By Vijay Sanghvi
President Barack Obama wrote a special article for Times praising Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sky high. Obama described him as a par excellence political character. No American statesman has ever before showered such praises on any Indian leader. It ought to have sent waves of jubilations in the hearts of his party workers. However the party maintained a complete silence. No comments were offered. In fact the party spokespersons have been avoiding media contact a week before this comments of the American President appeared in print. This silence in the party is a loud message of tension that prevails within as the party seems to be torn between two extremes or rather between two centres of power.
There is a debate within to ascertain real significance of the last electoral results. Many credit it to be the victory of the party. Political pundits do not appear to agree with assessment. Narendra Modi had dictated his terms for acceptance to lead the party and consequently had erased completely the original identity of the party. His victory was unprecedented. However diplomats sent varying messages for the elections also proved the inherent strength of Indian democracy and the will of people to gamble with new ventures.
Rousing receptions accorded to him abroad in last ten months on his visits to different developed nations were sign of their appreciation of emergent leadership. NaMo has been urging capitalists of the countries he visited to bring their capital and production units to India. He is clear in his perception that Indian needs wide industrial expansion to accommodate rising educated young numbers. However his plans ran in rough weather not only due to resistance from outside but also from within. Capitalists did not miss it.
Indian industrialists have also not proposed new ventures in ten months as they are still waiting for implementation of his promise of streamlining of administrative procedures to ease promotion of new ventures. But NaMo had to yield to the Sangh in handing over three of five states after assembly polls since the Lok Sabha elections, to the Sangh nominees. A Brahmin took over Maharashtra, a Vaishya took over Haryana and a non tribal was appointed in Jharkhand. Personal choice of NaMo to head the BJP government after the assembly polls met with a debacle. Results clearly indicate internal sabotage.
But what surprised many was consent given by the finance minister Arun Jaitley to proposition by the Central Board of Taxes to tighten the noose on necks of income tax payee with mandatory rules for new return forms seeking information that is not sought in any other country. In the name of controlling the stacking of funds abroad by Indians, The tax authorities proposed to make in compulsory for every tax payer to furnish information that is generally not sought to respect their privacy of life. Even it could not have been tolerable but the tax authority structure is known for its rampant corruption. The restrictive and mandatory laws would have opened the flood gates for harassment.
Incidentally most tax payers are middle class and have been supporters or sympathizers of the BJP. The scheme would have badly affected the solid vote bank of the BJP with rising discontent in the most voluble and organized middle class. NaMo was not untangling the level shackles but tightening them would have been the emergent message. The finance minister asked over the phone from Washington the tax authorities to put on hold the proposal. Why did he not grasp political implications for the NaMo government of the proposal he consented to, is a moot question. Jaitley is not a novice to overlook it.
He would not dare to do something that would annoy the Prime Minister for its message was clear and loud unless he was under some kind of pressure. As finance minister he had to use tactical words to assure that the government would tackle menace of large horde of black wealth abroad. He knows as well that tax authorities have not been able to unveil any evidence in five years since they got the list of names of Indians holding bank accounts with a bank- not original Swiss but a foreign bank in Switzerland. The proposal of his department would lead to harassment of forty million taxpayers without adding any information of hoarded black wealth abroad was apparent. Yet he consented to its promulgation. Did he intend to convey that NaMo was not indebted to rich or working for them? Hence he did not care in hinging them by noose? Does it not run counter to all that NaMo has been attempting in wooing foreign capital?
The proposal may have been put on hold but faith of masses, particularly of the middle class in his leadership is shaken. Leaders of state parties that emerged on basis of aspirations of the emerging class in last decade of last century could not miss the clear message that unless they united and consolidated their base among other backward classes, the upper castes would reassert their position in power corridors. The omens of it were discernible to even blind political minds.
Existing leaders are too old to realize their aspirations for top slot. Only last act they can perform is to deliver for OBCs of different states a national platform to be a credible alternate political force. Their decision to bring five split away factions of the Janata Dal in 1990 needs to be seen with a critical perspective. It is born of the developments within the ruling party. NaMo is not being allowed to move even sideways to deliver what he promised. His assurances, his platitudes and his assertion of better days ahead appear empty without concrete results on ground. Even those gone gaga on his taking over from the UPA government in May 2014 are using strident words to ventilate their dismay that nothing happened in eleven months. NaMo would need to work hard to win them back. He is a lonely person in his fight.