Outrage Express

Dec 29, 2014, 07:06 IST | Smita Prakash

Smita PrakashAs the year draws down, one can just hope it goes away in a whisper, not a bang. It has been an exhausting year, what with a general election, several assembly elections, a new government, and several outrages. We hurtled from one outrage to another with breakneck speed, matched only by breakneck headlines of breaking news and screaming talking heads on TV debates.

We have moved from one outrage to another all year round. And several outrages in a day. There is ‘ghar vapasi’ to ‘love jihad’. From Go To Pakistan to Are You Serious? From babas and sadhvis to maulanas and mantris, they have expressed offensive opinions that border on the bizarre without remorse or censure.

The Clean India campaign is a great idea; NGOs, educational institutions and individuals are earnestly adopting it. Similarly there are great ideas coming at breakneck speed from the PMO. But who is implementing them? File pic

There are rumours that the Prime Minister is offended and annoyed that people who constitute his team or part of the extended political parivar are deviating from the straight and narrow path of development agenda that he had set for them. If that is a correct reading, then either his team is not scared to disobey the diktat or they are pretty certain that what they are doing will not evoke censure.

This does not mean that the PM should put a gag order on his team. It’s not just what the extended parivar is saying that is wrong. It is what they are doing that is shocking people. The reason for the huge mandate was because Mr Modi and the BJP promised “achche din” based on a development agenda. The focus must be only on that. Not on Hindi or Sanskrit or German. Not on religious conversion or not.

Yes, we need to see our ministers working so it is nice to see the photo-ops of ministers making ‘surprise visits’ to offices and surprisingly large brooms appearing out of nowhere and surprisingly pretty plastic bags appearing in corners and surprisingly empty garbage bins also appearing for the pretty rubbish to be daintily thrown in.

The Clean India campaign is a great idea; NGOs, educational institutions and individuals are earnestly adopting it. Similarly there are great ideas coming at breakneck speed from the PMO. But who is implementing them? The same lethargic bureaucracy has been tasked to come up with plans and presentations, which they are clueless about. Many secretary level officers don't even have email accounts and don't know how to operate smart phones. Now they have to make power point presentations to their ministers on e-governance!

If the executive is in a state of disarray, then the legislature looks equally miserable. Parliament has begun to look like Jantar Mantar now, with daily protests and sit-ins. Continuous disruptions and slipping into the ordinance route rather than bills is making people despair that not much is changing in the way things are done in Delhi.

It won’t take long for the outrage over corruption and misgovernance of the earlier dispensation to boil up and come to the surface again, this time against the BJP government, if it is not able to refocus on the economy. Jobs and more jobs. Focus.

Public anger is unpredictable in when it rises and how strong it can get. Look at the way Anna Hazare was glorified and then discarded within a few months. The PMO would do well to heed the advice from noted economists who backed him solidly but are now betraying signs of despair.

The ‘ghar vapasi’ hare-brained programme could not have come at a worse time for the BJP. If it has any channels of communication open with the VHP, then now is the time to tell them to stop this massive conversion exercise, especially in communally sensitive areas.

Nobody buys the argument of party spokespersons that the BJP has nothing to do with it and as it is not illegal, it cannot be stopped. Can Mr Modi not intervene? Does he not realise that op-eds in foreign newspapers have started questioning his agenda? Yes, the same newspapers which just a few weeks back were showering praise on him, calling him a statesman and even bestowed the Asian of the Year award on him, are now running reports of growing religious intolerance in India.

The India story, which showed promise during UPA-1, went awry in UPA-2. It took more than five years. Much hope rests on the NDA government led by Mr Modi. Just seven months have gone by but people are impatient and anxious. A huge mandate and a fabulous fan following must not be used for anything other than what was promised.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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