Ideas >

The PM’s gang of four?


Sunil Sharan
[ March 16, 2017 ]

Finally, he’s not leaving Goa. Manohar Parrikar that is. All heave a sigh of relief. The prime minister, the military, everyone, except the Goans. Never in recent memory has a key minister, armed with his IIT armory, promised so much and delivered so little. The PM reportedly wanted to sideline him for quite some time, but the RSS shielded its protectee. Now in his hour of mesmerizing triumph, the PM can do what he wants.




Seventy years ago, two Gujaratis ruled, one the nation, the other the party. Seventy years on, it’s come full circle. And finally, the RSS’s gang of four in the cabinet has been broken. Lalitgate apparently was a fusillade launched by Arun Jaitley against his arch-nemesis, Sushma Swaraj. But the RSS saved her neck just in time, even though it was badly wrung and she was left with little to do. The Thakur, the official number two, has kept quite mum this term. The RSS likes him, but he’s clearly not the favorite. The favorite clearly is Mr. Gadkari. Oh, what a wet ministry he has. All of transport. Shipping, air, roads, everything. All those vacations in the French Riviera on corporate dime must be being remembered with fondness. The Marathi RSS dearly wants a peshwa as PM. But this peshwa has not captured people’s hearts and minds. Nowhere near as the Gujarati has. Sure, he speaks great Hindi. Sanskritised too. All those hands flailing in the air, head shaking from side to side, and all without a teleprompter that Obama could not live without. And sure, his lackey, the other Gujarati, too speaks good Hindi. And then there is the billionaire Gujarati advisor. Which one, you will ask? Your guess is as good as mine. Three years on, and the Gujarat Model should have been transformed into the India Model. There should have been a Vibrant India summit taking place every year. But, Vibrant Gujarat lives on, and the PM makes sure he’s its chief attraction. What exactly has his government achieved? There’s been demonetization, the failed bids for the nuclear supplier group as well as a UN perma-seat, the impetuous trip to Lahore, Pathankot, Uri, the list of fiascoes is kinda long. Mnrega and Aadhaar he derided when the UPA was there but has now co-opted them. The real problem? Only one another PM was a provincial who was catapulted into 7 RCR. He became famous, or infamous if you like it that way, as the PM of Bangalore. Almost every other PM has spent a long stint in Delhi. Delhi. Ah, Lutyen’s Delhi. A maze of intrigue and conspiracy, as Feroze Gandhi so perspicaciously observed. Where no one is anyone’s friend, and where today’s friend is tomorrow’s enemy. Where everyone claims to be two degrees of separation away from the PM, or the Supreme Leader in the time of the UPA. The last NDA PM? Vajpayee. He spent half a century discovering the byzantine lanes of Delhi. A year into his term, India Today ran a cover story, Unfit to Rule. The RSS had blocked his choice for finance minister, Jaswant Singh. His ministers, greenhorns for the most part, were not getting along with the bureaucracy. Kargil came to his rescue. And then he thumbed his nose at the RSS, and its chosen one, LK Advani. A coterie surrounded him: Brajesh Mishra, Jaswant, George Fernandes, Arun Shourie (later on), and of course the omnipresent foster son-in-law. Then some roads got built. Some progress with Pakistan was made. GDP figures were decent, at least for that time. Until, LK, in his bid for power, preponed elections by six months with his Unshining India campaign, and lo and behold, ringa ringa roses, all fell down. That’s just it. The PM doesn’t have a coterie, leave alone a competent coterie. Jaitley, after four damp squibs of a budget, has been unable to tackle the economy. The finance minister’s job is really tricky. In the last forty years, no one but Manmohan has really excelled in it. Not even Chidu, what with his Harvard MBA and all. Lawyers like Jaitley and Chidu really should stick to what they know best, law, or maybe something administrative like home, where Chidu did well. Leave the economy to an economist like Manmohan, who dreams numbers even in his sleep. If Jaitley had been smart, he would never had let Raghuram Rajan go. Rajan would not have allowed demonetization to happen, at least the way it did. But it is Gujarati Raj today. Rajan was repealed and quickly replaced with one more Gujarati, this time at the Reserve Bank. And then the PM keeps saddling Jaitley with additional charge of defence. Heck, he can’t handle one portfolio, why give him two? Arun Shourie, who was initially a fan of the PM, has now become a carping critic. He needs to be shut up and put in his place, in a key portfolio. And Yashwant Sinha?
Well, he’s a competent guy, but has become too bilious for the PM. But what did Churchill say? That he would rather have his critics inside the tent pissing out, rather than outside the tent pissing in. Right now Shourie and Sinha are in the latter category. The victory in UP is not a vote for demonetization, and the roses of victory will soon fade. 2019 is still a ways away. The RSS is poised, ready to replenish its ranks. It tried to install Subramaniam Swamy in the cabinet, and will keep trying. Its gang of four must be kept alive. But the PM needs his own gang of four. Jaitley has zero electoral appeal. Shah almost nil competence in governance. Even the PM’s most ardent admirers are now scratching their heads. Has the man with the Midas touch become the man with a mud touch? The PM needs a signal victory. In governance, not electorally. No matter how demonetization is sold, no one, at least no layman can figure out whether it has made sense or not. The PM is no longer the bumpkin in Delhi. The only non-yes-man he has today is the Gujarati billionaire, but the PM doesn’t have to be surrounded by yes-men, just men who’ll deliver for him.
--------(Courtesy………timesofindia.com. The views expressed by the author are his own but not of “Kashmir Horizon”)