Ranjona Banerji Column: Looking back on 2015

Did last year’s promises of ‘Good Days’ come true? And if they did, for whom exactly?

The year the ‘Good Days’ never came. That could be the headline for this column which appears at the end of 2015. Because, if 2014 was the honeymoon year for the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, this should have been the year that all the promises made became real. But did they? And if they did, for whom did they exactly?

Nothing beats the current onslaught against Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, seen here at a Chennai flood relief function on Sunday. Jaitley is currently embroiled in the DDCA corruption controversy. Pic/PTINothing beats the current onslaught against Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, seen here at a Chennai flood relief function on Sunday. Jaitley is currently embroiled in the DDCA corruption controversy. Pic/PTI

Let’s start with the good stuff. No really, don’t laugh. Like Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin. Across the planet, they got to showcase their talents to television audiences in India and to the prime minister of India, even if they somewhat confused the host nations in which they have chosen to make their home.

By common consensus, the Indians who now live in the United Kingdom (whatever their current nationality) can sing and dance better than the people who live in other parts of the world. Sadly, we cannot compare them to the people who actually live in India since no one here organises such singing and dancing political rallies.

One might also argue that the people of Bihar were singularly unimpressed with the prime minister’s announcement of a R1.25 lakh crore package at a rally in Arrah, Bihar. Sadly for someone, this promise did not help either Narendra Modi or the BJP win the Bihar state elections. Now I have confused myself because I don’t know if this belongs in the good or bad news section...

Then there’s the bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad which was an election promise and which most people assumed would be just an election ‘jumla’ or meaningless sentence, which we were educated about by BJP president Amit Shah. Everyone was in fact wrong. This vitally important bullet train, which will get people from Ahmedabad to Mumbai and back faster than the speed of light, will in fact be ready by 2025 and will cost Rs 98,000 crore partly paid by an almost interest-free loan from Japan or some such complicated accounting.

The only thing that can make this vitally important bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad irrelevant is if by 2030, when the train is operational, someone discovers that ancient Vedic Indians knew how to travel by molecular transfer systems seen in Star Trek. Those of you still alive in 2035 will certainly enjoy the bullet train experience. Of course you could also buy a ticket to Japan right now.

The foreign travel done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been cause for much chest-thumping, humour and scoffing. But camera lenses all over the world are really happy because, at last, here’s a world leader who knows how to unerringly find them. Teleprompter machines, it must be said, are not that happy as also women who prefer to be known as ‘Mrs’ and not ‘M.R.S’...

Sadly, though, we have to move on. Should we completely ignore what the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal did to the BJP and every other political party in the Delhi state elections at the beginning of 2015?

Winning 67 out of 70 seats in spite of spending the last tenure in government and as chief minister under a car is quite an achievement. But if AAP and Kejriwal have been a thorn in the side of the BJP through
the year, nothing beats the current onslaught against Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. They can’t be ignored now at least and that’s Centre-nil, Delhi-1.

As far as the rest of us and the rest of India are concerned, may 2016 give us that Rs 15 lakh gharwapsi black money in our bank accounts, may prices fall, may bills be passed in Parliament, may reforms rain, may social welfare schemes flourish, may India become clean and may we all fly to Titan for the summer holidays.

And may we all pass the rising intolerance test. If you throw this newspaper across the room after you read this, you know which side of the argument you belong to...

Happy New Year!

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona

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