Fifth column: Dangerous Smugness

It is true that some ministers have done reasonably well but not a single one of them so well as to explain the smugness that has settled over the Modi government.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: June 11, 2017 6:25 pm
Rahul Gandhi, Mandsaur, Mandsaur rahul gandhi, farmer killed, police killed farmers, UP farmers, UP far,er killed, modi, indian express, opinion New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks for a Cabinet meeting at Parliament Library in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh (PTI3_15_2017_000324B)

Last week we saw Rahul Gandhi back in action man mode. He used different forms of transport to get to Mandsaur to show his sympathy with the families of the six farmers killed in police firing. Breathless reporters followed in his wake to report that he ‘ditched’ his car, walked several kilometres, and rode pillion on a motorcycle to shake off the police. He proved that three years in Opposition have changed him not one bit. He still loves adventure field trips and still accuses Narendra Modi of being the Prime Minister of rich Indians and the enemy of the poor.

Was it rich Indians who won him Uttar Pradesh? If Modi’s support came only from his ‘fifty rich friends’, a Pew survey released last week would not have found that 83 per cent of Indians are optimistic about the economic situation. Who is advising the Congress party’s future president? Who is filling his head with stupidities? I have little sympathy for the Congress party but ask these questions out of real concern, because India has never more desperately needed a strong opposition party.

On account of its absence, a dangerous smugness has settled over the Modi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party in recent months. This season of smugness began with the spectacular victory in Uttar Pradesh. In my ever humble opinion it was because of this smugness that it was so easy to impose Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister even if the vote was for change and development. The new Chief Minister of our most populous state has shown that his priorities are closing down the meat industry and unleashing his policemen on young lovers through anti-Romeo squads. If he had first cleaned up corruption in the police force these measures may have served to achieve whatever goals he has in mind, but so far they have led only to more corruption. India Today reporters recently recorded policemen admitting that they are using their new powers to make money by making false arrests.

Has the Prime Minister noticed that his handpicked chief minister has moved firmly away from his promised goals of ‘parivartan’ and ‘vikas’? Has he noticed that ministers in his own Cabinet have delivered neither change nor development of any kind in the past three years? They have no reason at all to be smug but they are so smug that an encounter with almost any of them leaves me personally feeling that nothing has changed since the Sonia-Manmohan government lost power.

Like Congress ministers they flaunt their VIP status wherever they go and the sad truth is that unlike Congress ministers they are more insufferable because they are new to power. So they revel quite shamelessly in their newfound place in the world and strut about as if they were masters of the universe. Most of these ministers have done no more than continue with bad policies made by their predecessors. So even such a futile and retrograde law as the Right to Education remains in place despite it being painfully obvious that all it has achieved is to allow officials to interfere in the running of private schools without doing anything to improve government schools.

It is true that some ministers have done reasonably well but not a single one of them so well as to explain the smugness that has settled over the government. It is a self-satisfaction so pervasive that it overwhelms me every time I walk into a government office. In countries where officialdom has been downsized ministers do not surround themselves with armies of secretaries, peons and servants. Nor do they travel in cavalcades or live at taxpayers expense in houses so large that the only other Indians who can afford to live in such style are a handful of billionaires. The reason why these things must change is because they inevitably induce smugness and complacency.

It is true that the Prime Minister’s personal popularity remains undiminished but for this he owes much to our opposition leaders who look truly dismal and bereft of new ideas. Rahul Gandhi is today the most important opposition leader and he is still saying exactly the sort of things that brought our oldest political party down to its lowest ebb ever. His speeches sound as if they were written for the 2014 general election. Has he not noticed any mistakes made by the Modi government that could become issues that require more than field trips to Mandsaur and Saharanpur?

It has to be sadly admitted that it is because of the opposition parties looking so bad that the Modi government is able to show such complacency about its future. But it is worth remembering that for people who reach the pinnacle of political power, there is nothing more dangerous than smugness. It always distorts reality and it always leads to preventing real change.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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    Moby Nastro
    Jun 18, 2017 at 5:12 pm
    You never know. Ruled by priests or ruled by a low IQ dynast. One flip by in bent gone wrong and we have the latter. We're headed for disaster either ways.
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      Sachchidanand Paradkar
      Jun 18, 2017 at 9:14 am
      Tavleen, you appear to be biased against Yogi Adityanath..I have read reports that Yogi is actually delivering much more than planned! Govt offices look more clean, less corrupt, working faster for Aam Janata , without any discrimination .. Crimes are getting registered easily, being investigated showing better monitoring than before.. Power cuts are less, power theft has reduced..As to what he does for Hindutva is his typical style..Do not get carried away by that..He needs to pamper his Vote Bank without doubt.. And this is just the beginning! Give Yogi 2 years more then assess him
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        Yograj singh
        Jun 13, 2017 at 6:02 am
        All the Ministers of Modi have used their entire energy in praising Modi Sarkar .WHAT MORE YOU NEED FROM THEM.?
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          Ash
          Jun 12, 2017 at 10:57 pm
          The pew report took some 3000 interviews from a 120 Cr population to come to the conclusion that 83 favoured Modi.I think this is really extrapolating into the stratosphere and result is shear junk the last election only about 65 voted.The BJP won the election by just getting approx 35 of the vote.Which means that BJP only got about 22 votes from the people on the voter lists.That's 1in 5.Nowhere close to the 82 bantered about.Nobody has questioned BJP for the expenses they incurred in 2014.Modi is rumoured to have travelled across India a distance equal to going rount the world 5 times.Wasn't that courtesy of big Corporates who had a big hand in promoting BJP.Yes ,Rahul does have more ammunition being provided by BJP themselves and he should use their multiple mistakes for his speeches.
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            Sachchidanand Paradkar
            Jun 18, 2017 at 9:25 am
            I can clearly see jealousy ! जलनेकी बु आ रही है! If Modi traversed the Globe, as u appear to be simply jealous, look at RESULTS..His visits have yielded so much that i cannot count..His detractors predecessors also acknowledge the fact that it is Modi who has placed India at such exalted place in the Comity of Nations.. If u have missed it, FDI alone doubled due to Modi charishma amongst Developed countries.. Earlier, India was readily criticised for Military actions in Kashmir ..Do u hear any such reactin today ? Since Cost-Benefit ratio is so favourable with Modi, as compared to UPA regime, I as a Taxpayer would not mind Modi travelling abroad..!!!
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            shyam balu
            Jun 12, 2017 at 2:54 pm
            Where were these journalist before the new regime when every month new scams are revealed and the next month forgotton when the new ones pitched in. Every day is a news against the Govt. UP needed a change from the familial politics. India needed an change from the familial politics . Both Raped the country for a long time and people realised and voted and it's majority voted. Let's atleast respect the majority as it's a democratic country first. When people waited for over 50 years for a change, the. It's worth waiting for another 5 more years. Atleast not heard about scams till date. Demonotoraation patd well with millions of new tax payers registered their entry and old contributed their quotas. Strengthening defence and motivating solidires pa well. All the foreign visit had a clear agenda for future growth. The policies of Govt to enhance the poor is widerly accepted. Overall we are proud that we have a PM with confidence to change for a betterment, so is what the NRIs believe
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              Lavanya
              Jun 12, 2017 at 1:38 pm
              When Nehru became PM, his cabinet had no prior ru experience. Experience and governance are not linked. So inexperience of some ministers is not a black mark. If you have specific information on who is behaving rudely - why don't you name them? If ministers are having peons servants more than their allotted numbers - list them out. You can't just broadly give statements about the ru party. For all I know, many staffers have been downsized in Modi regime. What abt the vast number of bodyguards that even the son in law of the leader of opposition gets to keep ? Have you considered ever writing about them? If more than 80 percent people are optimistic about Modi Government - surely something is happening right!By articles like these u r losing ur credibility if you don't want to wither into ignominy- pls give sensible news. Just coz Rahul gimmicks don't work anymore and he is trolled for his histrionics you don't have to bash the govt unnecesarily.
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                Sukesh Sood
                Jun 12, 2017 at 1:16 pm
                My sincere gra ude to Sh.Arun Shourie Sh. Fali Nariman for explaining republic of India we are under rule of "Desi Hitler"
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                  Sukesh Sood
                  Jun 12, 2017 at 1:09 pm
                  Prime Minister benefiting cronies like Reliance, be foo poor's pic pocketing middle cl by taxing "3 साल बेमिसाल, मिडल क्लास का ज़बरन आर्थिक बलात्कार", From 16-06-17 be ready for triple financial rape in single short at all petrol pumps across India, 1.Adultrated fuel, 2.short quan ies per litre 3.price fluctuation will lead to cheating at large scale
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