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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 37, New Delhi, August 29, 2020

I believe the Prime Minister | Salman Anees Soz

Friday 28 August 2020

by Salman Anees Soz

Donald Trump critic George Conway recently wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post, headlined “I (still) believe the president, and in the president”. Conway’s piece inspired me to write something that I didn’t think possible: I believe the prime minister and in the prime minister.

I believe the prime minister when he says that there is “no intrusion” of the Chinese military into Indian territory, even though his own Defence Ministry posted a document on its website admitting the reality of such intrusions. The document noted that the “Chinese side transgressed in the areas of Kugrang Nala, Gogra, and north bank of Pangong Tso lake on 17-18 May, 2020.” In the prime minister’s defence, it should be noted that the document was immediately removed from the website. Since the document was removed, like the unemployment and GDP reports earlier, we can continue to believe the prime minister. Just as we don’t have an unemployment problem, we don’t have a China problem.

I also believe the prime minister when he says his government is delivering on the promise of minimum government and maximum governance. You have to be blind not to see the evidence. Just a few months ago, hundreds of thousands of desperate workers were walking on the roads and the government was nowhere to be seen. Isn’t that minimum enough for you? Also, with India’s Covid-19 cases and deaths rising in world league tables, maximum governance sets new records daily.

I believe the prime minister’s decision to introduce electoral bonds will ensure open and transparent politics. However, a former Chief Election Commissioner noted that “electoral Bonds will make the whole system quite opaque and this may be quite dangerous”. This may seem confusing until you realise that the Election Commission was not consulted before the electoral bonds were introduced. Also, I believe the prime minister set up the PM CARES Fund to ensure transparency. We may not know what is happening with the money or where it came from, but it clearly says the PM cares and that he will take care of the funds. That is enough for me.

I believe the prime minister’s decision to launch demonetisation to combat black money, terrorism and counterfeit currency was correct. It may be true that demonetisation failed to achieve any of its objectives and turned out to be a disaster but that is not the prime minister’s failure. The failure belongs to the rest of us for not making the prime minister succeed.

I believe the prime minister was right to invoke the spirit of the dawn of India’s freedom to usher in the GST. The use of “good and simple tax” for the GST was an inspired choice. I believe if the GST is neither good nor simple and if the World Bank calls it “one of the most complex with the second highest tax rate in the world”, the problem may be in how we are perceiving reality. The reality of the GST may be bad and complex but we need to believe it is good and simple. I believe the prime minister would like that very much.

This reminds me of the epidemic of intolerance towards the prime minister. I believe the prime minister fought a battle on behalf of Muslim women by criminalising instant triple talaq. Some complain that criminalising an action that the Supreme Court declared invalid was not so much for Muslim women but against Muslim men. But I believe the prime minister’s intention was to bring Muslim men at par with non-Muslim men. Like their non-Muslim brethren, Muslim men can now simply abandon their wives because there is no penalty associated with abandonment. Brilliant!

I believe the prime minister when he says sabka saath, sabka vikas. You only have to open your eyes to see how the prime minister has inspired his party men to be inclusive. It cannot be the prime minister’s fault if Anurag Thakur, a minister, issues a death threat to dissenters or if Tejaswi Surya, a BJP MP, says that “control of state power by Hindus is absolutely essential for sustenance of Dharma”, or if Sambit Patra, a BJP spokesperson, certified the late Rajiv Tyagi, a Congress spokesperson, as a “fake Hindu”.

Speaking of inclusion, I believe the prime minister when he said in the context of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that “the law does not impact 1.3 billion Indians...” Because the CAA does not affect any Indian, that is why hundreds of thousands of citizens came out on the streets to protest it. Some even died.

Some have linked the CAA to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has caused much angst in the country. Many see the CAA and the NRC as a deadly combination for Indian Muslims’ citizenship rights. However, I believe the prime minister when he says that there has been “no discussion” of the NRC in Parliament or in the Cabinet even though his own Home Minister famously explained the CAA-NRC link this way: “Aap chronology samajh lijiye. Pehle CAB ayega... fir NRC ayega... ” (understand the chronology. First CAB, then NRC). OK, I admit it. That was awkward.

As far as sabka vikas is concerned, I believe the prime minister has treated everyone equally. The economy was already slumping before the coronavirus showed up. Since then, the prime minister’s handling of the crisis has uniformly affected the economy and livelihoods. That may not be vikas, but whatever it is, it is sabka nevertheless.

Vikas reminds me of Kashmir. I believe the prime minister was right in saying that “Article 370 and Article 35A had only given terrorism, separatism, nepotism and massive corruption”. Now, there is no separatism or corruption in J&K. Also, development has never been so fast-paced although some professional pessimists estimate that Kashmir’s economy declined by 50% since 5 August 2019. That is unbelievable! Let me say it again, I believe the prime minister and in the prime minister.

Rest in peace, Rajiv Tyagi. The struggle continues.

Salman Anees Soz is Deputy Chairperson of the professionals’ wing of the Congress
(Views are personal) (Tweets @SalmanSoz)

(Courtesy: The New Indian Express, August 25, 2020)

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