After giving Narendra Modi a magnificent second chance to save India, the gods seem to have given up on him. There was a time not long ago when he was so bestowed with divine blessings that whatever he did seemed to work well for him. Even when he made reckless decisions like invalidating nearly all our currency overnight. But, since he was given his second chance just two months ago it is as if nothing he does is working well for him. Was it his Budget that began it all?
Perhaps. Everyone who wants India to become a country whose economy soars to new heights put all their hopes on this particular Budget. Personally, I have been hoping for the past five years that he would come up with at least one Budget that would be as dramatic and courageous as that one in the early Nineties that closed down the wicked licence raj. Not only has there never been such a Budget from Modi, but he seems to view with suspicion and malevolence the men who have created some of the finest companies in the world. So last week they were told that they could be fined and jailed if they defaulted on their corporate social responsibility. Forcing them to set aside funds for compulsory charity was one of Sonia Gandhi’s worst ideas.
It should have been tossed in the garbage bin by Modi and he should instead have appealed to big business to help him serve India by contributing to his big plans like Swachh Bharat and the new Jal Shakti mission. There is still time. Stop threatening them with jail and they could become the most useful partners in the mission to give every Indian access to clean and reliable supplies of water by 2024.
Stop the campaign of tax terrorism that recently drove one of India’s finest entrepreneurs to take his own life, and you could see a new mood among businessmen. The step most urgently needed is for the Prime Minister to stop treating businessmen as if they were pariahs. It is because of severely restricted access that ugly rumours are spreading about how the Prime Minister gives help to only a privileged handful. Talk of oligarchs has begun.
On the political front, the BJP’s image of being a ‘party with a difference’ has been badly damaged. This is because of the way Kuldeep Singh Sengar was handled. He should have been expelled a year ago when the child who accuses him of rape tried to kill herself in front of the Chief Minister’s residence in Lucknow. He should have been expelled before he managed, despite being in jail, to intimidate and probably kill the victim’s family and possible witnesses. This is normal in rural and small-town India where violent thugs control law enforcement. What should not be normal is for said violent thugs to be honourable members of the BJP. The Prime Minister will find it hard to continue lecturing India about values and morality in his Mann ki Baat if he is seen to be sheltering rapists and other criminals in his fold.
This is just the domestic proof of the gods having retracted their grace from the man to whom they have given so much. Beyond our borders things do not look that good either. Imran Khan seems to have made a good enough impression on the leader of the free world for him to suddenly declare that Pakistan has changed. It now has a new leader, ‘a great athlete’, who will change it from being the ‘subversive’, ‘deceitful’ country it was before Imran.
So the United States will once more shower billions of dollars on the Islamic Republic next door. And, our hope that Pakistan will stop exporting jihadists to India because of being broke will die. We know that Donald Trump is not just impressed with Imran’s athleticism and good looks. We know that it is because he needs his help to end America’s unending, hopeless war in Afghanistan that Imran was so feted, but we also know that this renewed friendship hurts us directly. Imran is probably the first Pakistani Prime Minister to have got an American President to declare publicly that America is ready to mediate in Kashmir.
This brings me to another area in which the Prime Minister appears to have not had much luck or divine intervention. On account of reckless chatter in Delhi and large numbers of troops moving to the Valley, there are rumours in Srinagar that the special status of Kashmir is on the verge of being ended. They have reason for concern because this is something that the BJP believes should be done, but Modi would be wise not to do this so soon in his second term. If only because the gods no longer seem to be on his side.
This article appeared in print under the headline ‘Modi’s aura shrinks’. Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh