About Arun Shourie’s critique of ‘President’ Modi’s two years of governance – Anil Sharma

Arun Shourie

Anil Sharma“In a democracy the people are always looking for a better alternative and they saw the promise of it in Modi. In their eyes, he still has quite a distance to go to redeem his promise. The major factor that is working to the prime minister’s advantage is that if he has not performed to people’s expectations his probable challenger Rahul Gandhi is yet to establish himself as a viable alternative.” – Anil Sharma

It is quite an experience to hear the right wing scholar Arun Shourie critique the Modi years. Mind you, it has been just two years that Narendra Modi has been in office as prime minister, and Shourie’s judgement is simply lethal. When you look back at all the negative descriptions, it strikes you that from ‘lunatic to narcissist’ there is nothing that has been left unsaid. Indeed, more alarming than Shourie’s criticism of the past is his prediction of what the future holds in store for all of us in the remaining three years of the Modi regime.

In terms of sheer news value, there is hardly anything new in Shourie’s recent assessment. The only thing different is his better and elaborate articulation. Also, if he expects anything to change or the BJP to respond to him then too it is not going to happen. The BJP has been routinely dismissing Shourie’s words of wisdom as the lament of a disgruntled soul.

But that is to betray a poor understanding of the person. The fact of the matter is that even if Shourie had been a cabinet minister (the denial of that prize being projected as the reason for his negativity), there are very high chances that he would have come up with the same critique, and perhaps within the closed doors of a cabinet meeting. The story would have still found its way in the public domain, without Shourie being the source. And that would have been the surest way to get him out of the cabinet.

It is only in an ideal situation that the message can be separated from the messenger. The identities of the two are bound to get mixed up in the process, especially when the issues involved are too sensitive and crucial. Indeed, in mixing the two—his message with his persona—Shourie has scored a self-goal. An assessment that would have otherwise been appreciated by even those sympathetic towards Modi has been marred by his personal angularities. For his instance, his use of the expression ‘use and throw’ to describe Modi’s approach unwittingly reveals that he too has been a part of this syndrome.

Shourie is an experienced right winger, and through his dealings with the Parivar over the decades must have by now imbibed the essence of the rewards and punishment system that operates within the brotherhood. It is a system that rewards a Subramaniam Swamy, a Giriraj Singh and keeps the likes of Shourie on the margins testing their patience.

The point about Modi and the Parivar not rewarding Shourie is very obvious. Unlike the Vajpayee regime that was very liberal the present ruling dispensation demands total conformism and this constricts its choice of personnel. Atalji had his own way of handling contradictions and sadly this feature is missing from the Modi regime. Not only does this add to the discomfort of diverse elements within the Parivar but it is also responsible for a lot of ills that have been diagnosed by Shourie.

Narendra ModiHowever, beyond Shourie’s personal issues there would be little disagreement over the substantive parts of his assessment of the Modi government’s performance. Whereas one may differ with his assessment that “we have made a fool of ourselves” when it comes to dealing with Pakistan the fact remains that we have certainly not covered ourselves with glory anyway. Similarly, on the economic front, Shourie is in the excellent company of the governor of Reserve Bank of India in his assessment of the Modi Government ‘s performance.

Narendra Modi & Nawaz SharifIn the realm of foreign policy and diplomacy there was a time early in the tenure of the Modi Sarkar when the prime minister was striking all the right notes. It appeared that he would craft the country’s image in superior terms as he struck a personal rapport with the global leaders. But now in the second year of his term in office, he seems to have come to a dead end in terms of such initiatives. This is where Shourie’s critique is on the dot. It is a given in the arena of diplomacy that personal rapport serves only a limited purpose and the rest has to be achieved through old style hardwork.

This disappointment with Modi’s performance as prime minister is not limited to the likes of Shourie. There are many other segments of the population that had high hopes from him, and though they may not be as articulate as the former minister and the veteran campaign journalist, still their discontent matters more in real terms.

In a democracy the people are always looking for a better alternative and they saw the promise of it in Modi. In their eyes, he still has quite a distance to go to redeem his promise. The major factor that is working to the prime minister’s advantage is that if he has not performed to people’s expectations his probable challenger Rahul Gandhi is yet to establish himself as a viable alternative.

Besides to judge everything from the standpoint of wins and losses in elections can hardly be seen as the best way to assess a leader’s contribution to the task of nation building. Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers the 2019 election for his party or not is actually a secondary question. The primary issue would be the difference his leadership over his five year tenure makes to the Indian economic situation, the welfare of the people and the country’s standing in the comity of nations. This assessment would be independent of the electoral verdict.

The larger issue of the apparently divisive agenda of the Parivar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deliberative silence at crucial junctures is something that would actually test the credentials of the larger populace. We should remember that Pandit Nehru was able to drive the country to a secular ethos because it was a part of our civilisational heritage. Now how much will the Sangh Parivar penetrate into it with its idea of India would also depend to a larger extent on the people. This is something that should not worry Shourie. – Free Press Journal, 9 May 2016

» Anil Sharma is writes for the Free Press Journal from South Delhi.