As 2015 comes to an end the best line to sum up the India story comes from “A tale of two cities”by Charles Dickens which reads ‘it was the best of times it was the worst of times’.
Personally for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ,the year ended in a blaze of glory as his sudden birthday diplomacy with Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of India’s hostile neighbour Pakistan stumped world leaders. The secrecy and the promptness of the gesture has forced even China to welcome this meeting.
The impromptu visit of the 150 member delegation from India which was on its way back from Afghanistan to Lahore was as much a shocker for Indians as the Pakistanis.The Tauba Tauba video of one of their reporters who was surprised that 150 persons from another country could enter Pakistan without visas went viral. Had he waited some more time he could have added that this was the first time a helicopter was ready at the airport to carry the Indian Prime Minister to the residence of Nawaz Sharif.
In India the Congress cut a sorry figure by criticizing the move instead of taunting Modi for following the Congress policy which it used to condemn from roof-tops. But withstanding such blizzards is not easy and even the best statesmen could lose their equanimity.
Modi not only had his own way in his frequent forays abroad but made sure that he had some innovative masala in all his jaunts which put his individual stamp on the normally boring, routine programs.
Not to be outdone, some of his ministers also put their stamp on their ministries by responding to the distress calls from people. In particular, Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu won praise from every one for their prompt responses on Twitter and other social media. While Swaraj managed to get Indians stranded in war zones rescued Prabhu served as the ‘ knight in shining honour’ for passengers travelling in trains whether it was a woman being teased by ruffians or a mother requiring milk for her infant by responding promptly to their Twitter sos.
Yet another minister who left his mark on governance by his innovative and out of box thinking was Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport.Gadkari, according to insiders was heard with rapt attention even in cabinet meetings because he always had some practical solutions to offer.If even half of his plans take concrete shape the picture of India would be much different.
On the flip side, the events in Dadri and the resultant protests by intellectuals by returning their state awards left a bad taste. The intolerance debate resonated even abroad when the Prime Minister had to answer questions about these on his visit to UK. Some snobbish BJP leaders made matters worse by terming these protests as “manufactured” but the party paid heavily for this attitude when it lost the prestigious assembly elections in Bihar giving a new lease of life to Lalu Prasad who along with Nitish Kumar and Congress made a spectacular come back.
The end of 2015 was however very bad publicity for the NDA when the number two in the cabinet Finance Mimister Arun Jaitley was embroiled in an ugly controversy over alleged corruption during his tenure in the Delhi District Cricket Association. The issue was raised in public by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after his secretary Rajinder Kumar was raided by the CBI.
The issue became further complicated when former cricketer Kirti Azad, a BJP MP jumped into the fray and repeated the charges not only in parliament but in a highly publicized press conference.
Azad got a suspension notice from the party with Jaitley charging Azad of acting at the behest of Sonia Gandhi. But with Subramanian Swamy drafting his reply to the BJP notice and Ram Jethmalani promising to fight the defamation case filed against Kejriwal the picture is becoming rather blurred and it’s not smog.
By Amitabh Srivastava