The job of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is to provide secretarial assistance to the Prime Minister. No, it doesn’t have those secretaries you read about in old fashioned Mills & Boon romances who miraculously turn into femme fatales when they take their geeky spectacles off and let down their hair. Neither do they sit on the laps of prime ministers—or perhaps they do, but that’s definitely not in the job description.
In good old India (pre-2014), all the secretaries in the PMO applied their minds to deadly serious things like policy issues, defence issues, appointment of Indian heads of missions abroad, etc.
However, from what we’ve seen in bad new India, the job description has changed. Now members of the PMO work 24x7 on the prime minister’s PR issues instead. There’s no denying that it is a tough job forcing people to love someone who is in love with his own voice, hates others and who wears weird clothes, but hey they have to grit their teeth and get on with it because unemployment is at a frightening new high (thanks to their boss).
After lakhs of civilians streamed onto the streets of India in protest against the discriminatory CAA law (and NRC and NPR) the PMO’s office thought it would be an easy-peasy fix, and got their usual dubious godmen, media serfs, celebs, etc to conduct polls on it.
When the polls failed, they fell back on their other favourite method: sent stern letters to schools across India, ordering teachers to make students write postcards praising CAA (they did the same for the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, remember?). Even the words were dictated by a grammatically-challenged person at the PMO.
“Congratulations. I, citizen of India, congratulate honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). I and my family support this act.” The signed postcards were to be submitted to the following address: “PMO, South Block secretariat building, Raisina Hills, New Delhi.”
Creepily enough, the PMO wanted their residential addresses
The matter came to light when some parents at a private school in Ahmedabad threw a fit, got the school management to apologise and tore the postcards into shreds.
The Indian Express spoke to an aggrieved parent who said that “Students of Class X are currently appearing for their internal exams. They too were told to write these postcards. When they protested, they were told that those who did not submit these postcards would not be given marks in the internal exams.”
After the attack on JNU students it is clear that the secretaries at the PMO are dinosaurs who believe in the maxim, “Spare the rod (preferably iron), spoil the child.” This unethical postcard writing spree inspired former BJP ally, the Shiv Sena, to take a few potshots (this must have hurt the BJP more than the media reports).
Young Aaditya Thackeray tweeted his scorn: “To campaign abt (sic) an Act in schools is ridiculous. What is the need for such political campaigning justification, if there is no ill intent? Politicisation of schools mustn’t be tolerated. If politicians want to speak in schools, speak on gender equality, helmets, cleanliness!”
Incidentally, the Shiv Sena voted for the CAA in the Lok Sabha, and walked out of the Rajya Sabha after a sharp reprimand from new allies. They have come a long way since then (thank God) and are behaving like normal, well-adjusted human beings—a far cry from their vitriolic days.
If Aaditya T continues in this liberal vein, he may perhaps become India’s next heart throb. Teenagers are swooning over him already, though I must add a word of caution: he’s not ready to replace Che Guevara on t-shirts. Not yet.
The bullying tactics of the PMO are not restricted to schools. If you’re wondering why a book called ‘Exam Warriors’ by a man with an allegedly fake degree sold many copies, you can blame the PMO for that as well.
Distributors were warned to ensure that every bookshop in the nation stocked 100 copies each of the book, or else. Some
book sellers who resented this diktat behaved like I would: they hid the darn 100 copies behind stacks of other books. Every little act of defiance counts.
My complaints about the PMO can go on for hours, but then I have anti-CAA protests to go to.