This government has a unique way of creating a feel-good atmosphere. In Chinese military schools, it is described as the art of turning a disaster into a triumph. It is a basic lesson that all politicians learn but the BJP seems to have taken it to another level with its promise of a new India. Here’s how it works, as seen through an interview with a BJP minister.
Interviewer: We have the verdict of the Supreme Court on the right to privacy. Is it an embarrassment for the BJP government?
Minister: On the contrary, we are shedding tears of joy. As the world’s most respected law minister Ravi Shankar Prasadji said, we have been in favour of privacy as a fundamental right all along.
Interviewer: Let me remind you of what your government said about citizens not having absolute right over their bodies and that privacy was not an absolute right, in parliament and through the attorney general.
Minister: The attorney general may have got carried away during the proceedings when his brief was to be brief. It was just court banter, like in Santer and Banter.
Interviewer: You had made the same arguments in the Aadhaar case. Your government wants citizens to use Aadhaar for everything, from operating bank accounts, paying taxes or ordering underwear on Amazon. You want to strip citizens naked.
Minister: You are missing the point. The poor are delirious with joy, they are feeling empowered like never before. Do you know that we have saved Rs 57,000 crore on Aadhaar that was going to middlemen? Only the elite are not happy… and the Congress, of course. The whole world appreciates the technological marvel that is Aadhaar. That was our plan.
Interviewer: Let me remind you that while the BJP was in the Opposition, senior party leaders had targeted Aadhaar. You called it a fraud scheme, if you remember, and refused to allow the Act to be passed in parliament.
Minister: When we came to power, we promised minimum government, maximum governance. That is when we realised the hidden benefits of Aadhaar. The Aadhaar system operates on the principle of Minimum Information, Maximum Use, which is the same thing. Once the world’s most beloved leader, Modiji, announced plans to build a new India, we realised that we could not build one without Aadhaar. That is the beauty of this government; we put all our cards on the table, Aadhaar card, Pan Card, Dalit Card, OBC card, the OCI Card, NRI card….
Interviewer: One can understand the electoral imperatives, but getting back to minimum government, the opposite seems to have happened. The Modi government has 77 ministers, excluding the prime minister—27 cabinet ministers and 50 ministers of state. Now, with the AIADMK and Nitish Kumar joining or about to join the NDA, those numbers will go up. In the Opposition, you had always criticised the size of the UPA government.
Minister: We have a plan. As our most brilliant party president Amit Shah has said that the BJP is not looking at being in power for 5 years, we are looking at 50 years, so that requires a lot of hands on deck. The New India will start in 2020, when every person with zero balance bank account will get Rs 15 lakh paid into the account from all the black money we have brought back from Switzerland, every child will go to school, every mother will have a toilet and an Aadhaar card, and India will be the number one economy in the world….
Interviewer: We have heard all these promises before but look at the policies that have affected the poor the most when you keep saying that you are a government for the poor. One was demonetisation.
Minister: You are missing the plan. Look at what the world’s brightest finance minister Arun Jaitley has said: Demonetisation has killed terrorism. It has starved it of funds. That is the vision of New India, to kill two birds with one stone. The Congress had one stone and two birds….
Interviewer: But we are seeing a surge of terrorism in J&K, the Naxals strike regularly…
Minister: Again, you must listen to what India’s most effective Home Minister Rajnath Singhji had said recently, that Naxalism is dead, terrorism is down, the Kashmir problem will be solved very soon, he has a plan.