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Wrong Fit

Wrong Fit

For someone who placed a 75-year ceiling for active political office, one must believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would retire in 2025. Given the useless state of the Indian media, no one is expected to question Modi’s fitness even if he would suffer from a serious illness. That is why one wonders what has prompted Modi to post videos of his ‘fitness’, all the more when it is not at all impressive.

Until Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister, I don’t think anyone ever bothered about the health of an Indian PM. Having become the oldest PM, Desai tried to reassure people of his physical fitness by talking about ‘urine therapy’.

During the Rajiv Gandhi era, journalists questioned the mental ability of the PM to take important decisions when he hardly slept four hours daily, given his constant visits to villages, nation-wide. But he never bothered to respond to such questions. Later, when Narasimha Rao became the PM, shortly after he had ‘retired’ from ‘politics due to ‘bad health,’ it became imperative for him to tell the nation and the world that he was fit.

Reports started appearing in newspapers of how Rao used a trendy treadmill — at least a decade before they became showpieces to dry clothes in middleclass Indian homes — to keep him hale and hearty despite undergoing a heart surgery. Even during A B Vajpayee’s and Manmohan Singh’s tenure, there were news reports concerning their health, surgeries and ‘minor procedures’ but the PMs were not bothered about correcting any perception that may have existed about their levels of fitness, except on one occasion. This was when ‘TIME’ ran a piece on Vajpayee’s failing physical health and forgetfulness. The PMO hit back with a lot of propaganda and even threatened to sue the magazine.

With no such situation existing at the moment, Modi’s fitness videos seem intriguing. They come at a time when there are no economists who are optimistic about India’s fiscal fitness. Would it be prudent to presume that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is obsessed with showing off his ‘physical fitness’ when the nation desperately needs measure to keep the growth engine revving?

They Are All Unfit

It is not just the Indian economy that needs fitness lessons. The Interpol has revealed that fugitive Indian diamantaire Nirav Modi travelled between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong four times using his Indian passport weeks after the Ministry of External Affairs cancelled it. Can’t we develop a system that is fit enough to ensure that foreign nations are alerted about cancellation of a fugitive’s passport on time?

Days after India’s and Pakistan’s Director-General of Military Operations on the border agreed to adhere to a ceasefire, 4 soldiers of the BSF have been killed. Don’t we have a fit system that can ensure that such agreements do not turn out to be a farce?

If news of Maoists targeting to kill the PM are serious, it shows the confidence the renegades have in carrying out such a daring act. Does that not point to the poor level of fitness of the Union and Maharashtra governments?

Soaring petroleum prices are increasing the tax revenue of the Centre and state governments at the cost of the public. How fit is the Finance Ministry if it cannot cap the actual tax amount to be collected on petroleum products? Why cannot we have a upper limit to the tax amount than defining it as a percentage of the cost per litre when the prices soar?

Target Kerala

The Delhi Police’s finding that Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor is guilty of ‘abetting’ the ‘suicide’ of his wife comes as a breakthrough for BJP in Kerala. The police was almost sure Sunanda Pushkar died of accidental drug overdose in 2014. This was followed by media trial, led by BJP agent Arnab Goswami. The channels he operated during the period insinuated that Pushkar was murdered.

The timing of the revival of the Pushkar case makes it compelling to believe the tales that there were attempts to arm-twist Tharoor into changing political affiliations in return to be freed of all accusations. Or, may be it is a sheer coincidence that he faces charges of ‘abetment to murder’ and ‘torture of a newly-wed bride’ after it became clear that he would remain a faithful Congressman. Cricketer Sreeshanth obtaining a clean chit in ‘match-fixing’ allegations followed by a BJP ticket to contest the last assembly polls in Kerala may also be coincidences.

Whether Tharoor would be the Congress’ choice for the Thiruvananthapuram seat, however, would depend on how the case progresses in court. If the Congress feels that Tharoor would be a liability, it is likely to ask him not to contest the Lok Sabha elections. This would be good news for BJP as it seems to have the support of a critical mass in Thiruvananthapuram, where Tharoor’s personal popularity and work as an MP are the biggest hurdles for it.

Winning one seat in the Kerala assembly had boosted BJP’s morale tremendously. A Lok Sabha seat would be the elixir the party would be looking forward prior to its attempts to wrest this model state which has treated BJP with utter disdain till now.

Back To Anarchy

Some months ago, it looked like the AAP Government was willing to overcome its agitation mentality and do whatever was possible to make a difference to the lives of the people of Delhi. The condition of Delhi Government-run hospitals and schools started looking up, winning the party and its Government a lot of praise.

However, that phase seems to be over. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and friends are back to their old ways of grabbing headlines through agitation. Kejriwal and some of his ministerial colleagues have laid a siege of the Raj Nivas, the official residence of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal.

There is no doubt that the L-G has not acted in the best interest of the ‘state’ that exists under the nose of the Central Government. When Anil Baijal was made L-G, no one expected him to be neutral arbiter between the Centre and state as the L-G by definition is the Centre’s representative and as such needs to put forth its point of view.

The sit-in has gained the support of several Opposition parties, but to my mind is not the answer to governance. Until the Supreme Court redefines the powers of the Delhi Government, why cannot Kejriwal and his team continue to do whatever the Centre allows it to? Is it because it can never overcome its anarchical streak?

(Published on 18th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 25)