Its business as usual

For all that Narendra Modi invited leaders of SAARC nations to his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi, just about two weeks later it seems no one is afraid of our new Prime Minister. Really.

It seems to be business as usual – Sri Lanka again arrested Indian fishermen who had waded into the Sri Lankan waters, Pakistan continued to violate the cease fire and killed more of our soldiers even as Modi was gushily tweeting about the white sari Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had sent to0 his mother. Even China was unimpressed by his `chhappan ki chhaati’ and refused to accept the Indian plea for abolition of stapled visas to certain Indians, despite strong urgings from Modi and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, China stared us down on that one as usual and we could do little.

Then we had our foregn secretary say that saris and shawls were okay in diplomacy – as though the shrouds of those soldiers and the widow’s weeds somehow had no bearing before the white sari for the PM’s mother. Ideally, Modi should have made no big deal of it – and placed that garment, with due respect, in the Prime Minister’s library/museum or whatever such collections are called these days as, I believe, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru did with even a pen gifted to him by a head of state.

Gushy tweets about such things are plain silly and even as Sharif accepted Modi’s invitation to come to New Delhi, I knew very little would change in Pakistan’s attitude towards India – including some groups blaming India for the 26/11-like attacks at Karachi airport earlier this weel. I would warn our Dear Leader to be on the watch-out for more such shenanigans from Pakistan – the ISI, the Pak army, the Taliban and other terrorist groups there are unlikely ts spare India in any way just because their Prime Minister sent a white sari for the mother of our very own.

But it is not just with regard to foreign relations that Modi fails to impress. I am rather disappointed that the Intelligence Bureau’s report on Greenpeace and other NGOs allegedly contributing to India’s economic backwardness should plagiarize from Modi himself – how convenient, considering that they have mostly been affecting the enormous projects of the Adanis in Gujarat which have been contributing to environmental degradation long before Modi even became chief minister of Gujarat!

Of course, the less said about the power outages and water shortages in New Delhi, the better but the manner in which certain fringe groups are attempting to take the centre stage in Maharashtra by deliberately creating unrest and social and communal disharmony is doubly chilling and terrifying in the import it holds for the future. Obviously there is an attempt to repeat a Muzaffarnagar in the wake of the assembly elections due here and in Haryana in October this year but I am glad the police has acted rather more swiftly and strongly in Pune than the cops did in Uttar Pradesh last year.

On the comic side, I found it funny that someone who is an IIT graduate (I mean Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar) should think the rest of us are all idiots who would swallow his justification for the Brazilian junket for his MLAs hook, line and sinker without questioning why tax payers’ money should go towards paying for a pleasure trip by a country which never makes it even to the football world cup’s preliminary lists ever and not likely to do so in the future either.

At the time of writing I did hear that the Goa government had withdrawn the junket but the glimpse that I had of Parrikar on television justifying the junket was ridiculous – he was grinning through his statement which sounded mostly tongue-in-cheek, I do not think even he believed in what he was saying. But the sheer brazenness of it all is a worrying factor because all of these point to the fact that somehow the right-wingers now think that just winning an election at the Centre is a justification for perpetrating all the ills of the previous government – and, of course, they are justified in believing that because no one makes as much noise at their violations as they would had any left of centre parties even dared to think about the same things.

But, apart from the look on General VK Singh’s face who found his own government opposing his stand on the next army chief, for me the greatest satisfaction about the last two weeks has been this: Narendra Modi’s uncharacteristic tongue tied-ness even as the world clamoured for some comments on the horrifying rapes that have been taking place in Uttar Pradesh. For once I agree with BJP spokespersons that the Prime Minister does not have to and ought not to open his mouth about anything and everything – but wasn’t that exactly what his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh doing and his wisdom of silence was questioned again and again by all and sundry?

Early in my career as a journalist one Congress politician, then a top ranking minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet had told me, there were three principles that an Indian politician must always keep in mind: never make promises you cannot keep, never presume people are fools and take them for a ride and never trust Pakistan or take its leaders to face value.

I think Narendra Modi has done all of those. But I am not complaining. I would like to see him live up to each one of those. For if he does, India could be a very different polity. Really.

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