Inside Track: Classroom scenario

Some ministers were so overawed by Modi’s presence that they stood up, as if in a classroom, while presenting their homework.

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Published:August 17, 2014 12:03 am
At the meetings, Modi asked the MPs to give a brief resume of their achievements and goals for their constituency. At the meetings, Modi asked the MPs to give a brief resume of their achievements and goals for their constituency.

The BJP prides itself on its democratic traditions, unlike family-run or one-leader parties such as the Congress and SP, or the TMC and BSP. The BJP claims proudly that senior leaders sit around a table and jointly thrash out issues. But recent photographs released of Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacting with MPs from different parts of the country have come in for considerable sarcastic comments from other parties. The photographs suggest that Modi is laying down the agenda and there is no scope for discussion. Instead of sitting around a table, the PM is seated on a high chair placed on a raised platform while the MPs, even ministers, sit meekly at a lower level. At the meetings, Modi asked the MPs to give a brief resume of their achievements and goals for their constituency. Some ministers were so overawed by Modi’s presence that they stood up, as if in a classroom, while presenting their homework report to the PM.

New power centre
Not since L K Advani has any BJP president exercised such clout. Amit Shah was given a free hand to select his team, with suggestions from the RSS. Senior BJP leaders were kept out of the loop. Shah met them but, with folded hands, urged them to let him have his way. At the recent party national council,  Modi said that the government will not just reflect the policies of the party but the party will help shape the policies of the government. Besides, apart from the big four in the Cabinet — Modi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj — all other ministers are expected to visit the BJP office once a week and interact with party workers.

Caught out
In Gujarat, Modi kept a close watch on what his Cabinet colleagues and others in the party were up to. The PM seems to have developed an effective feedback mechanism in Delhi as well. Recently, the son of a minister was reportedly asked to come to Modi’s residence. The PM praised him for his good work, but then slipped in a remark that had the young man rattled. Modi said it had come to his knowledge that some money had exchanged hands for the posting of an official. Modi asked him to return the money. The son and his father certainly got the message.

Pehle aap, pehle aap
Inside the Lok Sabha, opposition MPs are at each other’s throats, but outside, they observe the basic courtesies. Last week, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were walking out of the Lok Sabha and towards Central Hall when they came across octogenarian BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi. Rahul politely stepped aside and urged Joshi to proceed in first. “Pehle aap,” he insisted. Sonia also gestured to Joshi that he had the right of way. Joshi countered the courtesy by insisting the Gandhis go in first, “pehle aap”. Witness to this Lucknow-style exchange, Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, who was behind them, joked that none of them would enter first and that she would go ahead instead.

No CM candidates
The BJP is not planning to project any individual as prospective chief minister in the four states in which Assembly polls are due shortly, including Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir. Party chief Amit Shah feels that by not focusing on one person, the party can draw on the combined strength of several leaders with their diverse caste and regional loyalties. In Maharashtra, the understanding with the Shiv Sena alliance is that the CM will be chosen from whichever party manages to win more MLAs. In Haryana, the BJP believes that Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress is being overambitious in demanding half the 90 seats. The BJP wants to pare down the figure drastically. This has upset Bishnoi, who feels the BJP has become overconfident after the parliamentary elections.

The wooing game
The BJP may claim that it is ready for fresh polls in Delhi but, in fact, it is reluctant. BJP leaders are secretly trying to woo MLAs from the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress to the party. Getting four MLAs from the Congress to join the NDA is seen as an attainable target. The game plan could be for the Congress defectors to align with the Akali Dal, rather than join hands with the BJP directly.

Low expectations
Manmohan Singh did not think he would return as Prime Minister in 2009. This is disclosed by his daughter Daman Singh in her recent biography of her parents, Strictly Personal. The Congress ended up getting more seats in the 2009 polls as against 2004.

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    Shambhu Nath
    Aug 17, 2014 at 9:38 pm
    These things are bound to happen because most of the elected M.P's , except a handful, are, personality wise, intellectually and morally - midgets. Unless they come of to a certain level intellectually and morally, they will think they are schoolboys and have to rise before Headmaster Modi.
    Reply
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      KRISHNASWAMY VENKATASUBRAMANIA
      Aug 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm
      Ms.Kapoor,pl don't tell me you have not witnessed servile behaviour previously.That is our national trait.Do you know why?The power /the pomp/the salutes/last but not the least the money-these are things which can be enjo by simply standing up/bending down/touching feet/and thumping desks at appropriate times. It has no difference between parties-That is where our politicians show national integration
      Reply
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        Anu Prakash
        Aug 17, 2014 at 5:54 pm
        What a pointless article- bizarre that Indian Express would publish it in the first place. It should be led as "Blathering of an old hack"
        Reply
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          Anuradha Kalhan
          Aug 17, 2014 at 11:23 am
          Servile behavior towards those in power and greater positions combined with predatory behavior to those below suits the Indian sociology so well that any attempt to being in democracy of a genuine variety is doomed.Democracy is interpreted as a sign of 'weakness'! It will be a long and winding road to anything resembling equality, liberty and fraternity here. Mr Modi is a perfect fit, appropriate for our society as it exists.
          Reply
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            Gopal
            Aug 17, 2014 at 4:06 am
            Ms Kapoor, you are an expert on trivia!!
            Reply
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              Kejri Paltu
              Aug 17, 2014 at 8:30 am
              This lady Coomi Kapoor seems to miss mummy quite a lot ------------- she would any day prefer the golden days of UPA -- she is ok with the “Congress-life” of lethargy, poor customer service and corruption to continue. It is a way of life for these KhanChris stooge PRESSUTES
              Reply
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                Sitaram
                Aug 18, 2014 at 5:21 am
                Ms Coomi Kapoor fits the bill as a perfect rumor monger - I do not think her writings serve any constructive purpose whatsoever; except possibly for her ownself and may be that of the magazines that publish her writings for their 'gossip' fixes.
                Reply
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                  Suren Singh
                  Aug 17, 2014 at 10:38 pm
                  Another dimension of politics. Good reading
                  Reply
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