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.
Sponsored Content BY 

Children's Day is not for children alone

It’s also a time for adults to revisit their childhood.

Most adults look at childhood wistfully, as a time when the biggest worry was a scraped knee, every adult was a source of chocolate and every fight lasted only till the next playtime. Since time immemorial, children seem to have nailed the art of being joyful, and adults can learn a thing or two about stress-free living from them. Now it’s that time of the year again when children are celebrated for...simply being children, and let it serve as a timely reminder for adults to board that imaginary time machine and revisit their childhood. If you’re unable to unbuckle yourself from your adult seat, here is some inspiration.

Start small, by doodling at the back page of your to-do diary as a throwback to that ancient school tradition. If you’re more confident, you could even start your own comic strip featuring people in your lives. You can caricaturise them or attribute them animal personalities for the sake of humour. Stuck in a boring meeting? Draw your boss with mouse ears or your coffee with radioactive powers. Just make sure you give your colleagues aliases.

Pull a prank, those not resulting in revenue losses of course. Prank calls, creeping up behind someone…pull them out from your memory and watch as everyone has a good laugh. Dress up a little quirky for work. It’s time you tried those colourful ties, or tastefully mismatched socks. Dress as your favourite cartoon characters someday – it’s as easy as choosing a ponytail-style, drawing a scar on your forehead or converting a bath towel into a cape. Even dinner can be full of childish fun. No, you don’t have to eat spinach if you don’t like it. Use the available cutlery and bust out your favourite tunes. Spoons and forks are good enough for any beat and for the rest, count on your voice to belt out any pitch. Better yet, stream the classic cartoons of your childhood instead of binge watching drama or news; they seem even funnier as an adult. If you prefer reading before bedtime, do a reread of your favourite childhood book(s). You’ll be surprised by their timeless wisdom.

A regular day has scope for childhood indulgences in every nook and cranny. While walking down a lane, challenge your friend to a non-stop game of hopscotch till the end of the tiled footpath. If you’re of a petite frame, insist on a ride in the trolley as you about picking items in the supermarket. Challenge your fellow gym goers and trainers to a hula hoop routine, and beat ‘em to it!

Children have an incredible ability to be completely immersed in the moment during play, and acting like one benefits adults too. Just count the moments of precious laughter you will have added to your day in the process. So, take time to indulge yourself and celebrate life with child-like abandon, as the video below shows.

Play

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