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PM Watch

Before he became our prime minister, he looked like any other street fighter; coming out with bizarre statements including the 15,000 evacuation (later the media took the rap) and the 56” chest, not to speak of the several name calling that lowered the quality of discourse.

To give him his due, he canvassed with great energy, turning out to be NDA’s one-man army. In the end NDA won; the victory looking interminably larger than what it was because of where the second placed Congress fell. He is now our prime minister and whatever reservations we may have had about him in the past, he deserves the respect that comes with holding the office of prime minister.

Yet there are a number of things that he has done: some of which were issues he and his party had faulted the earlier incumbent.

Like, he allotted the office of the finance minister to a man who had just lost the elections by a large margin. Not just that. He gave him the defence ministry as well, thus making the man quite portly, power wise.  Coming after the charge against the previous prime minister who came from the Rajya Sabha this was cheeky.

Like, he had admonished his predecessor of having biriyani with the Pakistani prime minister even while Pakistan was in skirmish with India at the borders.  There was the rightful noise over how an Indian soldier was beheaded and a wrongful scream over why the two heads should meet. Yet the very same man invited the very same Pakistani head to his swearing in and his spin-doctors called it statesmanship. Well, if his was statesmanship, what the previous prime minister had done was also statesmanship.

Like, he brought in Smriti Irani as the HRD minister.  I am okay with a CEO who is not formally lettered.  For, his job is to manage a team of expert CXOs. But you can’t have a CXO who is not a functional expert.  And here, the country’s CEO was anointing as CXO (HR) a lady who had passed Class XII. Worse still, she had lied on affidavit about her educational qualifications.

A party that had made snide remarks on Sonia Gandhi was now entertaining Irani. Clearly the prime minister was speaking one thing and doing quite another.

Like, he pushed in an ordinance, (was not even willing to discuss and pass in parliament) to get the former head of TRAI as his principal secretary. This meant that one man could throw a key provision of the Act out of the window; a provision that ensured institutional integrity of a regulatory authority. Surely, N Misra was not the only one in civil service who was good enough to be the PM’s principal secretary.  Shame on the man who gua-ranteed transparency.

Like, he is now seeking to push governors out.  He has had a long-standing tiff with the governor of Gujarat. He had manoeuvred to ensure that the state did not have a Lok Ayukth. After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Governor he pushed a legislation that would ensure that his nominee got appointed.  Now that he is prime minister he wants the governor to go. And a spate of other governors as well.  When the Congress did much the same in 2004, the present finance minister called it a ‘grave constitutional impropriety.’  So what is it now, now that the NDA is doing just that?

Like, there is the mother of them all: the railway fare hike. Nobody is quarelling with the 14 per cent hike.  It’s the government’s prerogative. But was it okay to bypass parliament? And remember the prime minister himself a couple of years back had taken up this issue with the previous government! Isn’t that the classic ‘saying-doing gap.’

I can understand people on social networking site, howsoever intelligent, constantly harping about whether this wasn’t what the UPA too had done. But then the NDA had promised to be different. Alas it isn’t acting different.  

The prime minister has it in him both the character and the opportunity to be India’s game changer. For that it is not enough to gesticulate and talk, it’s not enough just to execute, it is necessary to do it with dignity and grace.


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