Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014

National Interest: Talk less

Modi, in fact, has to go a step further. His challenge is to change the mindset of a chronic opposition to the establishment. (Source: Express photo) Modi, in fact, has to go a step further. His challenge is to change the mindset of a chronic opposition to the establishment. (Source: Express photo)
Written by Shekhar Gupta | Posted: May 31, 2014 5:12 am | Updated: May 31, 2014 5:58 am

had consulted him, the elected chief minister of the state? An entirely untimely and unnecessary argument broke out on social media and TV channels and took away some shine from the first couple of days of the new government.

Before this little fire had been put out, the other meteorite flew in: sycophancy. Three BJP state governments, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, announced they were introducing chapters on the life of the new prime minister in their textbooks. Now, you’d agree that this is not unprecedented. That the “other” side has had its six decades of doctoring our textbooks, deifying the Dynasty, so why should you begrudge “this” side doing the same thing. It is just that it is very early days yet, the new prime minister has a job to do and school textbooks, like Article 370 and, going ahead, the uniform civil code and Ayodhya, are irresolvable, contentious ideological issues. And while the RSS may think they are at the top of its agenda, Modi was astute enough to not employ these in his campaign and would not even claim that he got this mandate to implement them, even if he may feel strongly on each issue. He is too shrewd to not be conscious that he has been elected prime minister of India and not the Sangh Parivar.

He has now done well to put out both fires. Senior ministers have calmed the Article 370 issue and Modi himself has forbidden his party’s states from inserting chapters on him in their textbooks. He has also done well to ask his ministers to avoid wasting time renaming the UPA’s schemes and focus on making them more efficient instead. The greatest blessing for a newly installed government is that it can pretty much own the headlines, at least for the first few weeks. You can’t have breathless indiscipline of this kind ruin them.

Modi, in fact, has to go a step further. His challenge is to change the mindset of a chronic opposition to the establishment. Whatever the view of the RSS, he has to hold a little tutorial on Article 370 for his cabinet colleagues, most of whom, you can be sure, haven’t even read those hundred-odd words. All Article 370 does is limit the Centre’s and Parliament’s immediate jurisdiction over J&K to issues specifically listed in the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh with Lord Mountbatten on October 26-27, 1947, merging his state with India under certain preconditions. An abrogation of Article 370, howsoever irritating you may find it today, implies repudiation of the Instrument of Accession. That’s why Omar Abdullah is essentially right when he says that if Article 370 is abolished, J&K will no longer be part of the Union. While he, as chief minister, needs to be more sensitive to the dangers of making such arguments in 140 characters that brook no nuance, he makes a solid constitutional point. What other principle will you use to keep Kashmir with India if not this instrument, based continued…

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