Tharoor on Modi: “You May Be a Great Salesman, But for How Long?”
India, in its 71 years of independence, has seen some ‘accidental’ prime ministers. But perhaps it is for the first time, that we are watching a ‘paradoxical’ leader at the helm.
On Friday, 26 October, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament and author, officially launched his latest tome, The Paradoxical Prime Minister at Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Museum & Library. Inaugurated by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the panel, moderated by senior journalist Bhupendra Chaubey, comprised Arun Shourie, former bureaucrat Pavan K Varma, former AAP spokesman Ashutosh, and Congress party leader P Chidambaram.
In his inaugural speech, Dr Singh, usually a man of few words, made some hard-hitting statements.
“Modi’s Rule Has Not Been Good for India”: Manmohan Singh
“In 2014, Shri Narendra Modi ji was elected as prime minister on the back of many lofty promises... but the ruling government has mostly been silent in the face of widespread communal violence, mob lynching... at the same time, academic freedom is being sought to be curbed, and independent institutions like the CBI are being vitiated and stifled. On the economic front, nothing concrete has been done... a hastily implement demonetisation and GST have proved to be disastrous,” said the former prime minister.
“Petrol and diesel prices are at a historic high, despite a fall in international crude oil prices, because the Modi government chose to levy excessive excise duties. Instead of passing on the benefits of low prices to the people of India, Shri Modi thought it fit to punish our people,” Dr Singh continued.
He went on to add, “A fearful population, and an economy that has been set back by foolhardy initiatives, a painful lack of jobs, growing distress among India’s farming community, a devastating number of farmer suicides, insecure borders, instability in Kashmir, and the palpable failure of even laudable initiatives like ‘Swacch Bharat’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Make in India’, and ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao’. This is the India, Prime Minister Modi presides over - not a secular, plural, free and equal society, that our founding fathers had envisioned... Shri Modi’s rule has not been good for India, and it all arises from the “Modi paradox” that Shashi shows us in his book.”
Modi’s rule has turned out be nothing short of a series of marketing gimmicks, with very little substance having been achieved on the ground.
“Gujarat Model, a Showy Model of Development”: Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor, after reading out a few excerpts from his book, went on to talk about the “Modi brand”, which has been meticulously curated and built since 2014. “There is an image doing the rounds since 2014, that Modi is a selfless figure... he has no family, therefore, why should he be corrupt? But then again Dr Manmohan Singh was also a selfless person... however, we (the Congress) aren’t in the business of marketing,” said Tharoor.
Speaking on Modi’s cherished Gujarat model of development, Tharoor went on to say, “There are some good things about Gujarat for sure. Running water, 24x7 electricity, but not everything in Gujarat is perfect... it is a showy version of development, but no real stuff. Literacy rate is low.”
As the discussion was getting heated up, Ashutosh commented, deviating from what the others were saying, “We are looking at Modi the man, not the ideology... we need to understand his ideology and impact. We don’t ever try to understand the ideology that created Modi... it is the same ideology which led to 1992 Babri Masjid row and riots, the 2002 Gujarat riots,...Modi has been propped up by this same ideology.”
The Power of Falsehood
Shaking up the political echo chamber a wee bit, Pavan Varma said, he had resonated with primarily the first chapter of Tharoor’s book, but not quite with the rest of it. He went on to say, “Why is the Opposition in so much disarray? Why can’t they put up somebody who can look Modi in the eye?”
To this, Arun Shourie retorted in Hindi, that we may not have seen “acche din” yet, but “BJP ke zaroor bure din aa gaye hai.” (Bad days have definitely befallen the ruling government.)
And yet, the Modi narrative runs strong. Shourie attributes this to the “power of falsehood.”
As the doors to 2019 stand wide open, let the battle (and theatrics) begin.