Arun Shourie’s Interview: A disappointment

Arun Shourie’s interview hit headlines recently probably because it was critical of Modi Sarkar and a Shourie was doing it. The content, unfortunately falls well short of his standards. I must state that  I have been an admirer of Shourie for his incisive and insightful writing e.g. http://arunshourie.bharatvani.org/articles/macaulay.htm I also must state that I have admired Modi too.   Yet. admiring doesn’t mean not criticizing.

So let me reproduce Shourie’s interview ad verbatim as it appeared in media: link. I have checked the versions of his interview on http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/economic-policy-directionless-social-climate-grave-shourie/article7162586.ece and on http://www.indiatvnews.com/politics/national/economic-policy-directionless-minorities-anxious-says-shouri-28813.html The content seems to match quite well across all these sources. So I assume that it is a fairly accurate version.  I give my comments next to Shourie’s statement. My comments appear in regular type whereas the quoted text appears in italics.

New Delhi: Arun Shourie, a BJP minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet, on Friday hit out at the Narendra Modi government, saying its economic policy was “directionless” while the social climate was causing “great anxiety” among the minorities.

The latter part of his statement is a load of buxxshxt as every incident ‘reported’ as attack on minorities has been subsequently ‘discovered’ to not having any communal element in it. I am amazed that this comes from Arun Shourie!

The 73-year-old journalist-turned politician said the one-year rule of Modi was “good in parts”, his transformation as prime minister was good in foreign policy, but the promised turnaround in economy has not happened. 

I agree about the foreign policy part of the statement.

“The government seems to be more concerned with managing headlines than putting policies in place. The situation is like the many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle lying in a mess with no big picture in mind about how to put them together,” he said in an exclusive interview to an English news channel ahead of the first anniversary of the Modi government.

The fact is that Modi Sarkar’s biggest problem has been the adversarial main stream media. One can easily say that Modi Sarkar hasn’t done anything to bring a certain measure of accountability to media players who really business and political interests.  As I have argued in my post the media scene is worrisome.

Shourie, who is not active in BJP these days, said despite promises the fears of foreign investors on retrospective taxes and incentives for manufacturing have not materialised on the ground.  

He is right here. It is plain that the current FM has done no good to despite his talk in this area.

“They (investors) require stability and predictability,” he said, adding that the concern expressed by eminent banker Deepak Parekh on the situation on the ground should be seen as a “wake up call”. 

With  due respect, I do not agree with Shourie and Parekh on this. Shourie more than anyone else knows that India’s problem has been a slothful government machinery. Modi has kicked it into action, but needs more kicking and overhaul. It takes time.

Asked if the Modi government had done enough to put India on growth path, Shourie said that it was “all hyperbole”. 

“Such claims are meant to grab headlines but lack substance,” he said. Shourie handled the ministries of Disinvestment, Communication and Information Technology in the Vajpayee government.

“Government is talking big on economic matters but nothing is happening on ground. Delivery is missing,” he added.

I don’t agree with such sweeping statements. Government has got cracking on Coal actions. Electricity generation has stabilized -after last several bleak summers we have prospects of a reasonable level of supply stability. It has got cracking on road construction. It has okayed Rajastan’s labour law changes. The list is long. These items don’t make headlines. All is not well. Many things remain. But many initiatives are moving.

 In an apparent reference to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, he said the government lacked a stable approach in dealing with investors and that “lawyerly arguments” would not convince them.

He was also critical of handling of the tax issues which was keeping foreign investors away. “First it alienated them but now it has made them laugh. You come out as bullies.”

I agree with Shourie as far as Jaitley’s minsitry is concerned. Jaitley unfortuntely continues with Chimbaram’s ways -clever but hurting the nation. His continuation as FM is inexplicable.

On the social front, Shourie said there was “great anxiety” among the minorities in the wake of the incidents of attack on Christian institutions and the “Ghar Wapsi” and “Love Jihad” campaigns. 

He was critical of Modi’s “silence” on issues relating to social tensions on account of activities of right wing organisations and statements by some party MPs and leaders.

“You tweet when Sania Mirza wins championship or greet someone on birthdays but you don’t do such things when moral questions are involved. People doubt why he is silent,” he added.

Referring to former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro’s recent anguish that he felt like an “outsider” against the backdrop of attacks on churches, Shourie said when people of such standing make such remarks it means things have gone too far.

“We have to wake up,” he said, adding that people like Ribeiro and former Punjab top cop KPS Gill had saved Punjab for India.

Talking about alienation of Muslim youth in the context of “Love Jihad” and Moradabad violence, Shourie said, “if 100 muslim youth come together and conclude that we are not getting justice here and that ISIS is right then we have a problem at hand”.

As I said above, a completely false picture is created by interested parties and media.  Every report about ‘attack on minorities’ has been subsequently proven wrong. Shourie should read rejoinder to Ribeiro by a fellow Christian and Ribereio’s subsequent explanation that it was an ‘exaggeration’ . Tweets about Sania Mirza by an individual were played up by media. Why should a PM speak on such things? Because he is a Modi?

Replying to questions, Shourie said Modi, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley were running the party. “It has offended the opposition as well as frightened the members of the BJP,” he said.

“They are the ones responsible for mistakes and they are also the Supreme Court. The three leaders are not getting proper feedback and no corrective action takes place,” he said.

Perhaps Shourie  knows more on the way BJP is run.  If BJP is doing right things , it doesn’t matter. Shourie could have been more specific.

Shourie also invoked the controversial monogrammed pin-striped suit that Modi wore during his interaction with US President Barack Obama earlier this year.
“It was inexplicable, incomprehensible and a big critical mistake,” Shourie said. “I fail to understand why he accepted and then wore that suit. You cannot take Gandhiji’s name and wear such a thing,” he said, adding, it was good that he disposed it off quickly.

I am astounded that Shourie should stoop to the level of suits.  Modi, the ‘culprit’ is known to donate all gifts for public causes. Dear Sir, the talk about suits is best left to Rahul Gandhi.

Shourie rued the delay in filling up top vacancies in key institutions like the CVC, the Central Information Commission and the Election Commission.
“The vacancies are incomprehensible,” he said.

May be Shourie is right. But it is also possible that selection from a pool of highly politicized (and corrupt) bureaucracy  is a challenge?

Shourie disapproved of frequent promulgation of ordinances, calling them “ill advised”. The former Minister also stressed the need for taking the opposition along if the government wanted to push its economic reforms.

“A more embracing attitude is required…There can be no reforms without opposition support,” he added. Shourie also referred to BJP President Amit Shah’s use of the word “uproot” at a rally in West Bengal when he spoke about the need to dislodge the Mamata Banerjee government.

The fact is that Congress is still not reconciled to Modi as PM.  Modi Government did reach out again and again to opposition. Bills were not allowed to be tabled in Rajyasabha. Waiting for the so called consensus would have meant delaying urgent actions on land acquisition, coal auctions etc. Ordinances were absolutely essential.

Speaking about the Modi government’s foreign policy, Shourie said it has correctly regarded that China is the “principal challenge” for the country in thelong run.
But, he said there were “contradictory signals” on Pakistan. “There should be steadier thinking, steadier guage.”

“It is not a good idea that in the fascination for out of box ideas to ignore the institutional memory embedded in the Ministry of External Affairs and outside,” he added.
On India’s ties with the US, Shourie said there is a continuation in the policy.

However, he said there is need for the government to seize on the momentum. “Americans are feeling quite impatient. Impatience has crept in,” he added.
Shourie while giving his assessment of the Prime Minister said,” I like him. He is the only person who can give us leadership.”

Impatience of Americans is less important than that of Indians. Glad that Shourie sees Modi as the only person who can give us leadership. Media predictably did not headline this statement. If Shourie really meant it,  he should ask media why this comment was not highlighted. He will get a lot of cxxp from media -same as they put out when they scream ‘minorities are in danger’.

There is much to criticize Modi Sarkar. There is much to admire too. I am disappointed that Shourie resorted to  unsubstantiated and sweeping criticisms, allowed himself to be convinced of media manufactured ‘minorities in danger stuff’. He perhaps has some other grievance.

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