Monday, May 19, 2014

Don't Forget Bharat Obliterated Gormandising India/The Sunday Standard/May 18, 2014

Don't Forget Bharat Obliterated Gormandising India

Dear Narendrabhai,
I must confess that I have been one of your few critics these past few months. I couldn’t come to terms with your grandiloquence and the way you positioned yourself as the Alternative Leader of India. I guess, you felt the pulse of the populace better than journalists like us, who could not see your connect with your audience. But I was also one of your few strident supporters from 2002 to 2010, when you were targeted by the same classes who are celebrating your victory today. They abhorred you for a decade. Now they adore you as the only leader who can save the nation from perdition. I don’t know whether this change of heart is emotional or led by monetary and social interests. You have created not only political history but also the way India will think from now on. You have decimated the conventional superstructure in which the elite establishment decided the nation’s fate for over six decades. Your persona defines the alternative idea of India. Bharat has at last pulverised arrogant and elitist India.
The results are a strong verdict against divisive secularism and crony capitalism. You have broken all barriers of caste and community by your relentless work with a clear mission and mantra. India has made you the curator of its karma. It has given you the democratic right to rewrite its destiny. You have successfully managed Gujarat for over a decade. But governing India, with its 30-odd states, is a different proposition. The Gujarat model was successful because it was conceptualised and implemented by a single person—you. But now you have to conceive an idea which can be accepted by all chief ministers and parties governing over half of the states. You have to now convert the “I” into “We”. Your first victory speech realistically emphasised the fact that the Indian people have given you enough numbers to form the government, but you need their support to run it. Your most original slogan was the promise, “Minimum government with maximum government”. As you are aware, if the mandate is unprecedented, the expectations are gargantuan. India expects you now to take your idea forward. Allow me to suggest a charter of ideas:
• Reduce the size of the Cabinet. The rules say the Prime Minister can appoint a maximum of 15 per cent (80 MPs) of the total membership of both Houses of Parliament as ministers. For the past 20 years, every PM, starting from P V Narasimha Rao, has been creating ministries and distributing them to various pressure groups. Their hands were tied by coalition partners. Each minister costs the exchequer over `10 crore yearly. India can do with less than half the number if ministries are rationalised. For example, why do we need separate ministries for railways, surface transport and civil aviation? After all, their functions are inter-connected. Similarly, corporate affairs and finance could be merged. Ministries like small and medium scale, heavy industry, and consumer affairs can be merged to form the Ministry for Industrial Development. Multiple departments delay decision-making and lead to turf wars. Each ministry should be given full functional autonomy.
• Shrink the bureaucracy. Reduce the number of secretaries from 150 to 50. For the past 10 years, babus have created over 200 jobs as post-retirement sinecures. They do little except push papers. Manmohan Singh appointed over two dozen academics and corporates to lead various commissions, gifting them Cabinet status. Most of them were nurturing the business interests of the sector they had served when in government. Scrap these posts immediately.
• You must ensure genuine secularism by exposing the fake secularists who have been dividing India for the past 50 years. Your party could not ensure a win for a single Muslim leader. But that shouldn’t deter you from shunning the politics of quotas and religion. You must implement the Gujarat model of social harmony, in which Muslims are part of the mainstream. Those who have won the people’s confidence should be given priority over those who have lost. You should sculpt a visible shape to the slogan that you learnt during your association with RSS—”Vividhata mein ekta, Bharat ki Visheshta” (unity in diversity is India’s unique identity). As a committed RSS swayamsevak, you have to practice it too.
• You are known to support a market-led economy where the government plays a minimum role. You must, however, tax the rich by making luxury cars, SUVs, private aircraft and import of luxury items pricier, and use the money raised to provide affordable and safe public transport.
• Your government’s economic policies should create capital for the nation and not just capitalists.  Impose capital gains tax to prevent market manipulators from becoming rich at the cost of gullible small investors.
• Make motorable roads in rural India. Provide clean and effective healthcare and quality education to rural India. Don’t give up Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s dream of linking rivers even if pressure is mounted by vested interest from within.
• Reform the education sector to produce responsible citizens and not just avaricious business leaders. Our education system is responsible for killing nationalism. Indian children now take pride in being global citizens, and don’t even want to call themselves Indians.
• Formulate a diplomatic ethic that puts India first and above other considerations. Its purpose should be to make India a global power and not one subservient to dominant American interests. Your government should seek a level-playing field in all sectors.
• Kashmir has been one of the most damaging issues for India. Since J&K has given you half of its Lok Sabha members, you have the legitimate power to bring the state at par with rest of the country. You should start the process of full integration of the state with India. The Indian constitution should be applied to it equally.
• Create 60 more cities so that the metros are saved from congestion and decay. Make life in villages much better than in the cities. Your model of development should also be the village and not Delhi and Mumbai alone. Bullet trains and laptops are proud symbols of modern India. But a healthy, educated and evolved Indian is an asset for the future.
Above all, a prime minister like you has to insulate himself from the manipulative machinations honed in the drawing rooms of New Delhi. Don’t look for endorsements from those who are uncomfortable with a person likely to shape an India of his own, rather than one for them. Don’t forget it is Bharat, which has obliterated gormandising India.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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