Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
A file image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
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Narendra Modi’s ministers make headlines for everything but their ministries.

Think of one passion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his ministers, BJP colleagues, governors and the military brass have commonly pursued in the past four-and-a-half years.

No prize for guessing. It’s a passion for headline-hunting. Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik is only the latest to join the game. First, he suggested that the Centre had plotted to install BJP-backed Sajad Lone government, and then he went public about the ‘threat of transfer’ (to another Raj Bhawan) he faced purportedly for dissolving the state assembly.

He should take a few tips from his Meghalaya counterpart, Tathagata Roy, on how to stay in the game. Roy’s Twitter profile @tathagata2 says a lot about his priorities: “Right-wing Hindu socio-political thinker, writer, ideologue. Also Governor, Meghalaya.” He frequently made national headlines as Tripura governor, questioning the “silence of the ‘secular’ crowd over noise pollution by Azaan” and calling Rohingyas “garbage”.

Shifted to the Raj Bhawan in Shillong in August, he has managed to remain in news. “10th anniversary today of the Paki-sponsored slaughter of innocents (except Muslims) at Mumbai, popularly called 26/11…,” Roy said in a tweet 26 November. Following a storm on social media, he deleted it, saying that it “contained a factual mistake”. But he has continued to retweet provocative posts about “Paki Muslim terrorists”.


Also read: Under Narendra Modi, India is in danger of joining the ranks of data manipulators


But why blame only governors? Most of them were non-entities in public sphere until Narendra Modi got them a place in the sun.

His ministers have been in the news for everything other than their work in the ministries. Ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Giriraj Singh had said that those who opposed Modi had their place in Pakistan and not in India. He was rewarded with a ministerial berth. He hasn’t stopped since then, leaving no opportunity to stoke controversies, the latest being his description of Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband as a “temple of terrorism”. By the way, if you don’t know – and most of us may not –

Singh happens to be the minister of state (independent charge) for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), a critical sector still lumbering under the impact of demonetisation. But his priorities are different.

Smriti Irani, last heard, was talking about her ‘gotra’ and her ‘sindoor’ as a testimony of her being a “practising Hindu” and about Rahul Gandhi sending “Israeli bananas (plants)” to Amethi. She is the minister of textiles, another demonetisation-hit sector beckoning for attention. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi hit the headlines targeting her own party minister in Maharashtra for the killing of tigress Avni, much to the dismay of union minister of environment, forest and climate change, Dr Harsh Vardhan.

To be fair, these ministers may be right if they feel wronged for being named when most of their colleagues in the government are doing no better.

But it’s not just the ministers and the governors.


Also read: Narendra Modi has an NPA problem of another kind: BJP chief ministers


Army chief Bipin Rawat has been making headlines, saying that Kartarpur initiative should be seen “in isolation” (and not be linked with the resumption of talks), accusing “some organisations” (read political parties) of amalgamating illegal immigrants (read Bangladeshis) and saying that there is no problem in drone strikes along the Line of Control (LoC) if the country is ready to accept “collateral damage”. When was the last time the country had such an outspoken army chief?

We see the unusual spectacle of top CBI officers, the least-noticed entities in the Reserve Bank of India, and even the country’s statistics bureau getting embroiled in political rows. If you are a part of the ruling establishment today, you can say anything and get away with it. Could one ever think of a ruling party’s national spokesperson – in this case, BJP’s Sambit Patra – threatening a political rival – a leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) – in a TV debate to “sit down or else I will rename a mosque after (Lord) Vishnu”?


Also read: Their Master’s Voice: Vala joins long list of governors who toed the Delhi political line


Over the past 53 months, spin masters have told us repeatedly how Narendra Modi took the motormouths in his party and the government to task for speaking ‘out of turn’. Really? Why would ministers and party leaders, including Amit Shah, keep stoking controversies with their remarks even after Modi’s alleged rebuke? There can be only two inferences: Either Modi didn’t mean it or his party colleagues know it was perfunctory. Or, may be, they have reasons to think that he means just the opposite of what he says.

But, either way, it ends up undermining Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister who once sought to give a semblance of being in control of his ministers, his government or the institutions that his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, supposedly lost hold of. How could a ‘strong’ leader, who people reposed their faith in and replaced a ‘weak’ prime minister with, lose control?

By default or design, Modi seems to be letting his followers or his ardent supporters in the government and the party to build the narrative for him. But it has now come to a stage when a sense of disintegration, disharmony and chaos in every sphere – politics, governance, judiciary, and even the private sector – is hurting his public persona.

Narendra Modi is a poet too. Therefore, he may probably remember The Second Coming of W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Incidentally, Yeats composed it in 1919, exactly a century before Modi seeks a renewed mandate in India.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Quoting another line from W.B. Yeats: “..a waste of breath the years ahead, a waste of breath the years behind..” I do not know if Mr Modi will learn any lessons in “years ahead”, but his “years behind” as the PM have surely been a waste. More than recklessness, an insensitivity was apparent in his first major decision, the demonetization. Didn’t he have even the basic imagination to realize how very badly our poor workers and businesses will be affected by it, who earned or paid in cash? Had he landed from the moon? What was that yarn about black money? If he had any sincerity to go after it, what had he done with the Panama Papers? Or what has he done about them even till date? He sends his officers after his political rivals; if Lalu Yadav was corrupt, then why didn’t he also have a look at the Badals and Ram Vilas Paswan of this world?

    Mr Modi was only driven by ego and arrogance which came under full glare of everyone when GST was announced. It was announced at midnight in the parliament, and entire parliament was decorated with lights like it was on the night of India’s Independence. The event was touted as the country’s economic independence, whatever that meant. Mr Modi was as if in a hurry to show it off to the world. GST’s success can be gauged from the fact that he doesn’t even mention it now in any of his election speeches.

    If the above two decisions can be ascribed to arrogance, his latest big decision, Rafale, even casts aspersions on Mr Modi’s sense of responsibility. Whatever happened to BHARAT MATA’s security? What 128 aircraft could defend, will 36 be able to defend? A lot has been said on the subject of Rafale. I will again ask only two humble questions to Mr Modi:

    1) even if Anil Ambani was chosen by Dassault, why did Mr Modi NOT VETO that choice?
    2) if Anil Ambani was only one of the 30 partners chosen by Dassault, who are the remaining 29? Is there an L&T, or Tatas or Mahindras in that list who can undertake such big ticket make in India project?

    Then, the question of 1000 crores extra per plane is still not answered. Is Mr Modi at all serious about this country, or does he believe that shouting Vande Matram and Bharat Mata ki jai is enough?

  2. Better use could be made of the few effective ministers – Smt Sushma Swaraj was possibly the only foreign minister not present at the G 20 summit in Buenos Aires.

  3. This were you end when your world of political analysis get reduced to twitter timeline analysis…..substandard even from the print yardstick

  4. Not justifying the deeds of Modi ministers but the context and norms of politics have been totally changed in India. When everyone else is doing it, how can we only call BJP at fault. Your sample selections are skewed. When did last time we heard that Rahul Gandhi visiting temples ? Why such need now ? think more than anyone else, we Indians are responsible for such mess. We shouldn’t tolerate bad things of any political party.

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