In­dia needs Chowki­dar Modi, not Ma­hatma Naren­dra

Even at this fi­nal stage of the gov­ern­ment’s term, sin­cerely pros­e­cuted cases need to get started against not only cen­tral but also some state satraps.

The Sunday Guardian - - World -

When vot­ers chose Naren­dra Modi to be the Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia by vot­ing in the BJP in 2004, they did so to bet­ter en­sure the dou­ble digit growth that sta­bil­ity and so­cial jus­tice in the coun­try needs. Thus far, this ex­pec­ta­tion has gone un­re­alised. For starters, the BJP al­lowed a full ten days (16-26 May 2014) to the out­go­ing UPA ad­min­is­tra­tion to tidy up records, make last­minute ad­just­ments, do last­minute favours, and al­most cer­tainly col­late and col­lect what­ever ma­te­rial was avail- able in the files on in­com­ing BJP lu­mi­nar­ies as would serve as a de­ter­rent to ac­tion against the out­go­ing UPA min­is­ters and their re­mote con­trol switches. Of course, the NDA claim is that the rea­son why even UPA-era VVIPs have evaded jail time (or even pros­e­cu­tion) till now is be­cause in­com­ing Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi did not want to be vin­dic­tive. It gets added that the Cha­ran Singh ex­am­ple of ar­rest­ing Indira Gandhi, Anna Hazare or even the re­cent the Lalu Ya­dav in­car­cer­a­tion only boosted the pop­u­lar­ity of those pro­ceeded against. But Cha­ran Singh sought to in­car­cer­ate the de­feated Prime Min­is­ter on charges that were de­risory in na­ture, while Anna Hazare was not a cor­rupt politi­cian, but an anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivist. As for Lalu Ya­dav, he has been jailed on the ba­sis of a case that goes back over two decades, one in which he was jailed in the past, even while in­di­vid­u­als such as the “high caste” Ja­gan­nath Mishra were judged by the agen­cies to be in­no­cent. To use blow­back from such ex­am­ples to jus­tify the lack of ac­tion by the present gov­ern­ment against UPAera VVIP wrong­do­ing is to mock the in­tel­li­gence of the voter. Even at this fi­nal stage of the gov­ern­ment’s term, sin­cerely pros­e­cuted cases need to get started against not only cen­tral but also some state satraps. How­ever, these should not, as so of­ten hap­pens, be based on the “Qu­at­troc­chi Stan­dard” (where the qual­ity of the ev­i­dence pre­sented by the agen­cies was so de­signed and pre­sented as to en­able the guilty to es­cape). Such moves would show that In­dia does have a chowki­dar in charge who is de­ter­mined to en­force ac­count­abil­ity on VVIPs who have swin­dled the peo­ple of bil­lions, not of rapidly de­pre­ci­at­ing ru­pees, but of dol­lars. Even the ex­tra­di­tion of an Agusta mid­dle­man will be of no value un­less Chris­tian Michel re­veals the VVIPs who swung the deal in favour of the com­pany. Should there be per­pe­tra­tors who were ac­tive in a BJP ad­min­is­tra­tion, they too should be ex­posed, rather than the oth­ers be al­lowed to get away for fear of re­veal­ing a pos­si­ble Va­j­payee-era hand in the trans­ac­tion. The way in­sti­tu­tions such as the CBI, the ED and SEBI have al­lowed mega wrong­do­ers to re­main free is a com­men­tary on the rot that has eaten away at any ef­fec­tive­ness they may once have had as a check against cor­rup­tion.

The In­dian Ex­press pub­lished on its 3 De­cem­ber front page how an in­cometax re­port on Ni­rav Modi was not cir­cu­lated to other au­thor­i­ties so that the man could have been ap­pre­hended be­fore flee­ing the coun­try eight months later. If no ac­tion has been taken on those re­spon­si­ble for con­ceal­ing such a re­port (or in pro­mot­ing and re­ward­ing the au­thors of it), this is a der-

The BJP or­gan­i­sa­tion needs to un­der­stand that a growth-ori­ented pol­icy must pre­vail over the poll-driven strat­egy that it is mak­ing the Prime Min­is­ter fol­low.

elic­tion of duty, a lapse that the “Chowki­dar-in-Chief” needs to pun­ish. Lakhs of crores have been writ­ten off as NPAs. A suc­cess story has been the re­cov­ery of loans given to Es­sar Steel. The pro­mot­ers have now bid nearly a bil­lion dol­lars more than Arcelor-Mit­tal for their own steel plants. Ei­ther Arcelor-Mit­tal should match the higher bid, or the plants should go back to Es­sar. In the same way, should Vi­jay Mallya pay back not just the prin­ci­pal, but half the in­ter­est owed to banks, he ought to be al­lowed a set­tle­ment. The pub­lic needs the money more than a bon vi­vant shift­ing res­i­dence from a UK man­sion to a Ti­har cell block. In­deed, the Es­sar ex­am­ple of get­ting back mon­eys lent should be the norm, as there are at least four other mega de­fault­ers who have the where­withal to meet most of their obli­ga­tions out of the wealth they pos­sess, mostly over­seas. These should not be al­lowed to es­cape, the way SEBI and other agen­cies are al­low­ing some bro­kers to evade pay­ing back what they owe in the NSEL im­broglio, where the UPA and now the NDA seems to have con­cen­trated its fire on only a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual and a com­pany run by him, rather than to those who have ac­tu­ally left a clear money trail. Judg­ing by ac­tions taken or avoided dur­ing the past 54 months, it would ap­pear that while South Block has in­deed changed from 2014 on­wards, North Block seems not to have. Tax rates re­main high, ab­surdly so in the case of a GST ar­chi­tec­ture that is so com­plex as to serve as a dis­in­cen­tive to in­vest­ment, growth and rev­enue. Un­less a full bud­get gets pre­sented on 1 Fe­bru­ary 2019 that breaks from the UPA mould and low­ers di­rect and in­di­rect tax rates to boost the con­fi­dence of both the com­mon man as well as the risk taker, dou­ble digit growth will re­main unattain­able.

The BJP or­gan­i­sa­tion needs to un­der­stand that a growth-ori­ented pol­icy must pre­vail over the poll-driven strat­egy that it is mak­ing the Prime Min­is­ter fol­low. Rather than pol­icy be­ing the byprod­uct of poll strate­gies, poll re­sults should be the byprod­uct of sound poli­cies. In the mean­time, if op­po­si­tion par­ties, in­clud­ing the Congress, fo­cus on is­sues of cor­rup­tion, that too is wel­come. Let there be a com­pe­ti­tion to ex­pose rather than to coverup, as has been the Lu­tyens norm.

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