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Monday, September 25, 2017

Propaganda machinery

Monday, 11 September 2017 12:07
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More than three years after Narendra Modi took over as prime minister with a fairly trimmed size of ministry which he flaunted with his one-liner 'minimum government, maximum governance', the fresh reshuffle of his cabinet is just six slots short of the maximum cap of 82 imposed by the Indian constitution. The growing numbers of ministers in his cabinet, this being the second expansion in a year, indicate a marked shift from the initial claim. While promises of good governance have not been delivered, the only thing that the present expansion highlights is his bid to further centralize authority in his own hands. Perhaps that is how he defines minimum government. The reshuffle and expansion is not only an attempt to deflect public attention from the multiple failures of the government but also aimed to serve two likely ends. One is to push the government into election mode and second is to centralize authority in the hands of Modi and his man Friday Amit Shah. In the last three years, the powers of the BJP are vested in Modi and Shah, both of whom have engineered a mechanism to sideline old party horses including Lal Kishen Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Anybody seen as critical of their methods of functioning or seen as a potential challenge to their authority is shown the door and the BJP's core group comprises of chosen favourites of the two, rendering the Parliamentary Board of the party virtually non-functional since all the important decisions are taken solely by the duo. A glaring example of the duo's intolerance to dissent is the case of an MP from Maharashtra, Nana Patole, who recently revealed that at a party meeting in Nagpur, Modi was offended when he (Patole) made suggestions such as raising green tax, increasing centre's investment in agriculture sector and creating an OBC ministry and asked him to shut up. The new entrants in Modi's cabinet could be divided into two broad categories. One are the hand-picked senior leaders who could be a potential counter to the likes of Yogi Adityanath, not only facing flak for his inability to get a grasp of governance issues in Uttar Pradesh but also seen as a formidable challenge to Modi's might within the party. The other category is of retired bureaucrats with little experience in politics or administration but one or two are known to have played a key role in Modi's victory in 2014 elections. Two of them are not even MPs. Yet, they have been preferred over senior party leaders. The other purpose that the cabinet reshuffle serves is to prepare for elections in less than two years from now. To that end, there is a bid to make the cabinet appear more inclusive and the focus is in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Kerala where BJP is making inroads. Maharashtra and Orissa representation has also been taken care of. The sole Muslim minister has been elevated and a woman minister has been given the key portfolio of defence for the first time in the country. With several caste and regional representations, one Muslim and eight women in the council of ministers, the BJP is projecting this as an all-inclusive cabinet with an eye on vote bank politics. Against all speculations of including some allies like Janta Dal (United) and AIADMK in the cabinet, Modi has kept that possibility on hold. Constitutionally, he still has six slots he can fill in the next expansion. Either he has kept the inclusion of allies on hold or hopes to corner and possibly dump the allies ahead of next general elections. Whatever be the case, the cabinet eventually reflects the greed for votes and at the same time ends up being an embodiment of the centralized authority of two men. By ignoring talent and experience, Modi and Shah cannot compensate for the multiple failures of the government on the governance front solely by speeding up the propaganda machinery to change the narrative. The ground realities impacting the common masses have begun to reveal their own story of hollow promises and faked achievements.


  She's speaking louder Trained for what?