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Judgment time for Mr Modi

By T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan
February 19, 2018 11:28 IST
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'Mr Modi, unless he changes his approach, may further legitimise the idea that it is perfectly all right for Hindus to dictate terms to the minorities.'
'Indira Gandhi's political expediency did permanent economic damage. Mr Modi's may end up causing permanent social damage,' says T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

The acquittal of A Raja and Kanimozhi in the 2G scam raises several questions about the manner in which the NDA government has chosen to pursue the matter.

The main question is this: If the chargesheet was faulty, why wasn't a revised one filed?

The judge said the CBI didn't seem at all interested in the case. So everyone is wondering about the grounds on which the government will appeal.

Prime Minister Narendra D Modi has a golden opportunity to restore the authority of his office, which he has let slide recently.

Will he take it or be content to carry on as before?

 

Prime ministers make mistakes. But except for one Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, the rest have meant well even when they were making those mistakes. (I define 'meant well' as not intentionally damaging the way India is run.)

Mr Modi, with what seems like his silent endorsement of majoritarianism dressed up in religious garb, is running her a close second. Now he has the 2G thing to deal with as well.

People forget that by the time Indira Gandhi was defeated in 1977, the fundamentals of India's governance had changed forever.

Her legacy was to exercise power at the expense of authority.

Unlike her venerable father, Indira Gandhi never understood that while power vests in the person, authority vests in the office. She simply didn't have the intellectual sophistication to see the difference.

She therefore used the former in a manner that diminished the latter and between 1971 and 1977 she got everything wrong.

India has become what it has entirely because of her.

The viruses she introduced into India's operating software have resisted all efforts to remove them. She was the original malware queen.

From bank nationalisation, which placed the people's savings at the mercy of politicians, to the double cross of abolishing privy purses, to introducing the idea of a 'committed' bureaucracy and judiciary, to Constitutional amendments that destroyed a more fundamental idea of India than mere secularism, Indira Gandhi did it all.

By the time the BJP is voted out eventually -- and that could take some time -- the fundamentals of India's governance will also have changed because Mr Modi, too, is failing to distinguish between power and authority.

Immediately, in order to restore the latter, he needs to exert the fullest power of his office in delivering a massive reform of the CBI. That is, in the end, an administrative matter.

Altogether more important in the context of authority is his approach to the way the Hindus behave towards non-Hindus. His messaging so far has not been adequate unto the need.

He is seen as using faux religion to further his politics just as freely as Indira Gandhi mixed faux socialism to further hers.

Thus, Indira Gandhi legitimised the idea that it was perfectly all right for the State to s***w the rich in the name of the poor.

And even though it is very unclear whether the poor actually benefitted, the idea had, and still has, huge political resonance.

Likewise, Mr Modi, unless he changes his approach, may further legitimise the idea that it is perfectly all right for Hindus to dictate terms to the minorities. And in his case also it is unclear who, other than his party, will benefit.

Indira Gandhi's political expediency did permanent economic damage. Mr Modi's may end up causing permanent social damage.

Indira Gandhi had her admirers in the public, advocates in politics, adherents in the party, and administrators in the bureaucracy. So has Mr Modi.

In the 1970s, hers was an idea whose time had come. Today, it is looking as if Mr Modi's is the idea whose time has come.

The authority of an office is, of course, diminished by the wayward exercise of power. But, as Manmohan Singh showed, it is also diminished by not exercising power.

He ceded administrative power to morally challenged ministers and political authority to an intellectually challenged family.

He even coined a new term for ministerial corruption: Coalition dharma!

One reason why Mr Modi swept the 2014 general election was that everyone thought he would restore both the power and the authority of the PMO. And he has certainly done that in administrative matters.

But when it comes to the rest of it, judgement has to be reserved.

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T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan
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