Precisely eighteen days have passed, as this is being written, since Mr. Narendra Modi’s government was sworn into office. In less than three weeks of the new government we have seen considerable activity related to the government. All Ministers have been informing the media about what they intend to accomplish. Many among them have arranged motivational lectures by celebrities to enthuse the officials serving under them. New appointments are being made and new posts are being created.
The Prime Minister issued Ten Commandments to his Ministers with such profound advice as the need to work hard. The Prime Minister is busy scrapping certain cabinet committees. The government’s agenda outlined in the President’s address to parliament contained such an original claim as the resolve to “Eliminate Poverty”. This was of course different from what Indira Gandhi said 45 years ago. She spoke in Hindi and said “Garibi Hatao”. In the midst of all this government activity however there is little efficient governance that is visible. Consider just a few of the new government’s actions.
The government appointed a Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) by disregarding law. When this was pointed out it passed an Ordinance to change the law to confirm the appointment. It has now appointed an Assistant Principal Secretary in the PMO. Does one Principal Secretary not suffice? The government has announced that a new Foreign Policy Adviser who will report directly to the Prime Minister, bypassing the Ministry of External Affairs, will shortly be appointed. Are the Foreign Minister, Foreign Secretary and National Security Adviser inadequate to do the job?
After almost three weeks there is no sign as yet of appointing a permanent Defence Minister. Presently Mr. Arun Jaitley who is the Finance Minister as well the Minister for Corporate Affairs is holding temporary charge of the portfolio. The extra burden placed on Mr. Jaitley cannot excuse the dreadful gaffe committed by the Defence Ministry. In a sworn affidavit presented to the Supreme Court in an ongoing case the government stated that General VK Singh who is currently serving as Minister in the government had as Army Chief by imposing a DV (Discipline and Vigilance) ban on the next Army Chief issued a show cause notice that alleged lapses “issued in utter disregard to the legal provisions governing the court of inquiry, principles of natural justice. The lapses were vague, based on presumptions and legally and factually not maintainable. Evidently, the entire exercise to issue show cause notice was premeditated and as per records, the directions issued in this regard, including imposition of the DV (Discipline and Vigilance) ban and issue of show cause notice were found to be illegal.”
Meanwhile the Defence Minister has confirmed the appointment of the next Army Chief that was being opposed by General VK Singh when he was the Chief. General VK Singh has not relented despite the government’s confirmation of the next Army Chief. He has on Twitter described the next Chief by implication to be a criminal. What kind of governance is Mr. Modi’s cabinet delivering to the nation? Mr. Jaitley has ordered an inquiry from his officials as to how such a badly worded affidavit was presented to the Supreme Court by the government. The affidavit could have simply stated that there was not available evidence to impose a ban on the next Army Chief instead of imputing motives and mala fide intent to General VK Singh. Speaking in parliament Mr. Jaitley advised opposition leaders to not criticize General VK Singh. Otherwise, he cautioned, the General would respond. Was this advice or unintended incitement? Time will tell how opposition leaders respond to Mr. Jaitley’s advice and whether or not the demands for the General’s resignation will escalate. Through all these developments Mr. Modi remained conspicuously silent.
The biggest quality attributed to Mr. Modi was that he is strong and decisive. In 72 hours there were 17 rapes in which complicity of the police in Uttar Pradesh was proven. There are rapes abounding across the state on a daily basis. Political leaders are being shot dead by criminals in broad daylight. The media is crying hoarse that the central government should intervene. The Secretary General of United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, deplored the condition of women in India. Authorities in the US and other nations likewise have drawn attention to the horrible law and order conditions prevalent in India. BJP leaders are whining about the callous disregard displayed by the Mulayam Singh government. BBut why on earth does this strong and decisive government not perform its simple constitutional duty by advising the President to obtain the Governor’s report on the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh and then invoke Article 356 of the Constitution to impose President’s Rule in the state and restore law and order?
There are other examples that can be summoned to indicate absence of basic norms of good governance. This writer will refrain from doing so. Thanks to Mr. Modi’s initiative some good steps have been taken by the government in the field of foreign policy. But insofar as domestic governance is concerned the government had promised that when in office it will hit the ground running. It has hit the ground tottering. One has to pinch oneself to make sure that Dr. Manmohan Singh is not continuing as Prime Minister. Wake up, Mr. Modi! An impatient nation is waiting and watching.