Stars under a cloud


July 07, 2015

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan addressing a press conference in the state’s capital Bhopal on Tuesday (PTI)

One by one, the star performers of the BJP are landing in one problem or the other. The image of the party is getting hit harder than anyone had imagined just a few months ago. Why is the leadership still quiet?

In terms of the number of people dying under mysterious circumstances in a single scandal, the latest Vyapam scam could well make it into the global record books. It has in India, at least, become the first one to take so many lives. As of now, the number of dead has crossed the 40 mark and, given the publicly stated apprehensions of some of the whistleblowers, the number could even go up.

First, let’s look at what this scam is all about before going into the implications of all this for the powerful. It revolves around the exams held for admission to professional courses like medicine and engineering in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Vyapam is the Hindi acronym for the Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal. One among the various modus operandi was to impersonate candidates appearing for these entrance exams. It got extended to recruitments to government departments as well.

Those involved include a former education minister, son of the state governor, top officials, students, middlemen and others. There are so many faults in the manner of investigation that it would shock even a mediocre investigator. Like one of the accused had been arrested but his computer was not seized by a special investigation team or SIT that is headed by a retired judge. The number of those arrested has risen to 2,000 and, it is said, that about 800 are still on the run.

On July 4, a television journalist died soon after interviewing the family of one of the students who had committed suicide. Within the next 24 hours, the dean of a medical college who had helped authorities in researching evidence was found dead. Nobody is sure of the causes of their deaths yet but the perception that has gained ground is that there is something that has gone wrong in what was considered to be the best administered states of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Its Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has come under tremendous pressure to hand over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). But, the BJP government is behaving in the same obstinate manner as its predecessor, the Congress government. The central leaders of the party appear to have an exaggerated picture of technicalities to avoid a probe by the CBI. Chouhan was one of the best performing chief ministers among the BJP leaders. So was Raman Singh of Chattisgarh whose state is now facing a scam in the public distribution system. Both have led their party to victory in three consecutive elections.

In effect, one by one, the regional satraps of the BJP as well as central ministers like Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani and chief ministers like Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan and Devendra Fadnavis of Maharashtra, are all suddenly landing in some problem or the other. To defend a couple of them, the party leadership has fielded people like federal Finance Minister Arun Jaitely or Home Minister Rajnath Singh. But, overall it appears like the BJP‘s central leadership is just letting things drag on so long that people would tend to forget them.

The handling of the various controversies and the absence of a prompt response to counter the allegations made by the opposition parties or even to stem the rot seems a far fetched idea for the central leadership of the BJP. It was not too long ago that the country saw a similar ostrich-like approach to a political crisis. But unlike the BJP, the predecessor Congress-led government consisted of coalition partners which dictated terms to the single largest party, the Congress. This had resulted in the then prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, being hemmed in from all sides, including his own party colleagues. He could not remove those ministers who belonged to the coalition partner resulting in the entire government getting its name painted as corrupt in capital letters.

But, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is not sailing in the same boat as Dr Singh. He has no such compulsions of a government falling because of dependence on stronger allies. So, what could be the possible reason for his inaction either through words or deeds? Is it to drive home the message that all these guys have dirtied their hands and he will come across stronger in the public eye as a cleaner administrator? Will inaction on his part not affect him in the long run? Such questions are beginning to be asked in political circles and the answer would take some time to come. It means that the image of the party is getting hit harder than anyone had imagined just a few months ago.

Don’t behave like Englishmen

The BJP-led government had told us what we should study and what we should not eat. Now, one of the senior-most ministers has told us that we should not behave like ‘Englishman’ by speaking in English and not to say ‘Hi’ or ‘Bye’ to our parents or elders.

Here are some of the quotes of the federal Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, who had told students that we should all have ‘Indianness’ and that ‘one doesn’t acquire knowledge by speaking in English only’. And that any child should touch their parents’ feet to take their blessings because that would ensure no one stops him or her from reaching greater heights in life.

None can find fault with anything that Singh has told the students. None can claim that any single language is a repository of all knowledge. But is this what a federal minister should be telling people - how the family should be behaving or conversing with each other?

Does saying a Hi or a Bye to a parent in any way diminish the respect or love a child has for the parent or is it disrespectful if the child does not touch the feet of the parent?

That times have changed and that a value system has evolved embodying the best of the Western influences with the traditional Indian culture seems to have been completely lost on the minister. Such an approach is no different from the madrassas building mental walls in the minds of Muslim children by refusing to teach them science, maths or social sciences. By confining them to imparting of religious texts alone, they are killing the development of brain cells in more than a generation.

Such advise by a minister of his stature only reverses his leaders resolve embodied in the brilliantly worded slogan of ‘maximum governance, minimum government’. Such statements by those in power only appear farcical.

Tailpiece

It is rather odd to suggest that Indians or those visiting this country should learn a lesson from an American. But, those Indians and foreigners who have had to deal with the infamous drivers of three wheeler auto-rickshaws, irrespective of the city, would be well advised to join the

over 650,000 viewers (in just five days) of this simply amazing upload on YouTube.

The lady who has put this up is an assistant professor of peace and security at Georgetown University. And, Christine Fair has been more than fair. She has not put it up surreptitiously. She has done so after duly informing the errant autorickshaw driver that it will be going up on the Internet, not once but twice.

It is not unusual for autorickshaw drivers in most cities and towns to demand whatever fare they deem appropriate in complete violation of the law to make their money going by the meter.

Obviously, this driver did not realise that Christine Fair was not going to be like any other visitor to India who would buckle under pressure.

She tells him, surprisingly in good Urdu, that she was recording her entire performance on camera, that she had no work for the day and had absolutely no issues sitting inside the

vehicle. She sings two songs before the autorickshaw driver relents and asks her where she wants to go, and informs him that Charminar is a famous location.

Of course, the driver falls in line with her polite request to put on the meter. Fair again informs him that it will be put up on the net.

The driver must have got the shock of his life when she said ‘Mashallah’ and ‘Alhumdulillah’. But, then he had no courage to respond to a tough but tactful customer.