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Low on policy, high on celebrations

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on January 09, 2015 with No Comments

Viewpoint

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been on a sphere giving a new meaning to traditional public events and holidays. September 5th, traditionally celebrated as Teacher’s day in the memory of India’s first President was crafted as an opportunity for Modi to address the students of the nation. Students and the teachers had to forgo their holiday and listen to a live telecast.  Good orator that he is, Modi created an impression, amazed the young ones and left teachers dazed, though opposition left no stone unturned to criticise his effort.  As a fitting tribute to India’s first Home Minister Patel Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, who was instrumental in getting 550 princely states to merge into free India, October 31 this year was celebrated as National Unity Day. Till then, the day was celebrated as the martyrdom day of Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with no mention to Patel. Indians at large appreciated Modi’s effort to get Patel his right due. Modi also got due appreciation on his ability to make the media run after him and report all good things about him that started with the launch of National Cleanliness drive that too on October 2nd that happens to be the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. It was a welcome change for Indians who for ten years didn’t get to listen to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, the response has changed with the celebration of X-Mas day as the “Good Governance day to mark birthdays of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and four time president of Indian National Congress also the founder of Banaras Hindu University  Madan Mohan Malviya” by Narendra Modi. Government schools were told to remain open on December 25th and hold declamation, essay writing contest and screen government sponsored documentary on good governance. Asking schools to remain open on Christmas day was a tricky situation, though missionary schools were later exempted.

Taking away the joyous celebrations of X-mas and linking the day with activities of government has again brought the religious orientation of ruling BJP to the fore. It was an attempt by the government to hijack yet another day of national importance. It created confusion, left masses wondering, and raised a whole set of questions on the intent of the government and its ability to deliver on the promises. The opposition called it a demonstration of gross disregard for the sentiments of Christians, even though the X-Mas celebration were not hampered to that extent as the opposition was trying to project. Bureaucracy had to perform on a holiday, something they are not accustomed to.

What did the government achieve? Was it successful in sending across the message of a new idea of good governance? Unfortunately, the message got diluted and there was a visible disinterest among Indians. It remained symbolic with no apparent cause of celebration. Modi’s government still has to deliver on much promised, much publicised “good governance”. Was it right to celebrate something that the government is still trying to achieve? Commemorating a day without any apparent result only resulted in giving a premature birth and an even earlier burial. Indians have begun to sense these “rephrased celebrations” as political acts especially when these events portray insensitivity to the sentiments of minorities.

Control of BJP over the celebration of good governance day can be gauged from the very fact that though participation in the essay competition was announced as voluntary to be held online, BJP activists in their respective regions went to almost all schools in India and asked officials to ensure that activities relating to Good Governance Day be held in all schools, but also demanded a consolidated report, does indicate pressure on officials to ensure compliance.

All holiday are declared for a purpose, but trying to convert each one of these? Ruling BJP does have a political purpose and making use of government machinery has now become a habit with the cadre .Instead of stirring controversies, it is time the Modi government delivers more in terms of policies and programmes than in terms of anniversaries and competitions.

 

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