Fifth column: Hope in the New Year?

Every one of our political leaders must share the blame, and they would do well to spend this first Sunday of 2016 reflecting on how much their behaviour harmed the interests of the people who elected them.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:January 3, 2016 12:45 am
parliament, rajya sabha, lok sabha, narendra modi, narendra modi govt, arvind kejriwal, kejriwal psychopath remark, hindutva, fifth column, indian express column The Opposition parties used Parliament to raise issues that will not even be footnotes in history.

This is the first column of a new year so it is impossible not to begin by writing about the impressions left by the one just gone. And the main impression is of meaningless noise. As if India’s most important political leaders combined to ensure that history would record 2015 as a wasted year. Every one of our political leaders must share the blame, and they would do well to spend this first Sunday of 2016 reflecting on how much their behaviour harmed the interests of the people who elected them.

The Opposition parties used Parliament to raise issues that will not even be footnotes in history. When they were not blocking legislation in the Rajya Sabha, they were in the Well of the Lok Sabha demanding that some minister or chief minister resign over ‘scandals’. One of the achievements of the Modi government so far is that no senior minister has hanging over him (or her) charges of corruption, so other charges had to be manufactured. The lowest point came when the Chief Minister of Delhi called the Prime Minister a ‘psychopath’. Not once in all the noise and fury did we hear sane voices debating issues of real importance to the people of India. No matter how shameful the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq was, it cannot be blamed on ‘growing intolerance’. Nor can the murders of the three rationalists. Compared to years in which thousands of Muslims and Sikhs have been massacred in pogroms, or the year in which more than 3,00,000 Hindus were ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley, 2015 will be remembered by historians as remarkably peaceful.

The Opposition parties cannot alone be blamed for diverting attention from real issues. The Prime Minister must accept personal responsibility for allowing his government’s image to be tarnished. Had he stopped Hindutva fanatics in his Cabinet when they first made ugly hate speeches, there may have been no ‘growing intolerance’ debate at all. Not only did he choose, to his own detriment, to remain silent, he also chose to not make any effort at all to engage with the award-returning writers and intellectuals. It was a false protest and had he attempted to stop it in its early stages, India’s image may have suffered less. Instead while the world pondered over ways to deal with the horrors perpetrated by the Caliphate, the Indian public square remained obsessed with so-called Hindu intolerance.

So in 2016 much needs to change. The Prime Minister must show more leadership in India than he has so far done.

On his foreign travels he has told adoring NRI audiences of how much he is doing to make India a better country by creating more jobs, building better infrastructure, improving our appalling standards of healthcare, education and public hygiene. But in India he has chosen to remain silent on these subjects. His monologue on Mann ki Baat has not once been used to explain even simple things like why reforms are needed in almost every area of governance.

It has now become clear that the Prime Minister is more reformer than liberaliser. This is not my assessment but that of the economist Larry Summers who was in Delhi last month. What this means is that he believes in the state more than he does in markets and free enterprise and this could be one reason why he has done nothing to help the private sector climb out of the pit in which it was pushed by the policies of the last government. High officials continue to treat big businessmen as if they were criminals who borrowed too heavily from banks and so are responsible for their own problems. This is hardly talk that will revive private investment.

The Prime Minister appears not to have noticed that unless private investment picks up the economy will not either.

It is stupid to continue with the delusion that FDI (foreign direct investment) is the solution, it is not. It may have doubled in 2015, but this made almost no difference to the moribund job market. We can only hope that early in 2016 the Prime Minister becomes aware that his government has not been able to do anything to create the one million jobs a month that India needs.

We can only hope in this first week of a New Year that things change dramatically in 2016 in almost every sphere of governance, politics and the economy. Of 2015, it has to be sadly said that a dangerous complacency settled over the corridors of power on Raisina Hill and in the fine ministerial bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi. Complacency is more dangerous for governments than almost anything else. For the Modi government it is even more dangerous because he won a full mandate for ‘parivartan’. Change is what we saw too little of in 2015.

@ tavleen_singh

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  1. मनीष
    Jan 3, 2016 at 5:01 am
    Every time when India is terrorized by stanis, Indian Muslims have provided support to those stani terrorists. Enough is enough. Excluding the SICKulars, any Indian who wants to contribute to the war against terrorism in India, should stop buying things made in an Islamic country and stop doing business with a Muzzie owned store/business. You have to act!
    1. P
      Jan 3, 2016 at 9:32 am
      There are specific cases against them. I have no cure against your ignorance, neither can I educate you
      1. R
        Rajeev K
        Jan 3, 2016 at 6:08 am
        I think Narendar Modi is victim of bad media managment and arrogance in his ministers. Narendra Modi governance, development and removal of corruption is not highlighted in day to day media as there is no media advisor to prime minister. As there is nothing from Modi media prefers to cover likes of Rahul hi and Arvind Kejriwal and show there nonsense to get TRP. Narendar modi initiatives like swach bharat are not embraced by his own ministers except suresh prabhu in railways. Jan dhan yojana and beto padao beti bachaon was launched well however no measures were taken to check performance of these schemes and I have not seen Modi ministers talking on these in there rare appearances on Media and Social Media. All Modi ministers with few exceptions stay in there silos and prefer to do effectively there job as Ministers and go home. They are public figures whom public is looking at and they are not looking at them as effective Babus. Also, these ministers will never acknowledge your suggestion on Social Media and not connected with Public in any form. All the above symptoms were there in Atal Bihari vajpayee government as well who realizes after 4.5 years that they have done great job and started India shining campaign however it was too late to go back to oublic with there credentials!
        1. K
          K SHESHU
          Jan 3, 2016 at 7:08 am
          The previous year saw diversions from real issues of poverty and unemployment. This year,if these important issues are atleast addressed to some extent, that would be an achievement in itself. Let us hope politicians would heed to this.
        2. M
          Jan 3, 2016 at 10:59 am
          Help create local jobs, buy a local diary, also available in any Indic languages. A good example of Macaulayism otherwise
          1. M
            Jan 3, 2016 at 11:44 am
            Same Summers who said banks/insurers not to blame for 2008 financial crises. Leading upto it, he opposed their regulation. That governent bail-out money s nw 'private capital' that same money you feel we should fall over ourselves to take from these crooks, how do you thnk it ends. Reforms are the way forward. He was also at odds with Ragahavan of RBI fame n the issue f financial sector regulation, I know who I trust. The trouble is the Indian Express seems to pay for such poorly crafted 'opinion pieces', over time is is destroying the papers credability. The paper should not let grumpy old men or women vent every week or at least make sure these have taken their meds before putting ink to paper.
            1. A
              Jan 3, 2016 at 8:12 am
              You blog is not in line with the interview that you have reported with finance minister. So I feel like many indian you are also getting frustrated with PM why he is not exposing the condition which he had inherited. You are also look to me frustrate PM about iintolerance issue. I differ from you on second probably he took the right step not to get involved in it directly otherwise things become more devise, in my view this was a ploy. Lastly if you observe PM from his home state he is a reformer any it is better to be reformer followed by librization otherwise like Narsima rao time all curption lead to hydrabad it would have been some other city. You should ask what media has done? Change the development aa to intolerance during Bihar election. No pritime discussion on GST. SO suggestion no positive approach. One aa somehow discredit the govt create doubt in the mind of people.
              1. A
                Jan 3, 2016 at 6:38 pm
                Tavleen Singh is sounding a bit hysterical here. I thought I would never say this of a writer whose articles have been highly inspiring and informative. Anyway, one point is very valid that Modi needs to share and publicise his achievements and successes as a PM with the people of India. Expecting 'work to speak for itself' is all good but not really enough when the likes of Pappu and Kejriwal (the Sambhavan Seth and Poonam Pandey of Indian politics) are bent upon creating panic and havoc at every little thing. Modi needs to get media savvy and manage the nuisance of frustrated opposition parties.
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