific clarifications sought by a couple of countries and the need for a firm criterion for future membership, caused the decision to be deferred. Once behind-the-scenes negotiations are over, and the few holdouts drop their opposition, it would be well-nigh impossible for China to continue opposing India’s entry into the elite nuclear club. China would not like to be isolated as the lone objector in a group of 48.


Meanwhile, the criticism that having got the waiver in 2008, membership of the NSG was a waste of money and effort, was ill-founded. Would you rather that you remained outside the club, whose rules nonetheless you felt obliged to follow, or were members of the club, and helped in framing the rules applicable to you as also to everyone else? The question is a no-brainer.


Who will police the police?

The Enforcement Directorate, supposed to go after the suspect economic offenders, needs watching over. For, regardless of its line of work, it is not manned by angels who are above temptation.


In recent months, a senior officer who has arranged for himself a long lien on the excuse that he is investigating a high-profile case, has virtually gone rogue. In league with thuggish politicians and unscrupulous journalists, he seems to be harassing those who fail to do his bidding. Even though his superiors are aware of his shady behaviour, their failure to discipline him is puzzling.


Virendra Kapoor is a Delhi-based journalist. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the views of Asianet Newsable and Asianet Newsable does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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