Why Does Narendra Modi Want Weak Institutions?

The PM’s apparent lack of respect for institutions like CVC, CIC, FTII etc. and those who head them, is worrying

 

The media hysteria over the Lalit Modi-Shushma Swaraj-Vasundhara Raje saga has exposed ethical transgressions, incestuous equations and dubious financial transactions which only show that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was hardly different from the Congress and its allies. Deals of BJP leaders, either when they were in the opposition or in BJP-ruled states, were well known; but they seemed distant memory after Narendra Modi took charge. Now, two senior leaders stand badly exposed. As we go to print, a news channel is crowing about how the two powerful ladies, caught in the crossfire, may soon resign. 

 
It is interesting to note that Lalit Modi had been in London for four years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. UPA made no attempt to extradite the flamboyant czar of the Indian Premier League. Far from hiding, Lalit Modi seemed to mock Indian authorities with his endless tweets and television interviews; he heckled politicians and also had a lot to say about the Sunanda Pushkar murder. Indeed, Union minister Shushma Swaraj should not have interceded on his behalf, especially when her husband and daughter were on Lalit Modi’s legal team. And Vasundhara Raje role as a ‘secret’ witness for him stinks, now that Modi’s financial deals with her son are out in the open. 
Suddenly, the BJP is looking rather shaky on its high moral perch. That there have been no major scams in National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA’s) first year is an empty boast if many small ones begin to erupt from various states and ministries. And let us not forget the eerie silence about the 41 mysterious deaths in the cash-for-jobs scam (Vyapam scam) of Madhya Pradesh, which include even governor Ram Naresh Yadav’s son.  
 
Will prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi be able to exert enough control to prevent a string of small scams from inflicting major damage? Mr Modi’s worst detractors agree that he is personally honest. But the same was said about Dr Manmohan Singh; and, yet, he presided over the most corrupt governments in recent history. Unlike Dr Singh, Narendra Modi is a leader and not a proxy; he also rules with an iron hand. But that can be a double-edged sword if past indiscretions and newer ones begin to blow up in the media with regularity. 
 
What should worry the BJP’s core of middle-class supporters are some ominous signals that reflect the PM’s apparent lack of respect for institutions and those who head them. A pattern is beginning to emerge and this has nothing to do with BJP wanting its own people in key positions. Consider these examples:
 
Public Sector Banks (PSBs): It is more than a year since the BJP has been in power, but key banks remain headless. At Rs.2.78 lakh crore, the gross non-performing assets of PSBs are a serious problem. There is growing pressure on the government to use taxpayers’ money, once again, to recapitalise them. A shortage of senior officers is also a concern; but the government is in no hurry to complete the appointment process. While banks have remained headless for over a year, the swift appointment of former Bank of India chairman Vijaylaxmi R Iyer as a whole-time member of the insurance regulator less than a month after her retirement has raised eyebrows. Why isn’t the same alacrity shown in appointing even non-executive chairmen at PSBs after the post of chairman and managing director has been bifurcated? It is not even clear what knowledge of insurance she brings to the job. TM Bhasin’s appointment as vigilance commissioner on 9th June is stranger still. While Indian Bank, reeling under bad loans, remains headless, Mr Bhasin, who was its managing director and CEO was allowed to quit and is appointed as the CVC. He was also the chairman of Indian Banks Association. Now, both remain headless. 
 
Central Information Commissioner (CIC): Vijai Sharma, the new CIC has only 179 days to retire. The backlog of cases has mounted to over 40,000, as the post was vacant for over nine months. What is worse, the government filled only one out of four vacancies for the posts of information commissioners when it appointed Sudhir Bhargava. There is no explanation for why it did not find any suitable candidates from over 500 applications. Activists suspect that the PM has never been in favour of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and that is why it is being deliberately weakened. This would be a real pity. If India erupted in anger at the colossal corruption in every walk of life and was swayed by Narendra Modi’s promise of good governance, it is because thousands of empowered citizens used RTI to get facts and expose wrongdoing. A natural corollary to Mr Modi’s election promises would have been to strengthen this institution rather than weaken it.
 
Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC): The appointment of KV Chowdary, former chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), created a furore even within the BJP’s staunch followers. The formidable Ram Jethmalani, once the law minister in a BJP government, was incensed enough to write to the PM about his objection and post his letter on social media. Pointing out that Mr Chowdary faces several inquiries, Mr Jethmalani’s angry missive ended with this flourish: “Now we shall fight it out in the Supreme Court and the court of the people of India. My diminishing respect for you (the PM) ends today.” Well-known advocate Prashant Bhushan has also levelled several charges against the new CVC. 
 
The Film & Television Institute of India (FTII): The controversy over the appointment of Pahlaj Nihalani as chairman of the Censor Board has not even died down when students of FTII have erupted in anger at the appoint of a little-known television actor, Gajendra Chauhan, as chairman of the governing council of FTII. Like with the Censor Board (where even avowedly pro-BJP members are at loggerheads with Mr Nihalani), the issue is not about a political appointment but respect for the institution by appointing the right person to head it. Mr Chauhan is merely known for playing the role of Yudhishtir in the television series Mahabharat. Eminent film-makers correctly say that a prestigious institution like the FTII, which counts some of India’s finest actors and film-makers among its alumni, must be headed by a person of eminence and all round knowledge of film-making. It is not as though the BJP could not find such people even among its supporters. Media reports have pointed out that someone like Anupam Kher or Raj Kumar Hirani (both FTII alumni), if appointed as chairman, would not have angered students or the film fraternity. Incidentally, Mr Nihalani continues to spark new controversies at the Censor Board every few days. 
 
Ironically, and in stark contrast, the government is simultaneously working on an electronic system to streamline the functioning of the appointments committee of the Cabinet headed by the PM. This will monitor vacancies, bring in more transparency and facilitate proper appointment of Union secretaries and directors on the boards of public sector entities. Since the government does not communicate, we are clueless about the strange contradiction in its actions. 
 
Appointing the wrong people to institutions, or failing to fill vacancies, is the path to mistakes and indiscretions. And, when you have a PM who is hands-on and unabashed about centralised decision-making, the buck will only stop at his door. It is possible that you may not have gigantic, UPA-style scams, but the lesson from the Lalit Modi-Swaraj-Raje drama is that even small transgressions flare into a media frenzy, especially as the country heads towards major state-level elections. The PM’s apparent lack of respect for institutions, and those who head them, is worrying

 

(Sucheta Dalal is the managing editor of Moneylife. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2006 for her outstanding contribution to journalism. She can be reached at [email protected])

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    COMMENTS

    R Balakrishnan

    4 years ago

    This PM has a monstrous Ego and cannot stand anyone brighter than himself at the helm of any office. And a control freak. So obvious. One man, to whom three more are important- I , me and myself. Being a glib talker, he has the populace on his side. And as institutions deteriorate, we head towards an autocratic rule. Lok Ayukta be damned

    S Hariharan

    4 years ago

    S Hariharan
    S Hariharan 4 seconds ago
    Simple... only then an undeclared emergency can flourish without any
    hindrance.
    Let India be governed, democratically or not at all.
    There is at news item "Shah strikes a note of caution on Emergency" (Jun 26), and here's a humble introspection. Indeed, weren't there, then, signs of a clear consensus that Emergency was 'scripted jointly' by Indira Gandhi and JayaPrakash Narayan? The country's premier sociologist, Andre Beteille, Historian Bipan Chandra and scholar Ramchandra Guha agreed that the 'anarchy' that JP was promoting and the 'authoritarianism' of Indira and her son, Sanjay, were the 'two sides of the same coin'. Some others asked whether the saintly JP was justified in 'inciting' the armed forces and the police to disobey the government of the day. When the hammer-blow actually fell, there was dead silence. No wonder, Indira told a confidant: 'Not a dog barked.' While then BJP was calling 'Maunvrat Singh' days as an emergency, now Cong is making same potshots against 'MaunMuni' Modi! Now too, are there bold dogs to bark?
    True, reasons are quoted for the changing view of the Emergency today. A very important one is that much more than half the country's population was born after 1975. It knows little about the Emergency and cares even less. Moreover, today NDA with more scams than were there with UPA, aren't we realising that even a Modi government can't be doing the promised 'terrible things' without a formal proclamation of the Emergency or an unclaimed one?
    Not only the margadarshan mandal of BJP; Even Amit "Shah strikes a note of caution on Emergency" says the4 news item today! The material fact still holds good that if Indira Gandhi's Emergency proved anything at all, it established that India would be governed, to the extent it can be governed, democratically or not at all.

    Rajan Manchanda

    4 years ago

    PUBLIC SECTOR BANKS

    Instead of granting new Bank licences,the banks should be sold off. The Govt will not need to infuse funds,the Npa's will not be a concern and the banks will become efficient like the private sector banks.The staff can be issued part of the equity held by the Govt to over come hurdles of privatizing.The Govt will get funds into it's coffers which can be utilized for housing. The govt can continue to hold SBI for meeting it's social objectives.

    If all the bad /stressed loans are to be provided for, may be quite a few bank will go bankrupt.

    REPLY

    LALIT SHAH

    In Reply to Rajan Manchanda 4 years ago

    If govt. Sold out all PSU than who will land money to those politicians favourite corporate houses and some Run by politicians. Try to find growth in finance ministers you will socked some politicians needs money for theme self and there generation some power Hungary politicians like modi need for staying on powerfull chair and lavishly living style which even any politician live in world ..bolo BHARAT mata ki jai

    Bapoo Malcolm

    4 years ago

    Mr. Lalit Shah,

    Would like to read your comment. May we have it in plain English? It seems interesting. Thanks.

    Rajan V T

    4 years ago

    I am/was/will be (? Not sure!!) a fan of Modi, as there seemed to be no alternative! But slowly and surely, am getting disillusioned at the pace of reforms that CAN take place. The usual 'excuse' of many is that we should give them time and not be in a hurry and that vis a vis Congress rule (?) of 60 years, we should wait for 5 years,etc. I wonder why we should keep comparing and call for such a long wait! At least, people in my age group would not live to see a great country, if this is the pace and quality of change (especially wrt to the kind of interest being taken in appointments as you have rightly pointed out Sucheta) we would get to see.

    Prakash Bhate

    4 years ago

    Our state is similar to that of animals in Animal Farm where "Do you want Jones back?" was the rallying cry of the pigs whenever they wanted to justify their dubious actions.

    thulasi reddy

    4 years ago

    Madam Sucheta dalal garu,

    Thank you for the new insight on the PM. I SHALL COME BACK TO YOU at your email id.

    thank you.

    thulasi reddy. bangolore.

    webkitendfullscreen

    4 years ago

    After everything's said and done here you have to note that it is the job of the fourth pillar and intellectual society who understand governance to keep pointing out the flaws in the system. That is a job which needs to be undertaken seriously. It is regardless of whether you are largely satisfied or dissatisfied with it. Society moves ahead when there is constant polarisation of views. When it's a unipolar society we are then a society of bigots and it's time to flee.

    Gupta

    4 years ago

    All that is said here may be true and fair... but we need to get rid of this temptation of coming so easily to the conclusion that "which only show that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was hardly different from the Congress and its allies". Time and again, Congress has used this as a strategy to paint others black because they know they cannot paint themselves white. It is upto to sensible people to differentiate between a President of a party getting caught with a Rs. 1 lakh bribe and another party's small minister doing a 2 lakh crore scam. Amazing how all these people are so easily placed in the same basket. Which leads people to say.... ok, let's give the power in the hands of the default owners of India, the Gandhis. Let one more generation of theirs plunder India... after all, any other politician will also loot India. It is Gandhis who killed the roots of this country right after independence and left so much muck around to clean that it will take decades for any sincere soul to get any results and meanwhile he will always be attempted to be painted black by the establishment, whether it is Modi or anyone else. Let's give people a chance for change.

    REPLY

    LALIT SHAH

    In Reply to Gupta 4 years ago

    Cheack all BJP-RSS PEOPLES GROWTH IN WEALTH INCREASED 100 TO 500 % IN LAST 13 MONTH
    yesterday READ SOMEWHERE THAT F.M.'S WEALTH INCREASED 338%
    YISE KIYA KAHOGE ?
    CUMOUT OF HINDU-MUSLIM MINDSET THINK OF NATIONAL AND COMMON MAN INTREST

    LALIT SHAH

    In Reply to Gupta 4 years ago

    Do you think crores ki chori chori hey aur 1 lakh ki chori chori nahi right.
    Modi wear 15 Lakh's suit. Still today sayad Amitabh Vachan ne ki Adani Ambani me Se kisine bhi nahi pehna HOGA .Aur WOH 4.30 crores me lene wale ko kaise jamin land me 50 Se 500 crores ka fayda kar diya gaya. Ab YIS desh ko Arvind jaise saaf admi ki zaroorat hey

    TIHARwale

    4 years ago

    Only fools will trust NaMo when he put Smriti Irani as HRD Minister. also Lalit Modi has made it clear even if one hair his is plucked then Arun Jaitley will also be made to give company inside TIHAR so Lalit Modi will not step into India. Do u think London police will hold on Lalit Modi even for a minute if NaMo Govt issues a Red Corner Notice for Lalit Modi this will not happen because then Amit Shah will also cool heels inside TIHAR

    REPLY

    LALIT SHAH

    In Reply to TIHARwale 4 years ago

    absolute right

    LALIT SHAH

    4 years ago

    YSSE HI TRANSPERANCY KAHETE HE
    KHATA NAHI AUR HAMMARE SIWAI KISSI KO KAHNE DETA NAHI

    Ravi Panchapakesan

    4 years ago

    PJ Thomas for cvc....where where u...audacity to comment saying weakening of institutions it seems....

    PRAKASH D. BASRUR

    4 years ago

    We Indians are well-known for our emotional quirks and cumulatively it gets into a national hyseteria in the form of Indian media outbursts ! We have lost the significance of "Breaking News" because every news item has become a "Breaking News" due to our over-sensitivity !
    We , as a nation , have forgotten the very fact that the roots of "Breaking News" invariably fo back to 65 years' brute majority rule of Congress Party! So much so that nobody cares to go back into the facts of cases such as LAMO's ,i.e. Lalit Modi was a crony of Sharad Pawar who under UPA shielded him most ! Even the TRP hungry media fails to analyse the background of a "Breaking News" as to the root cause of the TRP news in the limelight ! UPA govt. could have moved matters , but for Sharad Pawar's backing to LAMO , during their regime when LAMO "ran away" to UK during day light !
    If one sincerely analyzes , TRP and Arnab's Kangaroo courts on TV apart, any such "Breaking News" item then one always ends up with a thought that the roots of all such mishaps date back to the 65 years' so called "Democratic" ( brute majority ) rule of the one and the only Congress Party !

    Dahyabhai S Patel

    4 years ago

    Mr. Modi had proclaimed when he was Gujarat CM (called himself as Common Man) that, "hu' khaaTo naThee ( I do not take bribe) ane khaavaa deTo naThee (nor allowing others to take it). Would any body elaborate why he did not appoint Lokaayukt for 9 years, spent tax payers'Rs.45 crores to fight the case in courts and to lose the same and did not want CAG reports to be discussed in Vidhansabha? Whom he was protecting?

    REPLY

    PRAKASH D. BASRUR

    In Reply to Dahyabhai S Patel 4 years ago

    Dayabhai ! You seem to have an old axe to grind against Mody ! Do you , that too as a Patel , expect Gujarat or for that matter India to have a 12th "Avatar" as a CM/PM so as to be a "Bhagwan" ?
    Today India , after 65 long years of mis-rule by one "Family" , has become a "Mahabharat" of dirty politics with a Shakunimama (Pawar ?) , Duryodhana (Rahul?) and so on !
    I am not saying there is a birth of "Sri Krishna" due to "Yada Yadasi Dharmasya" ! But there is a ray of hope and let us not kill it instantly with our extra-ordinary "Freedom of Speech" ! Let us hope the situation , 67 years after independence , has not become so bad as to use "Sudarshan Chakra"!

    PRAKASH D. BASRUR

    In Reply to Dahyabhai S Patel 4 years ago

    Dayabhai ! You seem to have an old axe to grind against Mody ! Do you , that too as a Patel , expect Gujarat or for that matter India to have a 12th "Avatar" as a CM/PM so as to be a "Bhagwan" ?
    Today India , after 65 long years of mis-rule by one "Family" , has become a "Mahabharat" of dirty politics with a Shakunimama (Pawar ?) , Duryodhana (Rahul?) and so on !
    I am not saying there is a birth of "Sri Krishna" due to "Yada Yadasi Dharmasya" ! But there is a ray of hope and let us not kill it instantly with our extra-ordinary "Freedom of Speech" ! Let us hope the situation , 67 years after independence , has not become so bad as to use "Sudarshan Chakra"!

    Dahyabhai S Patel

    4 years ago

    Mrs. Sucheta, I totally disagree with you on "Mr Modi’s worst detractors agree that he is personally honest. " Is it possible to get the topmost position bypassing so many stalwarts without the use of coloured monies, collected through and supplied to parent organization and party funds, from industrialists, collectors, commissioners etc. You might be knowing about Mr. Luke who revived GACL and GSFC and his whereabouts now and the plight of the company called GSPC which is going to be merged with Gujarat Gas! You also must be knowing about the Ahmedabad Metro and Sanjay Gupta!

    REPLY

    LALIT SHAH

    In Reply to Dahyabhai S Patel 4 years ago

    personaly honest my foot

    he ware 15 lakh suit which brought by lalji @4.30 crores and lalji benifited in land which was in fix
    what do u say now

    Two Guinness records set on first yoga day
    The first International Yoga Day at Rajpath saw two Guinness World Records being set - for the largest number of participants in a yoga lesson at a single venue and for the most number of nationalities in a yoga lesson.
     
    An official statement said that in the first category, for the largest number of participants in a yoga lesson at a single venue, the earlier record was 29,973.
     
    The congregation at Rajpath on Sunday was 35,985, breaking the previous record.
     
    The second category was the most number of nationalities in a yoga lesson.
     
    To achieve this, participants from at least 50 countries were required to perform.
     
    "Today, participants from 84 countries performed yoga at Rajpath," the statement said.
     
    The awards were received by Ayush Minister Shripad Yesso Naik from representatives of Guinness World Records -- Victoria from Britain and Marco Frigatti from Italy.
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    Millions in India, thousands abroad mark International Yoga Day
    It was an unprecedented demonstration of India's soft power as tens of thousands across the world, besides millions in India, performed yoga on Sunday to mark the inaugural International Day of Yoga (IDY). A record-breaking nearly 36,000 people, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, took part in the main early morning event at Rajpath in the heart of New Delhi.
     
    Yoga was performed at events across the world -- from New York to Trinidad and Tobago, from the Maldives to Australia, from Tel Aviv to Moscow, from on board Indian naval ships to the heights of Siachen glacier, at schools and in innumerable residential localities -- to mark the IDY on June 21.
     
    The mega event at Rajpath, the ceremonial boulevard and the surrounding green expanse that connects Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace on Raisina Hill, with the World War I memorial India Gate, was replicated across state capitals, cities, towns and rural areas in the country. Modi described the event as the start of a new era for training the human mind for mind-body balance, peace and harmony.
     
    Modi, who himself performed the asanas among the crowd of yoga practitioners at Rajpath, said yoga was not only an exercise to make the body flexible but a path for inner development.
     
    "It marks a new era of training of human mind for peace and harmony," said Modi, attired in a full-sleeve loose white shirt and white lowers, with a scarf in the saffron, white and green colours of the Indian flag looped around his neck.
     
    Events were held in the morning hours in 192 countries, organised by the Indian missions and yoga centres.
     
    As the sun rose on the globe, the yoga events began kicking off, with the eastern-most countries sending in their pictures.
     
    India notched two world records on the inaugural IDY at Rajpath -- for the most number of participants in a yoga lesson with 35,985 at Rajpath -- and for the most number of nationalities attending a yoga lesson -- with people from 84 countries participating at Rajpath.
     
    In an address at the United Nations, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the IDY was viewed as a perfect platform to bring the world together in a spirit of unity and harmony.
     
    She said yoga was not a religion and should not be seen as belonging to any particular religion. "It is a science, the science of well-being, the science of integrating body, mind and soul, the science of actualizing our true potential."
     
    Among those doing yoga at Rajpath were US Ambassador Richard Verma, Nepal Ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyay, Afghanistan's Shaida Mohammad Abdali and members of the foreign diplomatic corps and foreign nationals studying in India.
     
    Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and Delhi's former top cop Kiran Bedi were among the prominent personalities who joined in doing yoga.
     
    Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth were present but did not join.
     
    Remarking at the sea of people, Modi said: "Did anybody ever think that Rajpath can become Yogpath?"
     
    Modi did all the 35 asanas listed in the Common Yoga Protocol performed on Sunday. A group of yoga experts performed the yoga exercises on a stage, beamed to the crowd on around 25 large screens, with instructions in Hindi and English.
     
    Modi is a keen yoga enthusiast on whose proposal the UN last year announced holding of IDY on June 21.
     
    The Rajpath event barely escaped the sharp pre-monsoon showers that drenched the capital soon after the yoga exercise ended at 8 a.m.
     
    As the event got over, the sky became overcast and strong gusts of wind shook the tree branches along the Rajpath boulevard. Droplets of rain fell -- and in 20 minutes, it began pouring.
     
    Strong security arrangements were in place around Rajpath and only those with special invitee cards were allowed in the restricted area.
     
    Over 1,400 women training to join Delhi Police did the yoga asanas as did senior citizens.
     
    Muslims, some wearing the skull cap, took part with enthusiasm despite it being the fasting month of Ramadan. There was 11-year-old Mohd. Aseem from a government school in Vivek Vihar who said he enjoyed doing yoga.
     
    The US envoy said he found the yoga session "excellent".
     
    Burkina Faso envoy Idriss Raoua Ouedraogo, who has been practising yoga for over 27 years and is a teacher, said he was delighted to have been at Rajpath.
     
    Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa hailed Modi. "As a practitioner of yoga, I commend PM @narendramodi for his efforts at the UN," he tweeted.
     
    Indian soldiers did yoga at the Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield at 5,400 metres altitude, and in Ladakh and Kargil, besides at all major stations.
     
    The Indian Navy, observing "Yoga across the Oceans", had ships stationed in international waters, from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea, and the crew performed yoga.
     
    Later addressing an international conference on yoga here, Modi asked people to embrace yoga for "highest divine perfection" and to combat greed and violence.
     
    He said that while yoga may have originated in India, it draws energy from the millions who practise it around the world.
     
    Doing yoga regularly helps to reduce greed, violence, cost of healthcare and conflicts within communities and between nations, he said.
     
    The Art of Living said some 50 million people across 132 countries did yoga on Sunday with the spiritual group.
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