I returned to Singapore late in the evening on Saturday after a six-day sojourn visiting Concord in North Carolina – 60% of the time on ground and 40% on air or waiting to board! Sunday was spent on catching up with stuff happening on the ground in India.
India had moved up in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ rankings in 2015. I sent a mail to my friends that it was time for India’s self-styled liberals to drum up another controversy to drown out the good news. Even on that improvement in ranking, Mr. Mihir Sharma set up his own bizarre criteria (without any basis in facts or logic) as to judge its success. Read it for yourself.
When they cannot create one, they look for criticisms of the NDA government that they can then parrot over and over. They got one last week. Dr. Arun Shourie called this government, ‘Congress + cow’. Much as I respect Dr. Shourie, I would quite simply disagree with him on that comment. We seem to have forgotten too quickly how badly India was diminished and damaged in the UPA years.
As this comment in ‘Swarajya’ noted, there were specific criticisms in his speech that the government could do well to address. But, the media was not so much interested in specifics.
If they were interested in specifics, they would applaud specific achievements and criticise specific failings. That would be objective. The idea is not to be objective but to prevent good governance from taking place.
An article in ‘Newslaundry’ wrote about the government’s success in the coal and power sectors. That went unnoticed. Deepak Parekh had lauded the work in Railway Ministry. When Deepak Parekh wrote that nothing much had changed with the new government some six months into the NDA government last year, the media celebrated him. This blog post of his has not had too many takers.
The Ministry of Surface Transport had said that if a road construction project did not commence within a year of it being awarded, the contract would be terminated. That is an important step. The same article in ‘Financial Express’ notes the visible improvement in cleanliness in Railway Stations too.
As many in the twitter world have noted, Indian (self-styled) liberals have no time for facts or evidence. Anand Ranganathan had tweeted on the communal incidents in the five years up to 2013. No Sahitya Academy award winner protested then. Dr. Saswati Sarcar had critiqued extensively and brilliantly the Op.-Ed that actor Ms. Sharmila Tagore had written in Bengali on the ‘not very happy time’, pointing out the glaring and blatant inconsistencies on the part of the actor in failing to record her angst and dismay at previous episodes of intolerance in the country when neither PM Modi nor NDA was in office.
Balijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, a BJD Member of Parliament has noted that the chorus on rising intolerance always peaks around elections just as the cries of attack on Christians peaked before elections in Delhi and quietly died soon thereafter. That most of the reported crimes against Christians turned out to be random acts of violence, vandalism, etc., was a matter of minor detail for those who wrote about a culture of fear among minorities.
Role reversal: Governor Raghuram Rajan now asks Modi government for a rate cut — in rising levels of intolerance
The speech was addressed to Indians and not to Government of India. The culture of bans in India pre-dates this government and would continue beyond this government too. I had gone through some five reports on the speech – one at ‘First Post’, second in ‘Business Standard’, third at ‘India Today’, fourth one at ‘Financial Express’ and a fifth one at ‘Newscrunch.in’.
This paragraph in his speech went unreported:
Put differently, while you should avoid pressing the buttons that upset me to the extent possible, when you do push them you should explain carefully why that is necessary so as to move the debate forward, and how it should not be interpreted as a personal attack on me. You have to tread respectfully, assuring me that a challenge to the ideas I hold is necessary for progress. At the same time, I should endeavour to hold few ideas so closely intertwined with my personality that any attack on them is deemed an intolerable personal affront. Tolerance means not being so insecure about one’s ideas that one cannot subject them to challenge – it implies a degree of detachment that is absolutely necessary for mature debate. Finally, respect requires that in the rare case when an idea is tightly associated with a group’s core personality, we are extra careful about challenging it. [Link – Emphasis mine]
The Governor must have thought hard about his speech before he made it. He would have thought that he was making a general speech and that he had a message for both sides – one who feels threatened by challenges to their favoured ideas and views and those who challenge them. But, having been in India for quite some time now, it would not have come as a surprise to him that some outlets in the Indian English language media have quoted him selectively.
Of course, the reaction from Dr. Subramanian Swamy was an unfortunate one. If the government acted on his advice, it would only be vindicating those who are quoting selectively from Dr. Rajan’s speech. The government has far too many players with a remarkable ability to score and cause the government to score self-goals.
One thing is clear to any remotely disinterested and objective reader of the situation on the ground in India. There is indeed a culture of intolerance in India. It is the intolerance of many of India’s self-styled liberals towards Indian democracy, towards the Indian voter, towards the current Prime Minister and his government.
Whoever is behind these ‘liberals’ is showing tactical nous – encashing the IOUs they have – but not strategic intelligence. Under normal circumstances, many who voted for the government would have been evaluating its successes and failures objectively. But, by their relentless, shrill, biased and spiteful campaign, these so-called ‘Liberals’ have now caused many to close ranks and rally behind the beleaguered government and its Prime Minister.
So, if they thought that they could re-enact 2004 in 2019 with this tactic, I think they may be committing a big mistake. Their campaign could have the opposite effect and, perhaps, it is already doing so.
On the other hand, should the ‘liberally hypocritical’ Indians succeed (still a possibility) in reducing this government to one term in office and bring back those who ruled India for a very long time since Independence and their allies, they and their succeeding generations will have all the time in the world to regret the folly of their ways. That is, if they are capable of reflection and introspection at all.