The Narendra Modi government has been holding a series of meetings to determine whether it is meeting expectations. The Prime Minister is determined to ensure his promise of ‘acche din’ become reality. The reality, however, is somewhat different, as is evident from the minutes of the latest high-level meeting.
Narendra Modi: Are we meeting expectations? Or are we just meeting?
Arun Jaitley: Well, ever since we reconstituted all those Cabinet committees, including the Cabinet Committee on Security, no one is sure which one they belong to; so it’s got a little confusing. But we are not hostage to convention, as I said in a recent TV interview.
Narendra Modi: Even I’m a little confused. Which committee is this? Prices?
Rajnath Singh: No we scrapped that because it was formed by the UPA.
Narendra Modi: Natural calamities?
Rajnath: No we scrapped that as well.
Narendra Modi: CCS?
Rajnath: CCC. We thought with all that is going on, we needed to constitute a Cabinet Committee on Crises.
Narendra Modi: Let’s start with the most serious.
Sushma Swaraj: Arun mentioned hostages, but that comes under my ministry. There should be no external interference in external affairs.
Arun Jaitley: This is a government of collective responsibility, as I said to a news channel the other day. However, I am always ready to concede space for a larger cause, as I told Parkash Singh Badal.
Narendra Modi: That’s what worries me, all these badals hovering over the acche din. What do we do about getting the hostages back?
Sushma: We have a contingency plan for the CCC laid down in the BBB?
Narendra Modi: What’s that?
Sushma: The Bureaucratic Blue Book. It’s a government response to show that you are on the ball. Appoint a special envoy, someone with connections to the party, but not so close so that he can be discarded and disowned if thing go south, as in southern Iraq.
Narendra Modi: We have someone like that?
Rajnath: Jaswant Singh, he has experience of dealing with hostage crises — remember Kandahar? Vajpayee took the credit for saving the hostages, but Jaswant got slammed for giving in to the terrorists. It’s rule No. 420 in the BBB.
Narendra Modi: I’m trying to get rid of all this bureaucratic doublespeak. What about the oil prices? What are we doing in the oil ministry?
Dharmendra Pradhan: I have been told… I mean, I have told public sector oil companies that it’s imperative that they draw up contingency plans — short, medium and long term plans, including diversification of their sources of import of crude oil — in order to minimise the impact of any geopolitical instability in the Middle East. We have set up a committee to differentiate recoverables from unrecoverables and…
Narendra Modi: Don’t tell me, it’s the Blue Book. What did the UPA do when oil prices spiked?
Nitin Gadkari: They blamed the foreign hand, but we have always said that the foreign hand is Sonia Gandhi.
Narendra Modi: I came to power with the image of a tough, no nonsense leader. I cannot afford to be seen as anything less.
Gadkari: Unfortunate, that Sharif thing.
Narendra Modi: What Sharif thing?
Gadkari: Him sending you a sari.
Narendra Modi: I’ll ignore that. This is a crisis committee, we need to act fast before they start piling up. What about onions?
Jaitley: They are piling up.
Narendra Modi: This is not what I expected — bad monsoon, Indians in crisis abroad, oil prices, onions, the power crisis, violence against women, inflation, the economy, mismanagement…Why does this sound so familiar?
Gadkari: It was part of your campaign speeches during the elections when you were attacking the UPA.