India is hurting Prime Minister Modi by making sorry excuses for him

SS Dhawan
SS DhawanJun 26, 2017 | 12:27

India is hurting Prime Minister Modi by making sorry excuses for him

Modi the Pooh: Our surgical strikes were so successful, no country questioned them!

A little bird: Sure, we believe you, though one wonders why the world would keep quiet if hostilities escalate between two nuclear neighbours?

Modi the Pooh: There is not a single stain on my government!

A little bird: Sure, we never saw the lynching of 16-year-old Hafiz Junaid or his blood splattered body!


Modi the Pooh: I don't think any other leader has got so much love and respect as me!

A little bird: Actually, you are dripping with honey! One is what one eats... No wonder the world finds Gujaratis to be so sweet.

It is indeed remarkable: The "entire world is looking at us" and we keep making flimsy excuses for our underperforming prime minister; inventing ingenious alibis for the political and economic inertia; feigning that all is well - hubris has become a national malady.

Only a psychologist will be able to say whether or not this is on account of a lurking subconscious desire to save our prime minister the blushes — perhaps we don't want others to think poorly of us as a nation.

Curiously, the more guilty or ashamed we are the more excuses — 7,000 of them, at last count — we tend to make. It is also contagious: others pick up our excuses as if it were a common cold and transmit them to others.

Let us see how we have indulged PM Modi and allowed the political blather and grandstanding to become a substitute for actual governance:


In the first year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was full of himself: And why not? He had a resounding mandate, he had given the Congress a bloody nose, and for the first time since 1984 there was a single party majoritarian rule at the Centre.

Occasionally, the distinction between politics and entertiainment got blurred.

No one could deny him the moment of triumph and secular India allowed itself a flicker of a smile as its prime minister was greeted with the chant of "Har Har Modi, Ghar, Ghar Modi".

Of course, some of us were not exactly salivating at the prospect of seeing him in the PM's chair — but that was our personal angst. We hid it behind our secular smirk!

One thing was invigorating — Modi had the capacity and the disposition to connect with the masses; he was talking in an idiom that we understood, and he seemed to be on our side of the social divide.

We honestly did not mind the theatrics and the personalised style of politics, especially since it was quite a relief from the wooden Manmohan Singh.

So, when he promised a dynamic, fast-paced and a result-oriented administration, we readily believed him. So, when he pledged to turn India into a knowledge-based, innovative and technology driven society, we felt elevated.


Occasionally, the distinction between politics and entertiainment got blurred, especially in NRI jamborees, but if the PM wanted to harness his goodwill abroad for domestic growth — for building high-speed railways and other infrastructure — it was fine with us.

Of course, PM Modi should not have sneered at his predecessor on foreign soil, but we concluded it was a hangover of the general election. Though it did rankle somewhat when he reminded the diaspora of their "shameful" karma in the past. But, never mind the histrionics.

Soon, the PM was sharing with us his vision of a great Bharat — swachch, digital, smart, indigenous, housing for all — a sneak preview of the "achche din" that were "just around the chowk".

He also kept reminding us that all this was happening in India for the first time — the dawn of a new beginning. We believed the fable because we had little choice and badly wanted to consummate our political dream.

The first digression came when mothballed UPA schemes were dusted, tweaked, dressed up and relaunched. In fact, some of these — the Insurance Bill and the GST, at least — had been stonewalled by the BJP in the UPA dispensation.

All this was just a mock drill for what was to follow: the dressing up of the GDP figures by changing the accounting practices. But if that was going to put the oomph back into the Sensex and boost the economic indicators, we did not mind a little fudging... We decided to wait for investor's animal passions to be unleashed.

Sure, this was not exactly an honest beginning, especially for those of us waiting for a new development paradigm, but one has to wink at such aberrations.

The Land Acquisition law was stillborn; labour reforms were not forthcoming and projects in states were not taking off but we had a handy excuse — the lack of consensus among the states and the fossilised system which did not give the government much room for manoeuvre.

The distress of the farmer was apparent, but we were told these were the birth pangs of the new market oriented approach towards agriculture, which would give us a good harvest in the long run. The pangs still continue, occasionally turning into death throes.

The BJP, which is extremely adept at speaking in multiple voices, very much like a ventriloquist's dummy, kept hopping like a chameleon from development to Hindutva and then back and forth. We pretended not to hear the "Ramzada-Haramzada" abuse, we shrugged off the call to spurious nationalism, we looked away from the growing cult of violence — we did not see the blood-soaked body of Hafiz Junaid.

There were other surprises: No one, for instance, considered Modi an economic recluse: yet he was treading on eggshells, refusing to usher in the GenNext reforms; perhaps it had something to do with BJP's poor housekeeping, the fact that it was not calling the shots in the Rajya Sabha. We were ready to bear with that; in any case these were early days.

Of course, all this while we were nagged by doubts about the greenhorns in Modi's team, but since the prime minister himself seemed to be keeping a tab on his brood, we were ready to look the other way.

Yes, it did strike some political observers that running the Vajpayee government must not have been easy, too, especially with coalition partners sniping at its heels all the time. But most of us were not yet inclined to see this in terms of dissatisfaction with Modi and his team, per se.

PM Modi, meanwhile, was clocking international miles: initially it was a welcome spotlight on immediate neighbourhood but some of us were left wondering why it took him to distant Mongolia! Possibly, the "look east" policy got the better of the prime minister, or maybe he just lost his way.

Also, closer home Nepal, was annoyed with us for treading on their corns; we were almost hustled out of Kathmandu after the quake overreach. Unwittingly, we also managed to nudge Nepal into China's embrace. But a "Big Brother" has to take things in his stride, so we let it go.

We also failed to board the NSG bus at Seoul because the US, our strategic defence partner, was not inclined to flag it off in Beijing. But then we lulled ourselves into believing: there are limits to personal rapport with global pals, these jobs were better left to professionals.

Nothing came out of the strategic defence hug Obama gave Modi either, except that the US joins us in war games every now and then; also we get to play footsie in the South China Sea. The rest is business as usual —but that is the way the Americans want it. We are still convinced that "there is a new symphony in play".

The flamboyance at Red Fort and the politically loaded Baluchistan gambit did not change the dynamics of Pakistan's foreign policy; nor did the surgical strike help change the narrative of strategic restraint. Experts recounted that Indira had never gloated over the 1971 war, Rajiv never boasted he had fixed the LTTE, Vajpayee made sure LOC was not breached during Kargil; even then if Modi wanted to take credit for destroying some bunkers and green foliage, it was fine with us. In any case, most of us were sick and tired of Pakistan.

During the much-hyped demonetisation, we took vicarious pleasure in the discomfort of the rich and hoped Robin Hood Modi will equitably share the loot; rather, the unorganised sector and the marginal farmer felt the pinch.

As the government changed the goalposts in a cash strapped economy faster than the rich change their underpants, we took refuge in a truism: One possibly can't mop the floor with the tap on.

The GST might prove to be another elephant in the room that may get stuck in the doorway; to the uninitiated it is already looking like another of those intricate yoga knots customised for a domestic audience on the World Yoga Day.

These days we hardly get to see the prime minister: we miss his eloquent self, too. We can hear only saffron voices; from all accounts "Virat Modi" has retired to the dressing room and asked the "coach RSS" to pad up for the slog overs in the run up to the next general election.

Suddenly, PM Modi seems to be away in a distant land, he is no longer speaking our idiom, he is no longer on our side of the social divide... He is as wooden as MMS!

Walking the walk is one thing, but it is so much more powerful if you can talk it as well. —Robin Hoyle


Last updated: June 26, 2017 | 12:51
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