BJP GOVERNMENT

How Modi's government is already looking like the UPA

By hurtling from one controversy to another and responding with unconvincing spin-doctoring, the new regime appears startlingly like the old.

As the dust settles around the new Bharatiya Janata Party government in New Delhi, there's little that sounds new. There's supposedly a new order that wants to control the flow of information, and yet this doesn't seem that new. In any case, this control over information has not prevented the government from giving the impression that it is battling one crisis after another.

The previous government's crisis managers, who were clearly rather bad at their job, must be watching with some glee. If this is the state of affairs when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is still on its 100-day honeymoon, what great governance can we expect will follow?

Take the rail fare hike. We should laud the government's efforts to cut back on expenditure but also condemn its hypocrisy in defending the increase when Modi had opposed the previous, Congress-led regime's attempt to raise rail fares.

Defenders of this government accuse the UPA of leaving the treasury empty, something that the Congress denies. Couldn't the government have handled this better? Did it really need to do this before the rail budget? It should have considered in advance the measures it is now planning, such as introducing the hike in phases. If the government is selling us a Congress decision to raise rail fares, why did we elect this government?

This is just one example of how the BJP government is beginning to look like the UPA: doing damage control when the damage has already been done, acting unthinkingly with the arrogance of power and blaming the Opposition and the media and everyone else but itself.

This is how it has been from the start. First, the government faced some embarrassment over Human Resource Development minister Smriti Irani's educational qualifications. Second, it had to make a minister in the Prime Minister's Office retract a statement that Modi was rethinking Article 370, which grants autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Then it had nothing to say about the use of draconian laws to make out cases against and arrest people critical of the prime minister. As the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Modi had condemned the hate crime that had led to the death of a student from Arunachal Pradesh in Delhi. Niether Modi nor his home minister had anything to say about a Hindutva outfit in Pune killing a Muslim just for being Muslim.

The government issued a circular saying bureaucrats should use Hindi instead of English for Tweets and updates on Facebook and couldn't defuse the backlash for days. All it needed to do was to issue another circular saying the government would Tweet and post Facebook announcements in all 22 languages of the Constitution's Eighth Schedule.

The government has revealed no plan to curb inflation, only calling a meeting and passing the buck to state governments, saying that they should curb hoarding. Inflation will come down, the government promises, echoing the promise that the UPA made every month for five years.

While campaigning, the BJP attacked the Congress regime's immorality, nepotism and arrogance. But how moral is this government in not sacking a minister in Rajasthan accused of rape? How moral is it when it copies the UPA's immorality of sacking BJP-appointed governors in 2004, despite a Supreme Court judgement that does not appreciate such pettiness?

If the BJP government is going to defend all indefensible things by saying the Congress did it too, why indeed did we boot out the Congress? If the Congress victimised an IAS officer for exposing Robert Vadra's alleged corruption, this government is not letting a lawyer become a judge because he did things inconvenient to the party in the past: he argued in the matter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh's fake encounter.

If the Congress regime saw cases regarding Bofors closed, the NDA is moving to close cases against Modi's right-hand man, Amit Shah. What is moral about deliberately leaking an Intelligence Bureau report calling inconvenient non-profits anti-nationals and curbing their right to receive donations from abroad?

From day one, the prime minister has shown dynamism in his approach towards foreign policy and yet there's already a big crisis on foreign shores. Indian workers in Iraq are being kidnapped and the government has made little headway.

You can imagine what the Bhartiya Janta Party would have been saying if it had been the Congress handling that crisis. It would have been called a weak government that was making India a weak state, one with no foreign policy leverage. How exactly is a "nationalist" government's approach to this hostage crisis different from what any other?

The good days, it turns out, are just like any other day. The next election may be five years away, but that's what the UPA also thought.

 
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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.