Narendra Modi has completed one year in office and traveled to more locations around the world than most Indians would in a lifetime. A robust foreign policy no doubt is a big plus of his tenure so far. Does India need a foreign minister with Modi at the helm, is one question?
Also, judging by his high pitched acche din electoral rhetoric prior to assuming power, India should have been heaven on earth by now. That was never possible. I am writing this piece sitting by the window of a swanky hotel that I frequently stay for work. Across the potholed road is a slum cluster where an army of kids, babies, pigs and piglets happily wallow in the filth and dirt. Pigs will be pigs, kids will be kids.
The view was the same a year back though the road has thankfully been repaired which has nothing to with Modi.
I believe the local residents took up the matter strongly with the authorities. Going by Modi’s cleverly worded electoral promises, the broader landscape from my hotel window should have also changed. It has not. And will probably not alter anytime soon, unless a mall or a hotel is built and the slum cluster demolished overnight. The pigs and the kids will find another unoccupied space to survive, die or play. Lets be realistic. India cannot change overnight or a Salman Khan blockbuster movie unexpectedly start making sense.
Many apprehensions about Modi have been proved untrue though it was a bit of a shocker when he turned out in an expensive monogrammed suit to meet Barack Obama.
Till then, most sartorial comments about Modi centred around his resplendent pugree’s, trademark half jacket and refusal to wear a skull cap. Modi is not a fascist, as some loudly feared, who would destroy Indian democracy and jail every leftist liberal that has dared to take him on from his or her cosy office in South Delhi. Judiciary, media, Parliament, CAG, defence forces, continue to play their role. Thankfully, pseudo secularism is dead for now and has not been substituted by hounding of minorities as some predicted; building the Ram temple at Ayodhya is not every Hindu’s, who may otherwise be starving, without a job or money, manna. Hindutva oddballs exist and spew their gibberish about state-orchestrated Ghar Wapasi or Love Jihad but are clearly unwanted.
There is instead a subtle and perhaps more acceptable emphasis on emblems of Hindu culture and traditions such as Yoga, Gita or Ayurveda. Baba Ramdev has never been so politically relevant, though it would be nicer if he stuck to just Yoga and promoting his popular Patanjali products.
Modi and his creative team’s clever play of catchwords and slogans persists: Swachh Bharat, Make in India, Nari Shakti, smart city, fastest train, to name some. Honestly, creating such consciousness does help change mindsets. Recently, my elder daughter, in class IX, spoke passionately about the practical measures that can be undertaken by individual households to make our neighbourhood clean. She is presenting a paper on it for a school debate. A healthy mix of ideas in a young mind can only be for the good. Too many events impinging imaginations are far removed from reality, such as Zayn Malik quitting the boy band One Direction or Taylor Swift’s latest hairdo.
Ultimately, Modi will be judged by his promise to deliver on development. The change has to be real and not a mishmash like Bombay Velvet that only satisfies the director Anurag Kashyap’s creative side, whatever that may mean. He needs to think of the paying audience as well. In the last one year, Modi has underlined his growth strategy — push infrastructure, cut down or target via direct cash transfers often wasteful welfarist expenditure, reform power, help business and hope that the resulting economic recovery benefits the people of India.
No doubt there is a sense of purpose in the government that wants to deliver, whether it is proposed tax reforms or land bill that balances interests of both industry and farmers.
Modi slogs and he makes sure others under him do too during holidays and weekends. Such is the work pressure that some bureaucrats, usually inclined towards honing golfing skills at Delhi Golf Club, have reportedly installed beds in their office. This can only be good for the country.
Consider also for a moment, Modi’s potential competitors — Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. The Delhi government headed by Kejriwal really needs to introspect and reassess its future course of action, rather than entangle in issues that are irrelevant, like a dog trying to bite its own tail. Gandhi disappeared on a holiday for two months. He has reappeared and looks refreshed, no doubt, but woefully inadequate to take on a wily, street-smart, driven, contender Modi. Holidays cannot make a person intelligent, working hard can.