ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2019.
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The people of India celebrated with great joy and fulfilment as Narendra Modi was sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of India on 26 May 2014. They had many things to celebrate. The success of their own mission of bringing in Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, whom they had firmly decided was the only hope for India's future, after the devastation of India unleashed by the UPA. But more than that, they were celebrating Narendra Modi's phenomenal and unprecedented victory, surpassing his own Mission 272, and almost achieving the impossible. Yes, the election did assume the form of a Presidential type election, and Modi swept it with a wave, bringing the BJP to power with an absolute majority for the first time since Independence and a single political party in power for the first time in two decades. One can even say that the election started looking more and more like a referendum on Modi, and not really an election between political parties. Anyone I have asked this question to, poor, middle class or rich, rural or urban, has said the same thing. For me, it was a personal celebration that brought me great satisfaction to see Narendra Modi being sworn in as Prime Minister, someone I had been championing from the very beginning, as the most qualified to lead the nation. He has ended the corrupt, communal and anti-national UPA regime, and has returned the nation to the people of India.
It was a perfect oath taking ceremony — suffused with dignity and grace, with the aura of splendour that accompanies Rashtrapati Bhawan's august events. The people of India were delighted at Modi's surprise announcement of inviting heads of SAARC governments and of Afghanistan and Mauritius to attend the ceremony. A most meaningful gesture of goodwill for all our neighbours, that put behind the recrimination and rhetoric of the election, and gave way to bonhomie, generosity and magnanimity. The gathering was impressive and did India proud. But most of all, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan deserves our heartiest congratulations and thanks for standing up to all his internal pressures and accepting Narendra Modi's invitation. India was delighted to see him in New Delhi. Of course, nobody expected any serious negotiations and breakthroughs — the occasion was only meant as an expression of intent for future goodwill and dialogue. Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan reiterated their goodwill by releasing fishermen who periodically get arrested for fishing in neighbouring territorial waters, and India reciprocated likewise.
The euphoria of victory and celebrations will gradually start receding, and the serious and challenging business of governance will begin, the real walk through fire, and in such disabling circumstances. Inheriting a nation with a bankrupt treasury, a dead economy. But the nation has already witnessed in the span of a mere week Modi's indefatigable energy and dynamism, his capacity for working long hours, and hard work, his competence in facing challenges head on, and his determination and dexterity to overcome them. He has a full agenda. He must prioritise among priorities, all of which are equally urgent for restoring development and the economy. He must start the process of fulfilling promises made to the people of India, and securing credibility. It is not for too much longer that opposition, media, and the people will remain overawed.
Modiji has completed the first stage of his government formation, and tried to be as balanced about it as he could. No doubt, he realises that his bullet proof armour must protect him both from the front and back, and he has kept the "threatful" ones close to him, a wise strategy perhaps, also advocated by our great ancient scholar of governance and statecraft, Kautilya. The people of India have great confidence and believe it is only fair that they must wait until the new government has settled in, before the wheels of change start turning and promises start getting fulfilled.
The Prime Minister has made another fine and unprecedented start by extending a proactive hand of friendship to the states, regardless of their political hue. He is reported to be keen on constituting a cell in government solely dedicated to issues that keep cropping up between the states and the Centre that remain unattended for years, and sometimes decades. Restoring the true federal spirit between the Centre and the states is something close to his heart, and in the long term, treating all states as equal, regardless of their political composition, is important for restoring democratic federal health in governance.
I also congratulate the Prime Minister for his prompt action in constituting the Special Investigation Team ordered by the Supreme Court way back in 2011. The Congress government fraudulently managed to avoid bringing the team into existence through one ruse or another. The spate of government office fires in recent times, starting from the PMO, the last being at Shastri Bhawan, which saw several important files turn to ash, was extremely worrisome, as Shastri Bhawan also houses the Law Ministry. After being informed by the Solicitor General that the black money documents were lodged in North Block, I was constrained to bring to the attention of the Court my legitimate fears that North Block might well become victim of another sudden fire. The Hon'ble Court ordered that all documents be handed over under the safe custody of a joint secretary of known integrity. But I do hope that adequate photocopies of all documents have been made, and the correspondence properly listed, just to take precaution against yet another fire mishap or any other circumstances enabling loss of files.
Even on the day that counting of ballot papers was in progress, the UPA government was in the Supreme Court, asking for a review of the Supreme Court order. It is now imperative that Narendra Modi must take all the necessary steps to bring back our nation's money to the tune of Rs 90 lakh crores, or US $1,500 billion, and make India a land of plenty again. It has recently been reported that the US Justice Department convicted Credit Suisse AG, Switzerland, for helping Americans avoid paying taxes through offshore accounts, and fined them $2.6 billion. If the US can do this, so can we.
Governance, especially political governance, is never a predictable affair. Already, over enthusiastic and well intentioned, though not necessarily well informed ministers, have started airing their views about sensitive issues that are critical to the nation with far reaching ramifications that can only be understood after serious study, such as Kashmir and Article 370, about minorities, especially the Muslim minority. As reported in the press, Modiji has taken serious note of this irresponsible and personal obiter dicta that some of his ministers are indulging in, and has advised them regarding the importance of observing discipline regarding personal public comments on sensitive national issues, particularly those with security repercussions.
I must, however, state that there appears some degree of disquiet in the legal fraternity about some of the appointments that have recently made, and I refer particularly to that of the Advocate General and Solicitor General. I am of the firm view that a precedent should be set that appointments of the highest law officers must be made after formal consultation with the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India and informal sounding of senior members of the bar. The Advocate General must be an eminent jurist, one who enjoys the confidence of the Bar and the legal fraternity.
Narendra Modi always knew how challenging his new job would be, especially after the decade long UPA rule, and was well prepared for it. He has to rebuild governmental structures that he has inherited completely broken down. Most institutions don't work for the objectives they were intended, and those that do work, do so for the wrong reasons. He has to revive the economy, generate jobs, reduce prices and inflation, crack down upon corruption, and improve the lot of the common man through his development agenda.
He has made a great start, and needs all our prayers and good wishes to succeed in his mission of placing India First, and fulfilling his promises to the people. The nation prays for his success, and for leading India towards progress, prosperity and peace.