PARTY OF THE POOR?
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 Narendra Modi down to Amit Shah and other lesser figures in that the foremost objective is to take the benefits of development to the poor. Not that A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. 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 yojnas, the harnessing of 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.
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 and his first port of call would be Manmohan Singh’s Principal Secretary T.K. Nair and next the presiding deity in the North Block. (The same Nair whose daughter is now under investigation for allegedly receiving unaccounted Rs 45 crore through the 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, 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 he 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.
The law against black money is so stringent now that sections of the traditional “Bania-Brahmin” constituency are upset. They ask in wonderment, “Where was the need to make jail mandatory for tax evasion?” But Modi seems determined not to give any quarter to the corrupt and the bent. At least, thus far there is no evidence that any particular business house has received favours.
AN ALLEGORICAL TALE
The other day driving through Ashoka Road, better known for housing the BJP headquarters, one was struck by the sight of a small knot of people, all with their heads turned upwards towards a tall jamun tree. Overcome by curiosity, one stopped and joined the rather anxious-looking people, who all in unison were pleading with a slightly-built man sitting atop a thick branch and cutting it furiously with a handsaw. “Hey, don’t do it, you are sitting on the same branch you are cutting… You will hurt yourself…” As the crowd swelled further and begged the fellow to stop cutting the very branch he was perched on, he began doing so more vigorously.
Now, it is hard to defy the law of gravity, isn’t it? Soon, the determined cutter came down tumbling with a huge thud and fell bang in the middle of the wide road, with the heavy tree branch falling over him. Unconscious, and with several broken limbs, a few kind souls rushed him to a nearby public hospital. Later, on inquiry one was told he had suffered a huge concussion on his head. Doctors said he was under sedation and would survive. But they were not certain about the impact on his brain.
Asked about the identity of the man, they said it could be known only when he regained consciousness, though, they volunteered, even under sedation he keeps on mumbling every 20 minutes or so, “ …Modi ney dhakka dey diya… Modi ney mujhe neeche giraya…”
WHO WILL POLICE THE POLICE?
The Enforcement Directorate, supposed to go after suspected economic offenders, itself needs watching. 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.