Dear Shri Amit Shah:
The Saaf Niyat Sahi Vikas infographic launched on the mygov.in the website under the sub-heading 48months.mygov.in is perhaps an object lesson to many corporates on how to present its performance record to its shareholders. It is a very professionally designed 4-yearly report that can be compared to the best annual reports of the most professionally managed business organizations in the corporate world. Yet, I would hesitate to call it a Balance Sheet, as what it lacks in its body is a statement of accounts that record the misses while it amply dwells upon the hits. As an admirer of the BJP’s style of governance, and even more of the Prime Minister and the President of the party, I think it is necessary to catalogue and add the misses that are as important as the hits. I will not repeat the hits that have been so graphically illustrated in the website and shall concentrate only on the misses that, if not attended to immediately, will have disastrous consequences for the party, the country, and the people.
The recent election results after Karnataka are indicative of the mood that appears to be building across the nation for the coming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Extrapolating the indications it seems more than likely that a repeat of 2014 will become difficult if a course-correction is not implemented right away.
1. Building coalitions: The BJP is losing partners rather too quickly. We know that the BJP is not a family enterprise like the Congress or almost all the other national or regional political parties, and it is extremely uncomfortable to build an alliance with a family that has no other agenda but to loot the nation and fills its own coffers. The alliance with the Akalis, the Shiv Sena, and Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP is under severe strain because their leaders are finding it difficult to blindly loot their states and keep their cadres happy. The next general election will see them drifting away and aligning with the Congress or some other equally corrupt party. So how does the BJP handle this situation? Coalitions are a must for winning elections in a multi-party system, as also for providing stability. They survive only if the parties have a mutually agreed agenda – be it proper governance or just uninhibited loot. BJP has very little presence in the southern states (Karnataka excepted) and for it to go alone would be suicidal. It does not have the manpower or the cadre that could propel it to an electoral victory on its own. But with whom should it align? Having found JDS as repellent as the Congress in the recently concluded Karnataka elections, and with AIADMK in Tamil Nadu looking like a rudderless ship, there appears to be no party insight that one could beneficially align with.
In my opinion, the party should look at Nitish Kumar as a leader beyond the state of Bihar. The JDU is a party that is almost in the same mould as the BJP, is not family-controlled, and has a leader with a proven track record in governance. The BJP should encourage JDU to increase its footprint outside Bihar and expand its membership across the country, with special attention on the southern states, West Bengal, and those states that have a significant number of anti-BJP voters. Nitish Kumar could be included in the central cabinet as a Minister for Home or even Finance, now that Arun Jaitley is not fully fit. The JDU could become the lodestar for those who are not very comfortable with the BJP due to its RSS affiliation, but who wish this country well. People from other political parties who wish to change their affiliations would find it easier to join a JDU and still get the support of the BJP leadership.
Naveen Patnaik’s BJD could be another valuable partner who could be encouraged to go beyond the borders of Odisha and look for expansion in West Bengal, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. Again, Patnaik could be accommodated within the central cabinet and given an important ministry like Defence or Industry. I am sure Patnaik would be more comfortable in the centre as against a state.
However, the time for putting this strategy in place is NOW, not even a day later, so to speak!
2. Kashmir Policy: The decision of joining hands with Mehbooba Mufti has been one of the biggest misses in this balance sheet. The PDP is a communal organization and its leader is putty in the hands of the Islamists who themselves dance to the tune played by Pakistan’s Jihadi outfits. Supping with the devil can be extremely hazardous as there is no guarantee that the food has not been poisoned. I am at a loss to understand why the Jammu leadership of the party continues to sit at the same table, and the only explanation must be that their hands are not clean. That should be reason enough for dissolving this coalition and dismissing the Mufti government. The state should be brought under President’s rule with immediate effect. The Governor needs to be replaced by a younger, no-nonsense individual with a proven administrative track record. His team of advisers should come from the armed forces as well as from civil service, but no professional politicians, please!
Public opinion in Jammu and Ladakh should be galvanized towards a trifurcation of the state of Jammu & Kashmir into three separate states or Union Territories, as the demography of each part might warrant. This is the only permanent solution for a festering wound that Nehru’s ceasefire blunder of 1948 followed by the introduction of Art. 370 in the Constitution of India in 1950. The state constitution should be abrogated and Kashmir should be fully integrated with the Union of India.
3. West Bengal: The state of West Bengal, once the pride of British India, has degenerated into a region that has become worse than a sub-Saharan country in Africa. The atrocious rule for more than 30 years by the Communists has been surpassed by the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress. The state is economically bankrupt and socially a tinderbox. The antisocial elements that formed the bulk of the CPM cadre have seamlessly attached themselves to the party in power, leaving the common man worse off than he was under the rule of the Communists. Mamata has turned herself into an Islamist and given free rein to Jihadi elements, settling illegal Rohingya and Bangladeshi infiltrators. The brutality with which BJP cadres are being murdered sends shudders down one’s spine. The state police are complicit in these crimes and the centre appears to be powerless. Mamata’s government has destroyed the economy of the hill regions and Darjeeling that once produced the champagne of teas is today lying in ruins. The tea gardens are closed or abandoned and the poor workers, who are mostly Gurkhas, find themselves in dire straits.
West Bengal cries for President’s rule. The government of Mamata Bannerji should be dismissed and the assembly dissolved. Again, like Kashmir, a new Governor and council of advisers should be appointed with similar attributes.
The hills of Darjeeling, Kalimpong may be detached from the state and either made into a Union Territory or incorporated within the state of Sikkim. It is a fact that the current party in power in Sikkim has done nothing much for its development, and here again, there is an opportunity for the JDU to expand its reach.
4. Finance Ministry: The appointment of Arun Jaitley as the Finance Minister is one of the gravest errors of the Modi Government. Jaitley is an articulate lawyer, but a very poor politician. He could not win his own election and came to a cropper against Capt. Amarinder Singh. He may be a brilliant lawyer but I wonder about his expertise in fiscal and revenue matters. Having lived the high life he has no idea about a common man’s daily woes and struggles to make ends meet. A Finance Minister who has himself struggled to make a livelihood would better appreciate the ways in which to alleviate the miseries of the have-nots. Jaitley has wasted four budget opportunities to seal the Modi Government’s continuance in 2019 and beyond. Each budget has been a huge let-down for the expectations that Modi’s utterances and track record build among the common people. The financial reforms that people expected after 2014 have remained only in the realm of fantasy while the Minister continues to make things more and more complicated for taxpayers. The bureaucratic set-up within the Ministry has hardly changed from the UPA times and it is the Babus who seem to be dictating terms to the Minister. The ease of doing business, the dismantling of the cumbersome reporting systems, all are only pipe dreams while the Babus continue to lord it over the poor subjects.
GST implementation is a huge roadblock that has alienated most business people. I understand that GST refunds to exporters to the tune of Rs. 65000 crores are stuck in the labyrinthine corridors of the Finance Ministry. Fortunately, Jaitley has had to take a sabbatical due to ill health, and Piyush Goyal has been given temporary charge of the portfolio. But for Goyal to succeed you need to dismantle the bureaucratic structure of the Ministry and give clear instructions to Goyal to undo the damage done by his predecessor.
The common man whole-heartedly supported the Government when it demonetised big-ticket currency notes of Rs. 1000 and 500, and the transition was more or less quite smooth. The UP election results amply demonstrated the success of this dramatic policy. But the implementation of the GST regime has brought untold misery to most small and large business people, who are most unlikely to vote your party back. Even the GST rates are extortionate. I just changed the tyres of my Hyundai I-20 car. It is not a luxury motorcar but a rather entry-level passenger vehicle. I was horrified to find that the GST charged on these tyres was 28%. Maybe a Jaitley will not balk at paying this rate but how many in India would find the rate reasonable? In my opinion any commodity or service that is taxed at more than 15% is nothing but daylight robbery. You must revise downwards the GST rates for all items, ensuring that nothing is taxed at more than 15%. Also the filing of returns must be further simplified and the process of refunds made automatic. These must be implemented immediately. And please do not reinstate Mr. Jaitley in the Finance Ministry once he gets well. The last budget of this government should be a path-breaking one and it should be people-friendly, never mind if the opposition calls it populist. I think the people deserve some relief for having displayed their steadfast support for your policies.
5. Judicial Reforms: From the time Modi took the oath of the Prime Minister I have been stressing that all his good intentions are going to founder on the rocks of Indian judiciary. It is the biggest roadblock on the path to clean governance and prosperity. The corrupt Congress ecosystem that nurtured the judicial bureaucracy is not going to be easy to dismantle. The 4 SC judges, under the tutelage of Shekhar Gupta, have amply demonstrated how the Congress could hijack the entire judicial system in order to ensure that committed, loyal judges adorn the benches in the higher judicial offices. In these four years you have seen how the higher judiciary has frustrated all attempts to bring the guilty UPA bosses to book. The brazen defiance of court orders by Karthi Chidambaram, the repeated permissions for him to travel abroad, the stay on arrest of such proven criminals like Teesta Setalvad, the midnight hearings by the SC to save terrorists from the gallows, or to give an opportunity to the Congress to cobble up a coalition in Karnataka – all are indications of how much influence the corrupt UPA leaders and the lawyers who represent them wield upon the higher judiciary.
It is imperative that the entire judicial system comes up for a complete review and an independent commission is constituted to suggest such reforms that would remove the discretionary powers of the judges and speed up the delivery of justice for the common man. The need of the hour is to increase the number of courts and judges, and to put a ceiling on the number of adjournments that a judge could grant. The government, being the largest litigant, could revisit its habit of approaching the courts for every decision. In many cases government officials do not wish to take a decision that would favour an individual or a corporate because they are afraid that they would be labeled as having taken money to give that decision. They find it expedient to refer it to a court, thereby absolving themselves of the responsibility. This not only puts unnecessary pressure on the judiciary, but also opens up newer avenues of corruption. If rules were clear and unambiguous, the officer would have no reason to approach the courts. The statistics for pending cases make for alarming reading. Pending cases in various courts are as under;
Supreme Court: 60,000+
24 High Courts: 4,00,000+
Lower Courts: 2,75,00,000+
So, with nearly 3 crore cases pending in courts, the colonial system of court holidays is not only retrograde and reprehensible, but by itself, criminal in nature.
6. Other Important Matters:
a) Management of the media, both print and visual, has been very poor. Most newspapers, journals and TV channels are hostile to the BJP because those who owe their business success to their proximity to the Congress and its bosses, own them. The Deep State in Pakistan also has supported their activities that must surely leave some financial tracks. The intelligence agencies are either compromised or completely inefficient to track these connections down. The party needs to evolve a robust media strategy to counter the false propaganda and outright lies that are being presented as news by these compromised media houses. Even the international press is largely hostile and controlled by those who are not friendly to a powerful Indian state. Social media, to a large extent, has been countering the vicious propaganda of these elements, but it is mostly voluntary and unorganised. A coherent media policy that puts sufficient deterrents on false and manufactured news, with adequate punishment for the perpetrators, is the need of the hour. The I&B Ministry must put together clear guidelines and provide exemplary punishment for infringement of these guidelines. There is no need for censorship, but there is need for responsible reporting and writing.
b) Mann ki Baat is fine but you also need to connect with your voters more frequently. Regular media briefings and TV appearances to counter the false propaganda of the opposition cabal creates awareness and trust among the people. You need much more contact than what you have had in the past 4 years.
c) There is a sense of disenchantment and betrayal among the core supporters of the party. The continued assault on Hindu beliefs, festivals, temples, and the government’s apparent apathy towards these acts is making the core Hindu voter rather disillusioned about its intentions. The inaction against perpetrators of murderous assaults on RSS and BJP workers in states like West Bengal, Kerala, and even in UP, has resulted in a sense of despondency and fatalism. The reason why NOTA has found so many supporters is this disillusionment with the BJP at the centre. The only places of worship that are under the control of the government are Hindu temples. The huge revenues earned by these temples are largely diverted to other religious institutions and only a fraction is spent on them. Hindus are resenting this step-motherly treatment and showing this resentment by either not turning up for voting or by pressing the NOTA button.
d) The RTE amendment to the Constitution is another retrograde act of the previous government that you have not yet repealed or made more evenly applicable. Here again the Hindu educational institutions have been singled out for coercive treatment while the minority institutions are exempted. This lack of courage to do away with this provision is seen as a policy of appeasement that, in any case, is not bringing minority votes to the BJP. Instead, it is alienating the core supporter.
e) Of course there will be other miscellaneous misses that I have omitted in this open letter, but I am sure you would be fully aware of them. I am another common citizen who sees hope for the future in the continuance of Mr. Modi and his government. But if we do not recognise the misses in governance and only continue to harp on the hits, we are likely to find ourselves back in 2004 – a most distressing thought!
So please, I implore you to read my letter and initiate the necessary corrective action at the earliest. It is possible that you may find my suggestions impractical or not implementable, but the signs are clear that something different needs to be done, and done quickly.
With kind regards
Vijaya Kumar Dar