National Unemployment Day: The fall from grace of a once-messianic Modi
It was a big mistake to promise 2 crore jobs to the youth in his desperate bid to become PM if he knew he could not deliver. Or did he not know and was foolish enough to make such tall claims?
It has to be a great ignominy for any leader if his birthday is commemorated as National Unemployment Day by the youth of the country he leads. But clearly Narendra Modi has brought it upon himself, disappointing even his party bigots like Subramanian Swamy who recently tweeted that not just unemployed youth but even shopkeepers keep calling him begging for him to do something but that Modi just does not listen.
I guess it was a big mistake to promise two crore jobs to the youth in his desperate bid to become prime minister if he knew he could not deliver on the same – or did he not know and was foolish enough to make such tall claims during the campaign?
I learnt this from former prime minister VP Singh – never make promises that you cannot deliver on during elections. Speak only of the deliverables, so that when you go back to the people, you can claim you did something for the people and need another term to do more. Stick to your party manifesto which might have big programmes that a government may well deliver on if your party is voted to power. If not, you can fall back on your party's defeat to claim another election and next time you might well succeed.
But, as I believe, the BJP did not have a manifesto almost to the end of the 2014 campaign and every promise Modi made was his own – from the two crore jobs to the Rs 15 lakh in every account, to toilets to doubling minimum support prices to farmers. And he has failed on every count besides other issues he made no promises about, even though a prime minister should be able to take in his stride the unexpected like the Covid pandemic or a vaccination policy.
Sadly, to the unbiased eye, every failure seems to be an individual one and not much to blame the party for, for where is the BJP before individuals like Modi, Amit Shah or Yogi Adityanath? Everybody else fades by comparison.
Singh was a wily politician and I realised how consummate in his assessments when just a few months before the 2019 elections I came across a BJP legislator from one of the southern states who was very troubled by his constituents. He was from a rural constituency and much before the farmers' agitation, ryots in his constituency had been asking him what either he or his party had done for them.
He was a three-time legislator and had got away from accountability to the people by telling them that life would be much better for them when his party came to power. It did with a brute majority but the people were still asking him what he or his party had done for them. When he pointed out to schemes like the farmers' insurance etc, the villagers proved quite adept at pointing out the travesty.
“That is not you or your government giving us anything. We have to pay into those schemes with a long gestation period. Even if the amounts are small, who knows if we will be alive at the end of the term to receive the benefits? But have you given us something from your own side?”
When he was rendered speechless, they pointed out to schemes like the farm loan write-offs and MGNREGA that had actually put money in their pockets rather than take it away from them.
"You have given us nothing of the kind,” they told him.
I am told the troubled legislator took his woes to Modi and Shah, then the party president, but they were unconcerned.
When he urged them to do something on the lines of the employment guarantee scheme, they lost their temper and Shah is reported to have dismissed him with, “Ho gaya tera? Chal, phoot!”
Predictably, the man did not get a ticket at the next elections and the BJP candidate lost the poll from that constituency in his state. So I am not surprised now that what the poor farmers had spotted a few years ago, the larger contingent of educated, unemployed youth are seeing now and, faced with hunger and the prospect of perishing, have lost all inhibitions in declaring Modi for the grand failure he is.
May be that is why he has had to change so many chief ministers in the BJP-ruled states but each new chief minister seems less efficient and more clueless than the other – except for Adityanath and we know where he is leading his state and Modi daren’t junk him either.
So where does that leave the nation and its people? Even if one does not support any particular party or its leader, we all wish not to be embarrassed by them or leave us cringing before the world. I have had a healthy respect for all our prime ministers including AB Vajpayee, even if he was wringing his hands helplessly at the BJP's shenanigans without doing anything about it. Or even HD Deve Gowda even if he was falling asleep publicly but at least he knew something about the farmers.
But now the disillusionment with Modi is extending beyond Indian shores. On August 15, Independence Day this year, British Indians unfurled a banner over the Westminster Bridge in London asking Modi to resign. Now as he prepares to visit the US, apart from having to meet Joe Biden after endorsing Donald Trump, he will be facing a lot of American Indians who have planned to vociferously protest his visit.
He will have much to answer for to a more liberal US administration and it is to be hoped as he perhaps stands beside Biden (for I am sure he will not answer any questions) at their joint press conference, he does not laugh in such raucous fashion as he did during the Trump administration as the US president snubbed a questioner. That was truly cringe-worthy and I also hope he will be more dignified with the media than he was with Megan Kelly in Russia, again laughing and saying, “I saw you with your umbrella!” (so what?) even as Vladimir Putin gave him a stern look at that indiscretion.
It has been a long journey for Narendra Modi from Messiah to a compassionless leader, indifferent to the welfare of his people. But I am sure I share Subramanian Swamy's despair – he still does not mean to do anything about it.
(Sujata Anandan is a senior journalist. Views are personal)