Just over a year into being the prime minister of India. Modi’s stance on openness has taken a modification. We have a self-made and disciplined man, with humble beginnings who made it to the highest elected office of the largest democracy on earth, and the first year in office, and he did present himself and his agenda with the ease of a multinational company’s CEO. All of a sudden he seems quiet, almost silent and at a loss for words on responding to allegations against his cabinet and chief ministers. He has lost steam on his words, agenda and public persona. All within just about a year into the office.
One single man, who no longer is in India, who is a fugitive at this point, who was once close to a central minister and a state chief minister to do things that were humane, but politically imprudent and perhaps illegal. The state CM was certainly a personal and a longtime family friend, and was also involved in business dealings prior to the Cricket man got into trouble with the law in India and fled to the UK. The lady chief minister could have simply disclosed what she did to help Lalit Modi and how she was at his wife’s bedside while she was being treated abroad. By simply giving complete account of the relationship and what was done, would have avoided any embarrassment to the center. For sure this relationship would have been headlines for a couple of days, but as the relationship was long standing. Modi at the center would not have had much of effect because of the history and past of the parties involved. He could have simply referred to the long standing family relationship and association and also a state level issue that his government did not have a direct role with. But when his central cabinet minister got involved after coming into power at the center, to refer to the UK authorities about Lalit Modi getting travel documents, that too without informing the PMO and the rest of the cabinet, it directly becomes an issue for Modi directly and his ability to govern.
The entire irony of Lalit Modi and his travel documents from the UK could have been easily avoided. A simple tabling of this matter with the parliament to act upon would have avoided a lot grief to the government and to governance. For whatever reason appropriate actions were never taken, considering that Lalit Modi is not a law abiding citizen and Sushma Swaraj is not just an ordinary Indian citizen, who can simply defer her actions based on humanitarian grounds.
After weeks of public displeasure and political brickbats, the government still has not acted on what we refer to now as lalitgate. One of the minister’s recently (after all the commotion) calls Sushma Swaraj a national treasure. Modi himself has not said a word on the entire episode, nor taken any steps to diffuse the situation. What is unbecoming of Modi is that he allowing the visa episode to disrupt nations business, and the current parliament simply not doing anything but fight on the particular issue. It is really uncharacteristic for him to remain silent on any issue, let along his own cabinet minister’s actions.
The entire parliament session has done nothing because of the visa papers issued on behalf of Lalit Modi, who is no longer lives in India.
The more troubling issue is why is Modi silent? What is behind a single member of the cabinet holding up the entire government’s agenda in the parliament? Why doesn’t the government release the complete set of documents and communications on Lalit Modi visa paperwork, and put it out in the open? Would it not be prudent to support the minister if the whole file was out in the open?
With each passing day we get more questions on the episode rather than closure. The government continues to be in standstill and dysfunctional. The worst part of the ordeal is no people’s business is being conducted.
No one can blame the opposition as they have a straw to hang onto after the past election debacle, and now they can raise their voice against the government. Weather the opposition’s outcry is legitimate or not, what was done was simply misguided and needs to be dealt with, and the file should come to closure. But Modi’s modified persona, his style of communications, and his issue management all of these are far from his regular style of functioning of what we have seen from him. For the country which voted him and his party to power based on his public persona, the change in his style of communications, decision making and management style is a major modification from what we are used to seeing from him. This certainly modifies the expectations on openness and leadership from Modi to India.