Within the Bharatiya Janata Party, there are four individuals seen as being the core team of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These are Arun Jaitley, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari. Of the four, the Big Three ministers in the government went public — two in Parliament — denying a 27 July The Sunday Guardian report by Navtan Kumar on snooping. The main point in the report was that senior BJP leaders — including Gadkari — had been subjected to surveillance by a foreign country. And that snoop devices were found at the New Delhi residence of Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, devices planted by a foreign power late last year. The report was based on very strong foundations; hence it was a surprise to see three senior ministers rubbish it "totally". If their denial is to be accepted, not only was Gadkari never bugged, BJP leaders were not the subject of surveillance. This columnist has more than once been critical of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being a bit too sensitive to the sensibilities of Washington, ignoring the fact that the closest allies of the US often talk very bluntly indeed to policymakers there. Indeed, that is what friends do, speak openly with each other. It is only enemies who conceal and dissemble, eager to stay far away from the truth. However, even Manmohan Singh's ministers hesitated to give the total clean chit that the Big Three have given by their denial of the entire report.
The Sunday Guardian is privileged that three of the five most powerful men in the country deigned to notice its existence, even if less effusively than it could have wished. The strategy of denial followed by our new Home, Finance and Transport Ministers is not uncommon in Delhi. In fact it is the norm in a bureaucratic culture where the population is regarded as infantile and, therefore, not to be trusted with secrets.
This columnist was among those who expected that such longstanding BJP demands as the release of the Henderson-Brooks report on the 1962 border conflict with China and making available details regarding the final period of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's life would be fulfilled rather than continue to be elusive. He was certain that a government headed by Narendra Damodardas Modi — a leader firmly anchored in the 21st century — would significantly increase the transparency of operations within government, and give the people of India the same access to information that is available to citizens in the other two countries with large English-speaking populations, the US and the UK.
Despite some disappointment over the continuance of old ways in some corners of the new government, he remains confident that in the next few months, matters will change substantially and for the better. A period of six months is needed before Prime Minister Modi begins hitting his 10-year stride, and two years will elapse before it is clear that he will succeed in making India a winner, by ensuring durable double-digit growth. Till then, doubts and carping will persist.
The "total denial" by the Big Three ministers was soon diluted by none other than External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is proving to be an excellent choice for her very important portfolio. The EAM was unequivocal — no denials here, no old style obfuscation, instead a very Modi style directness — to US Secretary of State John Kerry that snooping on the BJP was "unacceptable". This is the language that the US side has not heard from Delhi since the period when Indira Gandhi was PM, and it is welcome.
Hopefully, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari will take their cue not only from Sushma Swaraj, but more importantly, from the Prime Minister himself. In his election speeches, Narendra Modi gave several promises to the people which related to a new style of governance.
We are seeing that change in the Prime Minister's Office and in a few other ministries, and look forward to watching it unfold in the Home, Finance and Transport ministries as well, rather than be served the same old fare in the shape of officially-cooked budgets and stifling micro-control of activity that the UPA Finance and Home Ministers were guilty of.
Experiencing such change will enable the people of India to know that under Modi's leadership they have a government that fulfils its promises rather than revert to old ways almost as soon as it gets installed.