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Bouquets Or Brickbats?

Bouquets Or Brickbats?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), performing its political dance gyration, has been provoking the people to live in a mythical, make-belief world in Hollywood/Kollywood dreams.  Modi’s attempt to outsmart film heroes in his feigned ‘stellar’ performance is not being swallowed wholesale by the common people. Social media is awash with brickbats, more than bouquets, for hoodwinking the citizens with eye-popping promises most of which are yet to see the light of day.

The avalanche of questions coming up everywhere in India begs for appropriate answers. Where is that fifteen lakh for every Indian citizen (election promise) as part of the share of the black money stored in Swiss banks? That, too, within a month of the BJP’s ascending the throne as the ruling party! The Party is already preparing for next election for another five year term. Will it repeat the same promise twice over, advising the prospective voters’ eternal patience and to wait with bated breath?   

Like the heroes and heroines miao-miaoing round the bush with their motley outfit changed seventy times in a seven minute song in chameleon-like fashion, the Modi government has been jumping from one colourful display after another. That is where people began to ask many an uncomfortable question: why did you order us to be out on the street in unending queues as if to flush out black money? Why did you shed crocodile tears for those 180+ people who died, some reportedly of dehydration, some of high blood pressure, some out of sheer exhaustion? Was this the outcome expected, they ask. How much black money came to the banks from those who stood in mile long queues swallowing the sweltering heat? Was not the much advertised demonetisation a sham affair when the Reserve Bank of India spent Rs. 21,000 crore in printing new currency notes while it got only Rs. 16,000 crore in return as deposited money? Why are we the citizens left in the lurch while the ruling party politicians are enjoying a rollercoaster ride?

The cunning way petrol prices are increased on a daily basis with a few paise may not be noticeable as a drastic change. But this shrewd ‘bania’ style operation is making people empty their pocket at petrol pumps. For example, on August 1 the rate was Rs. 67.71.With an everyday increase of a few paise, on September 22 the meter reading displayed Rs. 74.82. An increase of Rs. 7 in seven weeks – a slow and steady pick-pocketing exercise performed by the petroleum ministry.  Why this cut-throat operation?

On May 16 Arun Jaitley announced that 91 lakh new tax payers were added after demonetisation, according to reports. On August 1, Arvind Subramaniam, Chief Economic adviser, demolished the Jaitley claim by stating that 5.4 lakh new tax payers were added after demonetisation. On August 15, as part of Independence Day speech, didn’t the Pradhan Sevak thunder from the ramparts of Lal Qila that demonetisation was a successful operation adding 56 lakh new tax payers? What happened to Jaitely’s 91 lakh claim? According to Govt. data, as published on Aug 1, only 33 lakh new tax payers were added after demonetisation. People ask: why does each player shift his goalpost?

In a WhatsApp clip going viral, Porali Shaji points out the government’s GST hat trick.  If you deposit Rs. 2,000/- you get only Rs. 160/- in one year as interest at the rate of 8%. If you borrow the same amount as loan, the interest at 13% you pay is Rs. 260/- for the same period. Whereas, in the new GST world, if you consume food at an eatery for Rs. 2,000/-, the government will claim Rs. 360/- at one go as service tax at 18% rate. GST for gold biscuit is 3% whereas GST for biscuit as food product claims 18%. What a strange phenomenon! What a mockery of justice! What a kind gesture to the common man!

Let the Pradhan Sevak and his ministers travel in a second class compartment not only to know the woes and hardships the common people undergo but also to hear what they have to say or ask. Why prices of essential commodities are going up every day? They ask why in a week’s time the price of the cheapest available rice in the market shot up from Rs.25/- to Rs. 28.80! The common man asks such searching questions about prices of masala, onion, potatoes and pulses. Tomato is sold for Rs. 40.00 per KG. These are just survival commodities, the prices of which are going up daily. On a recent train journey, such a searching, scathing conversation was heard in a local train in Bihar. Surprisingly, a vegetable vendor sprang with a thought-provoking answer: Arre, after writing off Mallya’s debts, Sarkar needs money to make it up. Be they vegetable vendors or rickshaw drivers or students or teachers, people have begun to ask searching questions. When a five rupee railway platform ticket shoots up to Rs. 20/-, people’s eyes bulge. The Bengalis ask ‘Keno?’ Even if they are not Mamta Banerjee’s ‘bhakts’ or Marxist cadres, the ‘keno’ refrain is being heard in different languages all over India.  One newly appointed minister justified the price rise saying: fuel prices are shooting up so that the government can make latrines in its cleanliness drive. In other words, the government needs money to teach the citizens how to shit and where to shit so that a clean India will be ready to offer a red-carpeted welcome for FDI magnates and industrial lobbies. 

Former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s recent bomb blast is not a jocular exercise even if the ruling party’s well-groomed spokespersons denounce him for his statement with a hidden agenda. ‘I shall be failing in my national duty if I did not speak up even now against the mess the finance minister has made of the economy,’ stated Sinha. Sinha with his forthright view never found favour with Modi who cleverly sidetracked him. I believe most people will not doubt Sinha’s sincerity in declaring his ‘national duty to speak up’ in the nation’s hour of need. He exposes the state of affairs in BJP’s Ram Rajya. ‘Private investment has shrunk as never before in two decades; industrial production has collapsed; agriculture is in distress. Construction industry, a big employer of the work force, is in the doldrums; the rest of the service sector is also in the slow lane. Exports have dwindled; sector after sector of the economy is in distress. A badly conceived and poorly implemented GST  has played havoc with business and sunk many of them  and countless millions have lost their jobs with hardly any new opportunities coming in the way of the new entrants to the labour market.’ This is Sinha who was twice India’s Finance Minister.

Very depressing scenario indeed! ‘To this add the decline of the growth rate to 5.7% which is actually 3.7% or less according to the old of calculation,’ points out Sinha. He gives a prophetic prediction of poetic justice when he implies that the writing on the wall cannot be brushed aside. ‘A hard landing appears inevitable’ for the ruling party at the next Lok Sabha elections.  As if referring to the previous magnified election promises of the BJP, Sinha points out that ‘Bluff and bluster is fine for the hustings, it evaporates in the face of reality.’   

It is not just Sinha’s prediction alone.  Dissipation and dissatisfaction are being writ large on people’s faces. From the fish vendor to the professor, from the housewife to the pundits of economy, all appear to be in state of consternation. Even in this depressing scenario, Modiji is rolling out ‘saubhagyshali yojanas’ as preparation for the hustings!  A last minute window dressing! Will it work?

(Published on 09th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 41)