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No longer Pappu, he has NaMo to thank!

August 27, 2015 11:50 IST

'Manmohan Singh was blamed for administrative paralysis, but if you speak to any senior bureaucrat today, they are very bitter and say that files do not move. I am told that more than a thousand files are awaiting clearance.'

Narendra Modi's errors have given Rahul Gandhi a new lease of life, argues Ashutosh.

IMAGE: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi with a physically challenged person after presenting him a scooter in New Delhi. Photograph: PTI Photo

I am no fan of Winston Churchill, but there is no denying that he had a very sharp political brain. What he said long ago -- that a week is a long time in politics -- is still relevant and probably the most quoted statement currently.

Last year this time India was going gaga over Narendra Modi while Rahul Gandhi was nowhere in the picture. The gossip in political corridors was that only Priyanka Gandhi could save the Congress from extinction. Even within the Congress there was a clamour for a change of leadership. Replacing Rahul with Priyanka was the war cry among Congressmen and women.

A year down the line, how the scenario has changed!

Priyanka is not at all visible while Rahul is in full battle mode. He is no longer the 'Pappu' he was painted to be by Modi bhakts on social media and by a section of the media.

Speculation is rife about where Rahul went during his sabbatical and what he did there that today has made him a changed person. I leave it to investigative journalists to discover that answer. What is more obvious is both disheartening and disappointing.

The past year and three months should be remembered not for the change in Rahul Gandhi's image but for the serious loss of image suffered by the Grand Hope, as projected by the media and believed by the people which in a way was the reason for the resurgence of the Bharatiya Janata Party as a political force in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

The Grand Hope known as Narendra Modi.

The people of India, the elite, industrialists and corporate honchos, the vast middle class, all thought of him as a messiah who would change the fate of the country which would once again power ahead. Alas, that did not translate into reality. Presently, the murmur is: Have 'We the people' made a mistake? One time ardent Modi fan Rahul Bajaj's recent interview is a pointer to that disenchantment.

And this disenchantment is fast turning into disillusionment.

The larger-than-life Modi persona constructed by his brand managers is now open for scrutiny. Whether his hyped persona, a mix of deliberate myth-making and the over-excitement of aspirational Indians, was a farce is a topic of discussion everywhere.

India is at the cusp of an unmitigated institutional disaster presided over by the prime minister. The Cabinet system is crumbling. No minister has the power to decide anything, they are just titular heads, complain senior ministers privately.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was blamed for administrative paralysis, but today, if you get a chance to speak to any senior bureaucrat, they are very bitter and say that files do not move. I am told that more than a thousand files are awaiting clearance.

In the Cabinet system the PM is the first among equals. He is no doubt the leader of the team and ministers work at her/his pleasure and decisions are taken collectively. The very existence of a council of ministers is indication of collective decision-making, but under Prime Minister Modi, this system has collapsed and India is paying the price.

In a parliamentary democracy, the Opposition is equally important for the healthy functioning of the will of the people. But the contempt for the Opposition and lack of regard for its role have led to a total breakdown between the two pillars of democracy.

Modi talks about cooperative federalism, but the way his government is trying to smother the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi is proof that Modi, in his true avatar, is not an advocate of the Oppositional space in democracy. Governors are appointed without consulting Opposition chief ministers in states, the latest instance being in Bihar and Himachal Pradesh.

The disregard for institutions has also affected the judiciary. The collegium system was killed in great hurry, but the new National Judicial Appointments Commission system could not become a reality due to the tussle between the Judiciary and the Executive. The non-existence of a system for the appointment of judges has created a vacuum and there are now a large number of vacancies in the higher judiciary.

Personal dislike should not be allowed to become a dislike for institutions is the spirit of a Constitutional democracy. Unfortunately, the Modi government can in no way be absolved of being responsible on this count.

For business and industry, Modi, as the prime ministerial candidate, had promised the moon, but till now nothing seems to have moved except the 'fudging' of growth data which has invited global reactions.

Three major reform measures, which were expected of his government, have been lost in the crossfire between him and the Opposition.

The Modi government tried to implement the Land Acquisition Bill through an ordinance, but it could not enthuse the market and investors. Now his market-friendly LAB is lost forever.

The BJP and he have to suffer the stigma of being anti-farmer.

Hopes of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax too have been dashed due to the logjam in Parliament and his government's non-consensual approach.

Labour reforms have not even started and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated organisations are already up in arms.

There is no sign of the Rs 15 lakh (Rs 1.5 million) from recovered black money to be deposited in each family's bank account promised by Modi. The Sensex has not shown any sign of growth/improvement in the economy and the major sectors are down in the dumps. The corporate sector, which was Modi's core constituency, is very bitter. The debate today is if India has missed the bus.

Modi launched Clean India and Make in India campaigns with great fanfare, but India is as unclean as ever and the manufacturing sector has not shown any growth till date. People are now beginning to say that Modi is a great event manager, but delivery is not his forte.

The insurgency in Kashmir is already on the rise. His aggressive foreign policy intent has already suffered a serious hit vis-a-vis Pakistan. And he has been thoroughly exposed on the issue of corruption. Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, the Vyapam scam have all opened fault lines in his persona and majorly dented his image of a strong and decisive leader.

Modi's tenure has created a space for the Opposition and Rahul Gandhi seems to be filling that gap. No wonder, when the same 'Pappu' says that Modi's is a 'suit boot ki sarkar,' it sticks and creates a credibility crisis for the prime minister and his government.

Narendra Modi has given Rahul Gandhi a new lease of life. Rahul seems to have latched on to this opportunity and is enjoying it thoroughly. Rahul should actually say, 'Thank you, Mr Prime Minister.'

Who says a week is not a long time in politics? How Churchill must be laughing in his grave!

Ashutosh, a member of the Aam Aadmi Party, is a former journalist.

Ashutosh
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