Faking News alleges that the government’s first initiative is not the still-vague 10-point plan but a project to dot the landscape with politics deaddiction centres. Indeed, is there any point in even trying to keep up when Smriti Irani’s Wikipedia page listed her as HRD minister even as she was taking the oath of office on Lok Sabha TV? And NDTV is now predicting a cabinet expansion within weeks. Within weeks of the media celebrating a compact cabinet.
Other government initiatives include a six-point Ganga action plan, whose most interesting proposal is to use it as a commercial waterway from Uttar Pradesh to Kolkata. Mrs Gandhi had an even more stirring plan to interlink all of India’s watercourses for surface transport, starting with the great rivers. That was in the ’70s. Right, we’ll stop being cynical now.
NewsX offered a ready reckoner of all of this week’s plans. Most tantalising was the proposal to review the security cover and privileges granted to Robert Vadra. Just a week in office and they start announcing crowd-pleasing decisions. Imagine.
But what could move hearts and minds more forcefully than the idea of bringing back black money? Only bringing back kidnapped babies from barbarian shores could offer more satisfaction, and fortunately there aren’t any. Times Now has been in hot pursuit of this story since way back when. When black money was the only emotive issue that the BJP could offer the electorate.
Arnab Goswami found it ironic that the last thing that Manhoman Singh and Sonia Gandhi (names named) had wanted had become the first item on the BJP government’s agenda. Sanjay Jha tried to steal his retributive thunder: the government’s hand was forced by the Supreme Court, so no credit to them, but it was a case of judicial overreach so, so… So we were headed for one of those poorly illuminated, mazily confusing places that Sanjay Jha flourishes in. And Arnab Goswami was well within his rights to scream, “Oh, my God!”
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But gentle reader, do put yourself in the shoes of the black money-wallah, who has allegedly salted away $1.5 trillion. Would you stash it in a European bank where a return of 3 per cent looks fantastic, or in an Indian real estate project where 25 per cent is boring? When shall we see a programme on black money which asks why it must be recovered dramatically from foreign shores, when most of it is obviously here in India?
Even before the government has begun to function, the electronic media is amplifying issues and putting them in its face, just as it had done for the last government. The complex issue of Article 370 is being settled in TV studios, where the decibel level has been so high that Karan Singh sent out an anguished cease and desist letter. And the controversy over Smriti Irani’s academic qualifications began to mean many things to many people. There is only one logical question here: did she fib? And if so, only one speculative question follows: how will she justify it? But the TV debate wandered into irrelevant issues, such as: is education classist? And, why do so few MPs understand game theory or the Lusiads?
They could have taken the opposite tack and asked: why is it so easy for Indians, even middle class Indians, to elude a formal education? As for Irani, you only had to see her perform in the 21st anniversary show of Aap ki Adalat a couple of months ago, where she spoke unsentimentally of her middle class origins, to appreciate why education may not have been a central concern of her early life, and why it may not matter.