GANDHIS ARE ANGRY
Another high-profile visit by the Prime Minister and another display of apoplexy by the Congress leadership. It seems both find it hard to change. Narendra Modi cannot help but be highly successful in establishing a quick rapport with his hosts and in immediately connecting with the Indian diaspora wherever he travels abroad. And the Congress is still unable to digest the fact that a mere chaiwala is Prime Minister and hogs so much prime time, winning kudos all around and further boosting his domestic image.
Under the circumstances, it is next to impossible that the ruling party and the main Opposition would ever learn to work together in the larger national interest. Plain jealousy informs the Congress’ reaction to PM’s foreign visits. In order to win brownie points from the Gandhis, the underlings transgress even the usual boundaries of decency and good manners, stooping to cheap invective to run down Modi’s grand shows abroad.
Of course, no single visit can transform a country’s relationship with another. Yet, it helps the leaders of the visiting and host nations to develop a personal rapport, to incrementally untangle the knots dogging the bilateral ties, and to generally create the right environment for bolstering multi-faceted relationship, including trade, technology, culture et al. Engaging America, the world’s biggest military and economic power, at the level of the US President, therefore, ought to be always welcome.
It should be a matter of pride that India’s leader has met the American President for a record five times in well under two years. Now when Barack Obama and Narendra Modi meet, quite clearly they do not discuss the weather, or the latest Bollywood or Hollywood movies in town. No. Concrete business, for which the policy sherpas on both sides have already done the necessary preparatory work, gets done in these high-level powwows. Despite the US still trusting Pakistan to take its irons out of the Afghan fire, despite it according the Chinese an unwelcome entry into the Af-Pak affairs, it is undeniable that we cannot turn our backs on the most powerful nation in the world.
The US is a key trading partner of India. For several strategic and defence goods we rely on it. Be it the latest in the Internet-related developments, pharmaceutical innovations, academic excellence, cultural and life-style trends, etc., America continues to be leagues ahead of all other nations. Besides, we have nearly two million Indian-Americans who act as our unaccredited ambassadors and remain firmly committed to strengthen the Indo-US bonds. Again, as a key investor in the equity markets, trade, manufacturing, insurance, pharma sectors, etc., America is foremost in reposing faith in our economy.
Therefore, to run down Modi’s visit to America and call it all hype and propaganda is to display a lack of appreciation of the significance of the Indo-US ties. It ill-behoves the likes of Anand Sharma and Randeep Singh Surjewala to use terms like “gutter” in the context of Modi’s visit to the US. Indeed, it reflects poorly on their own mental and political wherewithal to take recourse to abuse in order to pan the visit.
Now, whether or not Modi had Robert Vadra in mind when he asked the boisterous audience predominantly of NRIs at the Sap Centre, San Jose, if anyone had heard in the last 18 months or so he had been Prime Minister if a “son or a daughter or a son-in-law” had dipped into the national till, the Congress clearly had no doubt that the reference was to the Gandhis’ racketeer son-in-law. If you have a guilty conscience, why abuse the Prime Minister? Besides, if the cap fits, wear it. Why make noise about it and thus attract the attention of those who may have missed the reference to Vadra (as per your understanding).
Improving relations with the US is a national imperative. Given the needs of a growing economy for investment dollars in infrastructure, manufacturing, or our Make In India project, given that the share markets are essentially reliant on inflows from the US, whether routed through the tax-free Mauritius or the Singapore route, given that America has now left behind Britain to become the number one destination for Indians studying abroad, undermining Prime Minister Modi’s effort to strengthen the Indo-US relationship is to do a great disservice to the country.
In short, personal pique and jealousy ought to have no place in the formation of Opposition Congress’ stance towards Prime Minister Modi. Maybe the unbridled anger of the Gandhis also stems from the cold realisation that neither she nor her son can do what Modi seems to do with great aplomb and felicity, that is, work on the host audiences and leave them completely mesmerized.
HOT AIR OVER VIKAS IN BIHAR
Nitish Kumar tom-toms development but independent observers will tell you that Bihar has hardly seen any worthwhile development in a decade under Kumar and in a decade-and-a-half under his foe-turned-friend Lalu Yadav. T.N. Ninan, easily one of the more perspicacious economic journalists around, in a recent article had this to say: “Bihar accounts for one percent of the total bank credit given out in India; that is only marginally more than the credit that banks give in Chandigarh, which has all of one million people (Bihar in 2011 had 104 million). The State accounts for nearly nine percent of the all-India population, but just one per cent of car sales. Its power demand is half of Delhi’s…”
Ninan also cites another key fact. There is hardly any industry in the state. There are but only 29 sugar factories in Bihar, including several owned by the state government — only seven work and all seven are privately owned.
Admittedly, governance was decidedly better when Nitish was still in bed with the BJP. But once he was bitten by the prime ministerial bug and broke with the BJP, administration suffered, as he became a hostage of the small groups, including Lalu’s RJD, to make up for the numbers lost due to the break with the BJP. Now, he is a prisoner in the hands of Lalu, who plays the caste card to the hilt, even as Nitish weakly mumbles vikas before the urban audiences.
Poor Nitish! Nothing seems to be going right for him. He sought to play the “outsider” card against Modi and Amit Shah, only to be reminded that he himself had rewarded rank outsiders with Rajya Sabha nominations when a number of senior Bihari leaders in his own party were keen on being sent to the Rajya Sabha. At least K.C. Tyagi, who hails from western UP, was a long-time political worker who had been associated with the Janata parivar since the days of Charan Singh. But was there any justification for preferring the retired diplomat Pawan Verma, a hundred per cent outsider, over, say, a Shivanand Tiwari, or a Devesh Thakur or an N.K. Singh or, for that matter, Shabir Ali? None, of course. It was so because Nitish has always behaved as if he is the sole arbiter of the JD(U), cutting out everyone else from the decision-making process.
The truth is that had Sharad Yadav, the de jure chief of the party, had his say, the JD(U) would never have snapped ties with the BJP — and Yadav, a life-long anti-Congress Lohiaite, would have been a key minister in the Modi Cabinet. But Nitish’s personal ambition proved his undoing, forcing him to sup with the very people whom till very recently he had lost no opportunity to criticise in the strongest of terms, namely, Lalu Yadav and Sonia Gandhi.
Meanwhile, the satta bazaar in Rajasthan and Mumbai, which is often a better predictor of elections than the so-called psephologists, gives the BJP alliance a clear lead. Indeed, till last week it was giving 140-plus seats to the BJP and its partners. There are 243 seats in all. But amidst the carnage there may yet be good news for Rahul Gandhi. His party might improve its tally by as much as 25%, that is, up from four seats in the outgoing Assembly to five seats in the new one. 10 Janpath durbaris should order laddoos in advance.