The legacy of MMS
In 2014, even as India was gearing up for the grand Lok Sabha election showdown between NDA (mainly BJP) led by Narendra Modi and the UPA (with incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh), the greatest issue of contention was the numerous scams that had erupted during the UPA reign. The UPA PM Manmohan Singh left a legacy of silence despite the outrage in the media and among the people of India. So much so that Manmohan Singh earned the moniker ‘Maun (Silence) Mohan Singh’. Much criticised over his silence, Singh was often referred to as the Puppet PM, while all political authority was believed to lie with the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her family. One of Narendra Modi’s key election promises was to bring in a government largely free of corruption and where free speech and criticism would not only be allowed but also welcomed.
Immediately upon election he set about putting redressal systems in place and used social media as a potent tool to connect with the masses. Despite his endeavours, there have been a number of scams in recent times and like his predecessor, the eloquent Modi has chosen to remain silent, much to the ire of the Indian electorate.
The Vyapam scam
PM Modi attracted scathing criticism from a number of quarters over his silence in the Vyapam scam. The Vyapam scam pertains to irregularities involving the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board popularly known as Vyapam (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal). It was discovered that a number of candidates had bribed senior politicians and Vyapam officials to rank high in the professional exams thus landing key courses and jobs in the state. Impersonation of candidates was also facilitated by the racketeers.
By 2013, a Special Task Force had been commissioned to investigate the racket which led to the revelation that senior BJP politicians were involved. Over 2000 people in the state of Madhya Pradesh have been arrested thus far and the investigation has been taken over by the country’s leading investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
One of the key people involved is leading BJP politician Lakshmikant Sharma who was heading the Vyapam as the Technical Education Minister of MP. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been accused of hounding and harassing Vyapam whistle-blowers including government employees such as Anand Rai. A number of unnatural deaths involving key witnesses have given the scam a very ominous turn. PM Modi, generally known for his free and frank criticism of any wrongdoings, is strangely silent over the issue. Neither has he addressed the matter in his Mann Ki Baat radio programmes nor has he answered any issues involving the scam.
The ModiGate scandal is a controversy involving former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi whose passport had been revoked by the UPA government in 2010 due to irregularities found in his office as Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League. Even as Lalit Modi challenged the decision at the Supreme Court, leading BJP politician and incumbent External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj’s daughter was among those who represented him. The decision was revoked and his passport restored. In 2014, Sushma Swaraj is believed to have made a recommendation to British authorities to allow Lalit Modi to travel to Portugal. Swaraj has consistently denied extending such a recommendation to British authorities at any time despite a statement to the contrary by British MP Keith Vaz.
It also came to light that another senior BJP politician from the state of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje had supported an official document recommending Lalit Modi’s travel from Britain under the pretext that he was a victim of a political witch hunt initiated by the Congress. Raje also had received a large sum of money from Lalit Modi in exchange for the favour, said news reports. Raje, however, claims that she had made the recommendation as a personal friend of Lalit Modi and held stake in one of his businesses.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s silence over the controversy has been seen as collusion by many and hence the nomenclature “ModiGate” – a reference to the shared last name of both the PM and the former IPL chief.
Apart from the two mighty concerns rocking the BJP boat, there are some other BJP politicians such as Minister of Rural Development, Women and Child Welfare of the state of Maharashtra, Pankaja Munde who faced much criticism for having cleared INR 206 crore worth tenders for books, mats, and chikkis – a gross overestimation. She was defended by Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, another leading BJP politician.
The latest BJP politician to be named in a scam is Raman Singh, the Chief Minister of Chattisgarh. The Congress has accused the CM and other cabinet members of being involved in the Indira Priyadarshini Mahila Nagrik Sahkari Bank scam. They base their accusations on a CD revealing the narco-analysis of the prime suspect who claims the CM’s involvement.
NaMo’s conspicuous silence
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lost some popularity and has faced the brunt of much criticism over these scams. The worst of these criticisms unsurprisingly come from the Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party leaders. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said that PM Modi had betrayed the people who had voted him to power by keeping silent in the matter. “Over 40 people have died in the Vyapam scam, and the Prime Minister has not spoken a word about it. He needs to break his silence”, he said. While the AAP, mired in its own troubles over Delhi state, is relatively subdued in its criticism, the Congress has taken to large scale disruption of the Parliament – both the Upper and Lower houses – during the Monsoon session.
Modi’s blitzkrieg-like majority sway was based solely on his appearance of honesty, transparency, and his unequivocal criticism of corruption. But it must be admitted that Modi is as good (or bad) as any other politician in his reliance on other senior BJP leaders such as Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, and Shivraj Singh Chauhan. India’s rapidly eroding trust in these politicos cannot foretell good times for the NDA government. Earlier this month, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu made a statement saying that the PM would intervene if necessary. Apart from some scathing criticism faced on social media networks, the masses of the country are largely silent, for now. It remains to be seen if the silence is measure of keen observation of NaMo’s moves or if it is the silence before a stormy protest. In either case it is best if the PM initiates some corrective measures and takes legal action against all wrong doers (party members notwithstanding) before he starts to lose the nation’s trust.
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