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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 17 New Delhi April 13, 2019

Narendra Modi, the }‘chowkidar’ of the Elite

Saturday 13 April 2019

by Mahi Pal Singh

When he contested the parliamentary elections in 2014 for the first time, Narendra Modi claimed to be a ‘chaiwala’, referring to his humble beginning as a child, so that ordinary people would identify with him and vote for him. He and his party did get 31 per cent votes which were sufficient for them to come to power under the multi-cornered and the present system of election in which the candidate getting the highest number of votes amongst the contestants is declared a winner, however low percentage of votes he/she may get. His claim of being a ‘chaiwala’ at that time was a blatant lie because just before that he had been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for 12 years and his status, standard of living and position in society had changed drastically from his childhood when he might have been a ‘chaiwala’. Most of the people in this country, and elsewhere, have come from very humble backgrounds and most of them remain in the same position throughout their lives while some rise from that position and acquire good positions but rarely flaunt their humble beginning as Mr Modi has been doing—only for votes and retaining the position he has reached. However, he won the elections in 2014 and became the Prime Minister of the country but primarily people had voted then against the corrupt Congress regime and the BJP won by default being the only visible and viable alternative at that time. Nobody knows how many sympathy votes he got through the ‘chaiwala’ gimmick.

Before the 2019 elections Modi has invented another name for himself—chowkidar—in fact he has launched the ‘main bhi chowkidar’, ‘I am also a chowkidar’, campaign (called ‘a hollow rhetoric’ by the sitting BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha who has now joined the Congress)—again with the purpose of identifying with the lowest strata of society and winning the sympathies of ordinary people and getting their votes. This again is a blatant lie, even bigger than his earlier lie of being a ‘chaiwala’ because this so claiming ‘chowkidar’ has not only been a CM for 12 years but also the Prime Minister of the country for five years. He does not even know how an ordinary chowkidar makes both his ends meet with the meagre pittance he earns keeping awake all night and crying repeatedly ‘jagte raho’. He wears rejected and worn-out clothes people charitably offer to him and not the 10 lakh rupee worth coat which Mr Modi used to flaunt after becoming the Prime Minister; the poor man has to travel on foot or at most on a bicycle whereas his big brother has spent half his tenure as the Prime Minister travelling the whole world in VIP aeroplanes, more than any other earlier Prime Minister, and the other half, of course, addressing election rallies. His calling himself a ‘chowkidar’ is an insult to all the chowkidars or ordinary people of this country because if at all he is a chowkidar, he is not the chowkidar or protector of the life, property and interests of the ordinary people but the ‘chowkidar’ of the Adanis and Ambanis whose interests he has been protecting and promoting sincerely and arduously throughout his five- year term. If being a ‘chowkidar’ means being in a position in which he is himself today, a really envious position for anyone to be in, almost everyone in this country will envy him and wish to attain his position. I have said ‘almost everyone’ because there are still many honourable people who would not like even to become a Prime Minister only to act as the ‘chowkidar’ of the interests of the top billionaires of the country, grossly neglecting the interests of the toiling masses. 

He had come to power on the promise of fighting and controlling the menace of corruption and black money and bringing back the illegal money stashed in foreign banks. Every citizen of the country, except the votaries of the Hindutva ideology knows well that right from the clerical level, police, corporation offices etc. to the highest level corruption has only increased. His move of demonetisation of high currency notes, in the name of unearthing black money and controlling terrorism by drying up the coffers of those financing terrorism, completely failed to achieve those goals, if they really were the goals. Most people are of the opinion that the introduction of Rs 2000 currency note only proved a facilitator for black marketers. Even the Prime Minister’s Office is under the shadow of corruption in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France, the Prime Minister and other important Ministers in his Ministry have been speaking and acting in a manner which leaves much for suspicion exactly in the same manner as the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and his Ministers were acting when there were charges of corruption against them in the purchase of Bofors guns. At that time the Congress party was not accepting the demand of the Opposition for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) investigation and now the BJP has scuttled every effort by the Congress and other Opposition parties for a JPC probe into the Rafale purchase deal. Only the players have changed this time.

The menace of black money has acquired gigantic proportions during the Modi regime as never before. Go for purchase of any property, say, for example, in Delhi and you will know that today you have to shell out more black money than white for it. And of course, the poll promise of bringing back black money from foreign banks has proved a complete fiasco in the same manner as the assurance of bringing in the culprits of terrorist attacks to India from across the borders and punishing them.

In fact, this government’s intention to fight terrorists, whether internal or external, invites serious doubts because on March 22, 2019 those accused of Samjhauta train bomb blasts, in which 68 persons had been killed, a greater tragedy than even the Pulwama tragedy in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a terrorist attack, have been acquitted by a court merely because the prosecution which was under pressure of top political leaders as all of them belonged to the Hindutva outfits, did not present its case and evidence before the court seriously. Those set free included Swami Assemanand as well. Justice was expected to evade the victims of the Samjhauta train blast tragedy under the RSS/BJP rule because the top leadership of the BJP was sympathetic to them, and also the accused in the Malegaon and Ajmer bomb blasts, from the very beginning and used to visit the accused in jail. And now Rajnath Singh, the Union Home Minister, has come out with a statement that the government would not file an appeal against the acquittal of Aseemanand. That proves beyond any doubt on whose side the present BJP Government is—on the side of the terrorists, of course if they happen to belong to the Hindutva outfits, or the ordinary citizens of the country.

The bogusness of Mr Modi’s poll promise of ending corruption also stands exposed, parti-cularly corruption in high echelons of power, from the very fact that he has ensured that the Lokpal is not appointed at the Centre during his tenure as the Prime Minister. It is the institution of the Lokpal that could have enquired into complaints against top political functionaries like the Central Ministers and exposed corruption in the functioning of the government. Anyone who hinders the process of appointment of the Lokpal or Lokayakuta cannot rightfully claim to be against corruption. We cannot forget that cases of corruption against the BJP Ministers, the Reddy brothers, and the Chief Minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, had come to light in Karnataka through enquiries by the Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, there.

The Lokpal has now been appointed at the fag end of the tenure of the present Lok Sabha and the government. There is no other authority who could have enquired into cases of corruption against the Prime Minister and his Ministers. So Mr Modi’s Ministers have been saved from any enquiry of corruption against them. In the absence of any enquiry against them, they can all, including the Prime Minister himself, claim to be non-corrupt. Mr Modi is an adept hand at ensuring that no enquiries can be held against him and his Ministers. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat also he had ensured that the Lokayukta did not get appointed during his 12-year tenure as the Chief Minister. That should by itself speak volumes against his claim of being non-corrupt.

The saying goes that Caesar’s wife should also be above suspicion but the non-appointment of the Lokpal by the Modi Government has failed to keep him and his ministerial colleagues above suspicion. By hindering an enquiry against a police officer on charges of corruption by the Delhi Government led by Arvind Kejriwal, and taking away the control of the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of the Delhi Police from the Delhi Government, which could enquire into cases of corruption against government officials, particularly police officials, the Modi Government clearly appeared to be on the side of the corrupt by not letting the Delhi Government act against the corrupt. Corruption in Delhi Government offices is intact today because of the uncalled for interference of the Modi Government for political reasons and the people of Delhi hold the Modi Government responsible for it. Public memory is said to be short, but not so if their everyday lives are affected seriously and adversely.

Only a few years ago the BJP used to call itself a ‘party with a difference’. But in making promises and breaking or forgetting them after winning the elections it is no different from other parties. As per a report released on March 15, 2019 at Varanasi, it has come to light that Namami Gange—National Mission for Clean Ganga” project, worth Rs 2000 crores, by the Union Government to clean, conserve and rejuvenate Ganga has failed and the quality of Ganga water has worsened in the last three years. According to data collected by an NGO, Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF), there is a significant rise of coliform bacteria and biological oxygen demand, which are important parameters to check the quality of water. It should not be difficult to imagine where all the money earmarked for the purpose has gone.

What is surprising is that the pre-election discourse has slid down from discussion on the 2014 poll promises of controlling corruption and black money, bringing in achhe din, sabka saath, sabka vikas, profitable price of the produce to the farmers, one crore employment every year to the unemployed, lifting the living condition of poor people and ensuring national as well as internal security of the people and for this slide the ruling party leaders, including the Prime Minister, Mr Modi, are mainly responsible. The reason is clear. The BJP and its poster-boy. Mr Modi, have completely failed to fulfil any of those promises so they cannot remind the people of any of those promises at this crucial moment. We are not even referring to the promise of putting Rs 15 lakhs in every person’s account out of the black money which was supposed to be brought in from foreign countries because Amit Shah, the BJP President, had himself declared after winning the election that it was an ‘election jumla’, a mere election slogan.

The Prime Minister and his party know well that they are going to lose the 2019 parlia-mentary elections. The simple mathematics of the combination of the percentage of votes and the pre-poll coalition of Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajvadi Party (SP), Ms Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in Uttar Pradesh shows that the BJP is going to lose at least 50 seats from its 2014 tally of 73 seats in UP alone when Modi’s popularity was at the top because at that time he seemed to epitomise the fight against corruption which had become a trademark of the Congress. In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka and Punjab the BJP had the highest number of seats which in any case are going to come down considerably. The combined effect is expected to be a loss of at least 100 seats which is an indicator of the shape of things to come. Out of the frustration, desperation and fear of losing his Prime Ministership, Mr Modi is trying to portray himself as a victim in an attempt to ensure the sympathy vote. He no more refers to himself as a he-man with a 56-inch chest. That is why he is appealing to emotions by raising emotional issues like nationalism and calling himself a ‘chowkidar’. He cannot appeal to reason and mind or refer to real problems of the people because then no thinking person with a reasonable mind will be impressed with his ‘chowkidar’ gimmick.

Had he really acted as the ‘chowkidar’ of the Indian Constitution, the constitutional values like freedom, liberties, equality of all irrespective of religion, sex and caste, secularism, dignity of the person and protection and promotion of the interests of the poor and marginalised sections of society including employment and education, for which he was appointed and has been paid for by the people and not a dishonest one getting his salary and other perks from one master and protecting the interests of others with the intent of earning something more even if it is for funding the election campaign of his party, he would have won the forthcoming election with even a greater mandate than what he won in 2014. But only if he had been honest to the people, an honest ‘chowkidar’, as ‘chowkidars’ mostly are and also are supposed to be.But as an RSS man its Hindutva ideology and his party’s political interests, and of course his own narrow personal interest of retaining the Prime Ministership of the country are supreme and more important than the interests of the country and its people. Perhaps he thinks that he can do so by being the ‘chowkidar’ of the elite few and not the ‘chowkidar’ of the ordinary, poor and suffering masses.

The author is the editor, The Radical Humanist, and a former National Secretary, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL).

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