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Controversy, Thy Middle Name

Controversy, Thy Middle Name

Controversies are nothing new for Narendra Modi Government. Rather both have become inseparable twins. A government that came to power on a promising note should have avoided getting mired in them. On the contrary, even constitutional bodies are brought to shame. Take for example the recent controversy on presenting national film awards. In the 65 years of its history, it is the first time that a last-minute change led President Ram Nath Kovind giving away awards to a select few. Though the awardees were informed that they would receive the award from the President, hours before the beginning of the ceremony they were told that most of them would be honoured by Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, and not the President. More than 50 of the fuming awardees boycotted the function, leaving the government red-faced.

A couple of months back, the I & B Ministry tried to muzzle the Press by a controversial order under which accreditation of any journalist found guilty of disseminating ‘fake news’ could be cancelled. As the draconian order drew all-round condemnation, the Ministry made a hasty retreat and withdrew the order, leaving the government’s ties with the Fourth Estate souring.

Controversies abound not only in decisions taken by the Modi government, but also by administrations and institutions run by Central Ministries. A BJP MP’s letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University demanding removal of Jinnah portrait set the campus on fire. It is another matter that the Pakistan founder’s portraits do decorate many State and Central institutions in the country. The Jinnah portrait in AMU dates back to 1938 and a saffron law-maker found it worth generating an unnecessary row.

The ban on sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across the country had hit the agrarian sector very badly. It broke the spine of farmers as they found it unaffordable to take care of unproductive cattle. Previously they could sell them, but with the new rule in force they were forced to let them loose free, leading to a menace in agricultural fields. Realising the futility of the controversial ban, the government has now lifted it.  

Similarly, there have been several instances of ruling party motormouths indulging in irresponsible talks, opening up an avalanche of condemnations. The latest to learn this ‘new skill’ is Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb who advised the youth to not run after jobs and instead rear milk cows and open pan shops. Controversial ‘gems from his mouth’ include the comment that only civil engineers, and not mechanical ones, are fit to be civil servants. He is one BJP leader who found out that internet existed during Mahabharat days.

The above instances are only a tip of a mountain of controversies created by the new breed of BJP leaders. In the next fortnight, Modi government will be entering its last year of regime. It will be running the last leg of its race. Most of the boastful promises, which brought it to power, remain mere jumlas. A lot of time was wasted by its leaders resorting to disgusting comments and countering the resultant controversies. Often Mann Ki Baat took precedence over Kaam Ki Baat. There is merit in the argument that the government and the ruling party create controversies only to deviate public discourse from the real issues plaguing the people. Courting controversies will be counterproductive. It will take the nation miles away from Modi’s promised Achche Din.

(Published on 14th May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 20)