Reasons why Modi's achhe din are fading fast

It never rains but it pours. Specially when it comes to trouble.

At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to reach the milestone of completing a hundred days of office in early September, his party and government are walking into it with a millstone round their neck. The last one week has been particularly bad for the new regime, with at least half a dozen major controversies and setbacks threatening to take the shine off the saffron hue.

The Rajnath episode

For a leader who captured the public mind with a strong publicity campaign, the Modi government is at the wrong end of public attention now. The latest in the series of incidents that casts a shadow on the newly minted regime is the ‘denial' issued by the Prime Minister's Office and BJP president Amit Shah on reports that former party chief and Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his son had been hauled up for impropriety.

“Reports are plain lies, motivated and constitute a malicious attempt to character assassination and tarnishing the image of the government. Those indulging in such rumour mongering are damaging the interest of the nation. These reports are strongly denied,” the PMO said in a statement.

Rajnath himself stepped out to rubbish the 'stories' floated about his son, disclosed that he had brought it to the notice of the prime minister and the BJP president and declared that he would give up politics and public life if even the smallest allegation against him or any of his family members is proved.

But the matter is hardly expected to end with such denials. Indeed, the official handouts raise more questions than they answer. For one, if the 'stories' about Rajnath and his son have been circulating, the pertinent question is who was behind them.

Two, for the stories to catch attention, it clearly has to be somebody important.

Three, if it was not Rajnath's son, was it the son of some other leader? And if it, who was this? The whispers on these is bound to getting louder by the day.

There is again speculation that this is a sign of an internecine battle--if not a power struggle--within the top echelons in the government.

Clearly, Modi has to dispense with his post-victory speech in Gujarat when he declared that “acche din aa gaye" (good days have come) and revert to his original slogan of “acche din aane walen hai'' (good days are about to come), beset as he is with other problems, including price rise.

Controversy over the NJAC

It started with the brewing faceoff with the Supreme Court over the passage of the Judges Appointment Commission bill mid-August. The Chief Justice of India expressed his concern about the government's encroachment into the National Judicial Appointments Commission which has been cleared by Parliament to replace the controversial collegium system of appointment of judges.

Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who is known to be against the new model, had taken the matter to court.

LoP-sided view

Shortly, thereafter, the apex court questioned the government on denying the leader of opposition status to the Congress in the Lok Sabha, with the bench led by the Chief Justice underlining the importance of giving space to dissenting voices in a democracy and urging it to recast the rules for the selection of the Lokpal, the federal ombudsman.

The court warned that it would have to interpret and give a ruling if the government did not change its views on the issues.

The 44-member Congress has been threatening, begging and petitioning the government and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to grant it that status, arguing that it is the single largest party in the House and the leader of opposition's presence is essential in the selection of statutory bodies, including the Lokpal, the National Human Rights Commission and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

Disputing the government's argument that the party falls short by 11 seats to touch the 10 percent share in the House for claiming that position, the Congress has been arguing that the Act guiding the salary and allowances of the Leader of Opposition does not set any benchmark for such recognition for the largest opposition party.

It also contended that besides being the largest opposition party, it was the largest opposition coalition and had more than 55 seats.

The ‘haar' in Bihar
As if this rap from the judiciary was not enough, the electorate also gave a jolt to the BJP in the recent byelections, specially in Bihar where the RJD, the JD-U and the Congress got together to reverse the Modi tide. The combine ended up capturing six of the 10 seats where polling was held, leaving a smarting BJP with just four.

The Congress wrested one seat each from the BJP in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

That the bitter pill was thrust down its throat barely three months after its spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha elections has forced the party to do some soul-searching.

Pot calling the kettle black?

To add to its woes, the BJP on Monday found itself pushed into the Coalgate controversy when the Supreme Court ruled that the allocation of around 200 coal blocks between 1993 and 2009 were illegal. This brings the BJP-led NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee also in its ambit.

As the leading opposition party in Parliament, the BJP has made a huge issue of the allocations and even pushed the issue to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's doorstep. Now the controversy threatens to haunt the BJP and the Modi government as well.

And with the apex court stating that it would decide on the fate of these allocations when the hearings start next week, the economy, which is struggling to revive, too would come under pressure.

Keeping out the tainted

Between them, the prime minister and the BJP chief may have managed to keep seniors like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi out of the decision making process by not including them in the all important BJP Parliamentary Board and fencing them in the newly created five-member Marg Darshak Mandal which in any case is a half-baked idea even though Modi and Rajnath are part of it.
This is because what could have been a counterpart of the UPA's core committee that acted as a link between the government and the party on key issues would remain ineffective and incomplete since Amit Shah, the BJP president is not on it.

But Modi's challenge is likely to come from a different quarter after the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it could not dismiss ministers with criminal cases against them and it would have to leave it to the prime minister to take a call on it.

But it emphasised that the prime minister and the chief ministers should not include those with criminal antecedents in their cabinets.

Reports have it that there are more than 14 ministers in the Modi government with criminal antecedents, including Uma Bharati and Nitin Gadkari. Indeed, Kalyan Singh, appointed Governor of Rajasthan, was even convicted by the court for filing a false affidavit with regard to the Babri Masjid case and his name figures in the list involved in the demolition of the mosque.

But whenever the issue of acting against the tainted has come up, the pressure has increased on the government to not succumb to this.

It happened during the UPA regime when the Supreme Court ruled that convicted lawmakers facing at least a two year jail sentence should be disqualified. Under pressure, the Manmohan Singh government tried to bring an ordinance to overturn this ruling. But it had to roll back its decision when Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi barged into a press conference to denounce the move and trash the proposed ordinance as “complete nonsense'' that should be “torn up and thrown away”.

To Modi's embarrassment, now he has to decide whether he has to be Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi. The Congress vice president, whose party was trampled upon by the marauding BJP leader in the elections, can afford to take some comfort from this fact. more  

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