Anything that moves

Eating chikki: After a year of staying dry, the BJP is being showered with scandal

So far, the party hasn't done a very good job reassuring the public that they have taken concrete steps to address the spate of corruption allegations.

Since Narendra Modi’s supporters had few tangible successes to boast of at the end of his first year in power, the absence of negative news became their main signifier of progress. Given the series of corruption scandals that beset the Congress-led government in its second term, few would deny that the 12 months after Modi took over as prime minister were comparatively scandal-free. Modi himself placed that fact at the top of his one-year report.  

What a difference one month has made. In June, controversies rained on Bharatiya Janata Party governments at the centre and in states like monsoon cloudbursts. It began with a travel document provided to Lalit Modi, who may or may not be a fugitive, and may or may not have carried out illegal transactions as commissioner of the Indian Premier League. The BJP interpreted the allegations against India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje as a passing shower that could be avoided by sheltering under a tree. But the rain kept pouring down, and the party got pretty badly soaked.

Narendra Modi stayed silent through the crisis, or rather he spoke of all kinds of things aside from what the press wanted him to address. Why had he failed to tackle the problem, commentators wondered, forgetting that the man built his career avoiding tough interrogation through careful media management. How many times do you recall him answering specific questions related to the Gujarat riots? How many about the wife he abandoned? How many about the woman he was obsessed enough with to snoop on using state resources? As recently as April, the leading French newspaper Le Monde refused to carry an interview with Modi during his visit to France after the editors were instructed to submit questions in advance and print written replies. The difference between Modi as chief minister and prime minister is not that he has grown less open, but that journalists are less willing to ignore or explain away his evasiveness.

The other Modi

Lalit Modi, unlike Narendra, relishes debate. He is combative, spirited, and has held his own on the issue that put him under the Enforcement Directorate’s scanner and spurred his departure for London. He has shown that it was N Srinivasan who signed off on all suspicious IPL-related transactions when he was the chief of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Lalit Modi has not been charged with any offence. What he doesn’t realise is that the merits of his case hardly matter. All his exposés have done is keep an issue front and centre that the party he supports, and his friends within it, just wish would disappear. In the cacophony that is Indian news television, where all discussions involve at least two people screaming at any given point in time, the main takeaway for viewers is that the BJP government has done shady stuff.

The only thing that threatens to replace the Lalit Modi scandal on the front page is more scandal. In Maharashtra, we have Pankaja Munde (dynasty, anybody?), state minister in charge of women and child welfare, accused of awarding lucrative supply contracts without tenders. The item highlighted most often in news reports about this potential scam is chikki. In Marathi, an umpire suspected of taking a bribe is said to have "eaten chikki". Whether Munde has eaten chikki or not, the Maharashtra administration found itself in a sticky spot a week ago. Soon after the chikki episode came news that the education minister Vinod Tawde spent Rs 191 crores on items like fire extinguishers without following tendering rules.

Leaving the firefighting to juniors, Maharashtra’s chief minister Devendra Fadnavis left for the United States, but landed in a controversy before even taking off. Pankaja Munde, meanwhile returned from London, to face new allegations, this time connected to her role as minister of rural development and water resources.  Ajit Pawar used to be in charge of that ministry, and managed to spend thousands of crores while barely augmenting the state’s irrigation infrastructure. Munde looks a worthy successor.

The crucial question

The question now is whether these rows will force Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde to resign. So far, the BJP is holding firm, perhaps realising that the first resignation is the thin end of the wedge. Give in once, and it’s difficult not to do so a second time, and soon the trickle turns into a flood. The UPA went six years before the corruption and improprieties of its ministers became an incessant focus of the media. It’s threatening to happen much earlier with the BJP.

Sushma Swaraj might be feeling hard done by the media’s sensationalism, but consider what would happen if broadcasters highlighted serious issues instead. The external affairs minister might be asked why, two years after utterly rejecting the boundary accord with Bangladesh proposed by the UPA, which required a constitutional amendment and therefore the opposition’s support,  she presented the same deal in Parliament with the words, “I’ve said before, and I reiterate, that this work was done by Manmohan Singh, we are only putting the finishing touch."

It might be easier to answer questions about Lalit Modi, after all.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

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It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.