Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday warned that “those opposed to development ( Vikas Virodhi) would not receive a single Rupee from his Government at the Centre.”
The extraordinary threat was held out at a political rally in his home state, which is expected to have assembly election in December. Was he threatening other opposition ruled states ? Or was he issuing a veiled threat to Gujarat and Gujaratis that if they chose a non-BJP government, they would be starved of funds?
The latter appears to be far more likely. With strong currents of anti-incumbency running through Gujarat after 22 years of BJP-rule, the Prime Minister in his usual poll mode was unlikely to have any other state in mind while addressing people in Vadodara.
The threat comes in the wake of ground reports that suggest that road shows and yatras led by BJP leaders are not drawing enough crowd; that the face of the state BJP chief was smeared in black by people, that BJP leaders have been shown black flags and that people brought in to listen to the PM have been leaving the venue in droves before he begins or ends his speech.
He is again the first Prime Minister to hold out such a threat. Allocation of funds is a function of Constitutional provisions and no Prime Minister can arrogate the authority of disbursing funds to the states. But in his own unique style, the Prime Minister has disbanded the Planning Commission, which acted as a bridge between the Centre and the states, and centralized much of the Government’s authority in the PMO.
Even then he can hardly hold back funds. But what can prevent the PMO from sitting over files and delaying decisions?
What is even more important, can a Prime Minister hold out such a threat ? Possibly he can, provided he spells out and identifies who he had in mind. Who are the people opposing ‘Vikas’ ? Why should anyone, leave alone the elected representatives of a state, oppose development ?
The Prime Minister owes it to the country to identify those who are opposing ‘Vikas’. Surely he didn’t have fellow Gujaratis in mind who put up photographs of flooded streets and potholes and said, ‘Vikas has gone crazy’ ? Or did he have the traders of Surat in mind who printed on their receipts that it was their mistake to have voted the BJP in (Hamari bhool/ Kamal ka phool) ?
The Prime Minister, who is hyper active on social media, will do well to clarify soon before the ‘ wrong message’ becomes viral. Perhaps it was not a threat at all but only a jumla ? Rhetoric with no reference to reality ?