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The saboteurs who resist “Acche Din”

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There is no denying that the Modi government has certainly divided opinion among Indians like no other in the history of Indian politics. A big part of this is colored opinions harbored by both sides of the debate. Indeed, even the neutrals who have issue-based opposition or support towards the govt., cannot but do so with the vigor and fervor that would have even the radicals of both the right and the left blushing. What is it that the public feels so charged about decisions/policies of this govt.? Why is it that when just 3 years back people would just scoff away another scam being exposed as, “Yeh to roj ka hain”, now the same people break out their high school maths (or the lack of it) in trying to figure out the RoI of, say, a bullet train project? Do they pause to factor in corruption in their calculations? (They don’t).

As the govt will soon be reaching the half-way mark (and numerous celebrity anchors while try to peak out of the ‘breaking news’ tickers of your screen to assess the govt ‘report card’) it is worthwhile to take a step back and figure out what is so special about this govt that divides and generates opinion amongst the otherwise apathetic and ‘chalta-hain’ masses. As a guy who does his fair share of anonymous tweeting (not to be confused with trolling), I would say I am no expert and shouldn’t comment, but then, that wouldn’t do me any Shobha.

First of all, let’s assume that after 10 years of UPA policies, it wouldn’t take ANY government too much effort to come out as a better alternative. So then, mere comparison to the previous govt shouldn’t be a yardstick to judge this one. Secondly, comparison to the previous BJP govt as well isn’t a suitable yardstick as the times and difficulties faced by both are so significantly different. While Vajpayee was able to sound his arrival with a thunderous Pokhran nuclear test, today a similar gesture would actually be hara-kiri. So then, it appears, as if historically there really is no parallel for the comparison of govts. We can only go by each policy and decision of this government and try to analyze each one neutrally and without the bias or burden of comparison to historical governments. With the govt PR malfunctioning as it is by responding to the narrative set by its opponents, and getting sucked into needles Intolerable (pun intended) debates, it would certainly help if some actually did that. But don’t look at me for that, I have a day job.

There is no doubt, that whatever this govt fails to achieve it won’t be for the lack of trying. Certainly not on the part of the PMO and key ministries like power, railways, defense, external affairs and surface transportation. One may even add parliamentary affairs, health, telecom and Aviation to this list. At the same time Finance, Law, Women and Child welfare and whatever ministry Uma Bharti is heading. All in all, in terms of ministerial performance, PM Modi has had a bunch of hits and misses. If he is to garner credit for the hits then the buck for the misses stops with him too. History will not be kinder to Modi for appointing Jaitley to Finance while it is harsh on Sonia for hiring A Raja, Anthony, Chidambaram, hell…just about anyone else in the UPA.

Another way of looking at this is to observe that historically, there has never been undertaken an exercise in Change management that this govt has undertaken. The PM leads by example in professionalism and this changes will take ages if it ever trickles down to the lower reaches of the govt apparatus. One only needs to overhear or indulge in conversations with govt employees (I wonder when we stopped calling them govt servants?) to understand the pain that this change has brought about. Show me a teacher, clerk, or any govt official who doesn’t want the congress back in power so that he can get his afternoon siestas back, and i’ll show you a wild goose chase. Take for example the Railways. While travelers are happy with the clean stations and the quick response to their tweeted grievances, there are instances of apathy from railway officials, stinky toilets and trains running out of water. When the organization as a whole is used to treating their customer ruthlessly, when they are dealt with the same ruthlessness by the Railway minister, you can expect some revolt and sabotage. It is not just the govt machinery (the babus), but the media, educational setup especially humanities in national universities, political opponents who might not be strong in Delhi, but wield power in states, districts and municipal wards, in fact, a whole eco-system that was carefully built resist change and try to hamper the functioning of an honest govt. like they never before the history of Indian governance. In fact, even given the ministerial misses of Modi, it is sabotage and not incompetence that will probably be the reason for his ‘nicking one outside offside’. He certainly deserves all praise for the hits and the super-hits and some brick-bats for the misses. But most of all, I will be impressed if Modi can battle it out with the cloaked saboteurs that stand in his way, and bring us the ‘Acche din’ that will be ‘Burre din’ for them. We know who they are, does he?

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