For First Time, Truly An “Indian” Cabinet
We all know by now that Narendra Modi is the first prime minister who was born after Independence. But no one noticed that this is the first cabinet wherein no minister is foreign-educated. There are no Chidambarams, Sibals and Khurshids whose education at Harvard and Oxford brainwashed them to look at India and its problems through the prism of the west. There are no one honoured with doctorates from Oxford and Cambridge, no one who has enjoyed per-requisites of the IMF.
Such people consider that poor Indian family can live on Rs27 a day. What do they think these people eat? Salt, coarse rice and dissolve it all with water? Even coarse rice costs Rs30 a kg. But these people having lived in the ivory towers of IMF in Washington have no knowledge of the real India. They see India in Taj and Sheraton and in Delhi Gymkhana Club and relax seeing how happy an average Indian is.
The Modi Cabinet thus can be called truly Indian. “A government shorn of Western-educated ministers will understand the needs of rural India.” It was an Indian brain, not full of western ideas, that thought of upgrading villages by providing all amenities available in a city—good road, electricity, civic amenities, school, medical dispensary, telephone, Wi-Fi network and such like.
If the countryside is modernised India would truly be on par with any better off countries in the west. Could a Harvard-educated minister descent to a level of a backward villager and relate to his problems! Modi could think of saying toilets must in every school, toilets for girls to be separate, his predecessor whose brain was full of IMF and World Bank approach to poverty and to the poor could never think of such “gross things like toilets” and pollute the Independence Day address by talking about toilets from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
Thank Heavens the Modi Cabinet has “Indians” of India—this is for the first time. And they know the people and the country. And as for the corruption or nepotism is concerned, one has to blame the genes. An education abroad does not dry clean the brain.
Red Line: Why Indian Analysts More Angry Than Pak’s?
The interview (inquisition?) of former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, known for his clear-headedness and sharp intellect, by Karan Thapar in many ways reflected the sum total of views on the cancellation of talks between India and Pakistan Foreign Secretaries. The so-called liberals, leftists, intellectuals and the elite of Delhi’s well-secured Lutyens area were livid. Mani Shankar Aiyer termed the calling off a childish reaction.
In contrast in Pakistan, reactions were slightly less heated. They know how fickle are decisions and agreements in their country. But in India, it was double whammy. First India dared insult Pakistan, the country to which most such gentlemen are regularly invited and feted. Secondly, of all persons, that one from Gujarat dared to snub Pakistan. In fact, there was no snubbing or the calling off was sudden.
The Indian Foreign Secretary had conveyed to the Pak High Commissioner that if he met the Hurriyat delegation the talks will be cancelled. But the High Commissioner went ahead and met Hurriyat leaders. It was indeed Pakistan that snubbed India.
Islamabad believed that like in the UPA days India will dare not take any step against it. But the NDA is not UPA. Modi is no Manmohan. He had drawn a Red line and made Pakistan realise that crossing it would lead to it paying for it in some form or the other.
Modi’s critics, who hate him more than possibly a moderate Kashmiri, argue that the meeting with Hurriyat has been going on since 1996. So, has it become some kind of law or convention that requires two-third majority in both houses of Parliament to revoke it.
All of us are free to have our views but the Modi action spelt out our national interests and stand by what is in our national interest. Surely talking to anyone or a group which advocates secession cannot be in national interest. And should we not call secessionists as such instead of calling them separatists? And how can we allow any foreigner to support secessionists in our country? How can one allow a meeting of elements, all of whom are enemies of ours.
The US was reluctant to let our agents meet David Headley. And our intellectuals want Pakistan, our eternal ill-wisher to have access to separatists, who in plain words are anti-nationals.
A resolution has been introduced in J&K Assembly that India should try to resume talks with Pakistan. These friends of India, forget that the Pakistanis say that they do not recognise the accession of J & K with India, so do those Indians who love Pakistan so much, think they will change their stand on J & K because of these talks? Those who suggest that withdrawing from Siachen will improve our relations with Pakistan are mistaken. J & K will continue to be Pakistan’s core interest. Nothing will change. The red line has been drawn. Hopefully India will stand by it.
Are Ministers Under 24×7 Surveillance?
If the stories that are a source of entertainment at High Society dos are eve 50 per cent true, the long-suffering common man would bless the prime minister. He has started rightly from the top to plug the percolation of corruption from the apex to the lower hierarchies. But then how does he it. Have Gestapos been let loose, or the prying big brother has deployed some hi-tech snooping means, that has made life miserable for his cabinet colleagues.
Whatever might the means be, the fact is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is walking his talk on a crusade against corruption, which he publicly reiterated in his Kargil rally on August 12 when he said: ‘na khaoonga, na khane doonga (won’t take bribe, won’t let others take)’. Ominous words for those who while taking oath at the swearing ceremony also swore to take care of his children and sponsors and assure their future by freeing them from the worry of money drying up.
He has already set the cat among the pigeons, so to say, by making it clear to all his ministers, bureaucrats and government servants alike that his supreme template of governance is zero tolerance on corruption.
And how does he implement it. Well, CCTVs are being installed in major ministries. The first in the line is the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the cash-rich ministry where deals, orders and contracts worth billions are commonplace. Its all being done on priority basis. No red-tapism, no hurdles by babus. For its Modi orders.
He has, one hears, even ‘spoken to’ a few ministers. One poor chap wore the latest DKNY pair of jeans and a Polo shirt while being driven to the airport for flying to Brussels or some such exotic destination. He got a call on his mobile telling him tht his dress was not proper and befitting a minister of India.
If the surfeit of stories about erring minsters being spoken to is true, ministers are very closely guarded men in India. Two instances tell how “disciplined are Modi’s ministers” . One minister was breaking bread in a five star hotel in New Delhi with a top industrial magnate who is known to be very close to PM Modi. During the course of his meal, the minister gets a call from the PM himself, inquiring whether the meal was over. It was a brief call and no directions were issued. But the message was driven home and the minister quickly wrapped up his meeting and headed back to office.
In fact, such is the mortal fear of PM Modi that ministers and top bureaucrats have stopped using their personal mobile phones for their very private conversations. Instead, they have started using the phones of their drivers and aides for such conversations as these phones are ‘safe’.
One wonders mobiles of all the entourage of ministers would be put under surveillance.
There is no dearth of wit in the otherwise dry saffron party. The day LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were left out of the top decision-making body of the BJP, a young activist from Meerut while responding to a remark ‘what will these two do now”, said, “Their family should give them rudraksh mala. Even if they do the ulta jaap uttering Modi’s name—hoping what you and I suspect will happen to him—these two oldies will get salvation.” How will that be if they ill-wish Modi? Salvation in their case means freedom from good life and good times. Terribly horrible this.