The fall of a Leader

I still remember watching Sushma Swaraj’s campaign trail in Delhi on news channels in 1998; her fiery speeches attacking the Congress, reaching out to the refugees in transit camps, the tongue in cheek statements drawing thunderous applause from the audience and being thronged by women as she campaigned through the bylanes of the capital. She was the star campaigner of the party and had enormous mass appeal. Taking a jibe towards the ‘Italian’ Sonia Gandhi, she once told NDTV that ” Ordinary women connect with me because I dress and speak like they do”; which was indeed the truth.

When she took over as the Leader of Opposition in 2009, it was almost certain that she would be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. We all saw a mellow and mature Sushma Swaraj compared to the feisty Swaraj of the 1990’s. Though she never talked about it but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that she was preparing herself for the larger role. However, Narendra Modi led BJP’s victory in 2012 Gujarat polls altered the situation. The entire BJP cadre saw Narendra Modi as the BJP’s PM candidate and given his Sangh background he was also the RSS’s blue-eyed boy. Fighting all the internal tussles and differences, he was finally declared as the Prime Minister candidate.

Sushma Swaraj has had a remarkable career. She has many firsts to her credits as being the youngest ever Cabinet Minister in the history of India, first woman Chief Minister of the capital, first woman spokesperson of any political party and of course BJP’s first woman Leader of Opposition. She has won elections in Haryana, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh with remarkable margins. Though she lost the 1999 Bellary elections to Sonia Gandhi, nobody can deny the fact that she had put up a great fight and secured massive 3,58,000 votes in just 12 days of campaign.

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As a Union Minister in the NDA government she handled various portfolios and brought radical and important changes in the ministries. She can be credited with establishing six All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) across India; an initiative she took as the Health Minister aimed towards providing economical yet efficient health services to people. As the minister of I&B and Telecommunications declaring Films as an industry was a milestone step as it made the industry eligible to get loans and be financed by banks which was otherwise funded by underworld. She freed the industry from the control of underworld and ironically the same industry now takes out petitions against her party. She can also be credited for much of the ‘radio boom’ in the country as she encouraged community radio services which enabled colleges and universities to start their own FM stations.  In a span of over 3 years she brought the radio and cable services to a large population in the country. Her popularity can be assessed by the fact that Multiple System Operator (MSO) wanted Sushma Swaraj back as I&B Minister when she was moved to another portfolio.

Though her party has produced many women netas but it is Sushma Swaraj who is a feminist in true sense. It was due to her efforts that two thirds of the seats in BJP were reserved for women. Smriti Irani who is often touted as the next ‘Sushma Swaraj’ acknowledges this and thanks Swaraj for pushing through the reservation. She has been quite vocal about women equality & security. I still remember her Lok Sabha speech on International Women’s Day where she talked about increasing crime against women and urged that irrespective of political ideologies, the political class should ensure that women are safe in the country. She is also one of the few BJP netas to have come out strongly against the moral policing by organizations like the Sri Ram Sene. She has stated that her daughter who studies in Britain often visits pubs and it is up to her to decide whether she wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. However, it’s unfortunate that her critics still view her as a traditional (may be orthodox) Bhartiya Nari who vowed to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi became India’s Prime Minister.

As the leader of the opposition, Swaraj has been brilliant in the Lok  Sabha. An articulate and forceful speaker, she managed to keep the ruling party on its toes and successfully brought the agenda of the opposition on the table. Some of the outstanding debates in the parliament saw speeches by Sushma Swaraj; especially on price rise, LokPal Bill, Coalgate , Cash for Votes and the FDI. Whether it is the ‘sher-o-shayri’  with the PM or advising the young Manish Tiwari to learn ‘vinamrata; she has been one of the finest Lok Sabha speakers that the country has seen.

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However,  it would be wrong to blame the party entirely for this fall of hers. As a senior leader and a seasoned politician, Sushma Swaraj (after her initial sulk) should have come to terms with the fact that Narendra Modi enjoys immense support from the party cadre. She should have accepted him like her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha who might be the Deputy PM if NDA comes to power. Instead, she chose to rebel and brought out the differences out in open. She took to twitter to talk about her reservations on the inclusion of Sriramulu in the party who is a close associate of the Reddy Brothers whom she was once closely associated with. Her rift with Nirmala Sitharaman on the Telangana issue was also out when she retweeted a tweet that criticized Nirmala. Today, the usually vocal Sushma Swaraj is silent. She hasn’t campaigned much beyond Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. An active twitter user who tweeted even when she was detained by J&K CM has gone offline. She looked lonely when the BJP released its manifesto and hasn’t given any interviews of late.

Today, she is often ridiculed on the many satirical websites in the internet space and many even accuse her of being a part of fictional ‘Club 160’ in BJP  that is working against Narendra Modi. Without any backing from a God-father, she emerged as a top BJP leader solely because of her hard work and capabilities. It is indeed sad that one of the tallest woman leader of the country and her party has been pushed into oblivion. A leader of her stature deserves more!

 

 

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A rejoinder to Arvind Kejriwal on his 17 questions to Narendra Modi

Now a days, it’s difficult to ignore Mr. Arvind Kejriwal as he is all over the news channels, newspapers and social media. I happened to read the 17 questions which he asked Mr. Narendra Modi and argued that his claims of development are nothing but a farce. Frankly, a person who couldn’t run a government for 49 days questions a CM who is in power for 13 years seems more farcical though. Khair!

As a young voter of this country, I see Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister and would definitely want him to be one. So, I try to answer the questions to the best of my ability as a ‘Aam Aadmi’.

Q1. Why does your government buy solar power at Rs 13 per unit? Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are buying it at Rs 7.50 and Rs 5 per unit, respectively?

A1. Gujarat is the pioneer Indian state in solar energy. When they started, the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd had signed 88 agreements to buy 971.5 Mw of solar power for 25 years at a blended price of Rs 12.54 a unit. It’s a DAMN AGREEMENT! Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam is pushing for a 25 per cent rate cut from what was agreed in the original power purchase agreements. You should also know, that Gujarat is NOT Madhya Pradesh. The land prices have shot up in the last few years and hence the investors are demanding higher rates. This is plain business. Thought being born into a Bania family, I am sure you would understand.

Also, the prices are fixed by the regulators and NOT by the government.  In this case Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC) just like prices in Delhi are fixed by DERC.

Gujarat wants solar power tariff reduced


Q2. You claim 11% agriculture growth in state while your government’s data says production has shrunk at 1.18% annually and revenue declined from Rs 27,815 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 25,908 crore in 2012-13. Why?

A2. I thought you would have done some reading on this Mr. Kejriwal before raising the question. Narendra Modi’s claim of 11% growth is echoed by the ASSOCHAM report (2011) which says that Gujarat recorded the highest decadal growth from 2001-2010; the time Modi took over as CM. So, for heaven’s sake, read this:

Gujarat records highest decadal agricultural growth rate of 10.97%

Also, the Gujarat government was presented the Krishi Karman Commendation Award for higher production of food grains in 2013. Of course you will say that all these are corrupt institutions and awards are bought by Modi.

A decade of agricultural revolution

As far as the decline in production you point out, what’s the big deal in that? In a year there might be several reasons ranging from low rainfall, high rainfall, pest attack etc. that can affect the agricultural production. The production might increase in one year and can decrease in another. Understood? Of course, Yes. You are an IITian!

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Q3. In the past 10 years, two-thirds of all SMEs have shut down in Gujarat, especially in your home town Mehsana where 140 units out of 187 died away. Do you want to concentrate all power in the hands of a few big industrial houses?

A3.  ‘Humne suna hai’ – Seriously Mr. Kejriwal? You must have heard some awesome things about Gujarat also, why not believe them too? Reminded of this popular saying in Hindi ‘Hawa mein Teer Chodna’. You “found out” that 140 off industrial units had closed down. Proof? Anything that supports your claim? If yes, we will talk.


Q4.  You claim to have eradicated corruption in Gujarat. People here claim that up to Rs 10 lakh bribe is demanded for appointment of a ‘talati’ (revenue official).

A4. I will make you meet people in towns and villages who say Arvind Kejriwal is stupid. Will you believe them?

On a serious note, LET’S BE REAL Mr. Kejriwal. There are thousands of employees who work for any state government and it would be indeed foolish to believe that all of them would be honest and won’t take any bribe or gifts. If some of them do, then it is for the people to report the issue to the authorities. Did they report? Of course you didn’t ask them. Did you? If they reported and still no action was taken, then you blame the government.


Q5. Your ministry has people like Babu Bokhiria, convicted for three years in a mining case, and Purshottam Solanki, accused in a Rs 450 crore fishing scandal. Why?

A5. Your minister Somnath Bharti is racist who told women from another country to pee in public and Kumar Vishwas is a male chauvinist who calls the nurses from Kerala ‘Kaali-Peeli’. Couldn’t you find sane-thinking people for your ministry among 9.8 million Delhiites?

Coming to the question, the ministers you mentioned are “accused” and as far as I know being an accused is not the same as being guilty. So, let the law take its own course. If the charges are proven, they will be expelled.

Q6. Why have you inducted in your cabinet a minister who is the son-in-law of the Ambani family?

A6. Is there a law that prohibits induction of a minister who is a relative of any businessman? To my knowledge, NO!


Q7. About 13 lakh people applied for 1,500 posts of ‘talati’ recently. How can you claim to have solved the problem of unemployment?

 A7. Err… when did Mr. Modi “claim” that there is NO unemployment in Gujarat? I am told you can find everything on Google, so I did try to search but couldn’t find any such statement. Even the most developed nations suffer from unemployment and it would be idiotic to even expect that a state government can solve the problem of unemployment completely!

Also, there are thousands of people who apply for government post every year but how on earth is this a measure of unemployability? I have a job but if I apply for a government job, then according to you I am unemployed. Don’t you think it’s a VERY BAD measure to analyze the unemployment rate? Meanwhile, you can read this report which says Gujarat has the lowest urban unemployment rate in India.

Gujarat records lowest urban unemployment rate in India

Q8. Why is your government exploiting young graduates by paying them only Rs 5,300 per month for five years on contract basis?

A8. You say why would any ‘educated & self-respected’ individual work for Rs. 5,300. There are lakhs of youths in Indian states who are educated and yet are out of jobs. Sitting at home without job hurts the self-respect most and many even end up their lives.

Whereas, here the Gujarat government is providing the people employment. Is Rs. 5,300 less? Yes; for you and me. But for a person who is sitting idle at home and has the burden of running a family, it is not less. Also, I happen to be a Human Resources professional and whatever little Labor Law I have read, the Gujarat government is no where at fault and is not flouting any of the labor laws laid in the country.

Q9. The state of government schools can be gauged by the fact that only three teachers teach 600 students at some places. What is your comment?

A9. Dear Arvind Kejriwal, before I answer the question let me just throw light on few of the achievements of Gujarat government in education. The concept of ‘smart classrooms’ which is often heard in city schools has made its way to the smallest of villages in Gujarat. The Vataman village of Ahmedabad district & the Ajab village of Junagadh district  are live examples where students get to learn through computers and other audio-visual aids. The Punsari village has schools with CCTV Cameras, 24 hour Wi-Fi and solar powered lamps.

With such education system, the country can surely progress. No?

As far as your claims of “finding” colleges with 3 teachers, why don’t you name the colleges? Where are they located? Why don’t you support your claims with proof?

Q10. Medical and health services in Gujarat are in a shambles and in grip of corruption.

A10. In just four days, you came to the conclusion that health care services are crippled in the “entire” state. You can give these superheroes a run for their money yaar!

Coming to the question, again you just vomit out some statements which are not supported by facts or figures. But I will give you facts about the efforts taken by Gujarat government towards improving the health care facilities.

Gujarat government rolls out healthcare scheme for poor

Healthcare boom in Gujarat

Q11. At least 800 farmers have committed suicide in Gujarat in recent years as the government has stopped subsidies and not paying support prices. What is your reaction?

A11. Again, you just throw figures without quoting any credible source. Though I don’t deny that farmer suicides have occurred in Gujarat like all other states but I have a problem with you blaming the Gujarat government for it.

While replying to an RTI application, the Gujarat government stated that between January 1, 2008 and August 20, 2012, 115 farmers had committed suicide. And most of them had ended their lives because of growing debts caused by crop failure. 115 deaths in the last few years and you say 800. WOW!

By the way, read this How did Gujarat Become a Farming Paradise?

Q12.
 Four lakh farmers are waiting for years to get electricity connection. How can you claim 24×7 electricity availability? 

A12. 4 Lakh farmers without electricity. WOAH! That’s news to me. So, in four days you visited the villages in Gujarat and even got a count of farmers who don’t have electricity? Nice. Why don’t you name these villages?
While you continue to nit-pick, read this story about the scientists in Gujarat working on a novel concept of providing electricity to villagers

Power to farmers: Gujarat scientists float novel concept


Q13.Farmers have not been paid adequately for acquisition of their land for industry while the Ambanis and Adanis have got it for just one rupee per square meter. Some farmers have not been paid any compensation at all.

A13. May be you didn’t know or may be you chose to ignore but  the Gujarat government in 2011 revised its compensation figures and introduced a new ‘jantri rate’. which gave the farmers much higher compensation whose land was being acquired. Farmers whose land was specifically acquired for the Narmada canal network benefitted from it. The new janri was three times the old one and the farmers received a 30% hike in the prices. Where is the injustice?

Q14. Despite raising the Sardar Sarovar dam’s height in 2005, the Kutch people have not been provided water but industries have been. Why?  

A14. Oh dude! An NGO (AAPke bhai-bandhu) raised this issue few years back and the SUpreme Court REJECTED the plea to increase the quotas of water for Kutch region. You love anarchy and I am sure you will now brand the Supreme Court corrupt but sadly we respect the law of the land.

Supreme Court rejects plea for more Narmada water to Kutch


Q15.
 Despite assuring Punjab that the Sikh farmers of Kutch will not be deprived of land allotted to them, the Gujarat Government has not withdrawn court cases. Why?

A15. Narendra Modi “assured” that no Sikh farmer will leave Gujarat; he did not assure that their land will be given back. Last I read, farms of 52 farmers have been defreezed and rest cannot be defreezed as they are not farmers or Santhani land-holders as per official records.

As the matter is subjudice, why do you want the government to withdraw the case? What if they win? Will you still hold the same opinion? Why not wait for the judgement?

Q16.
 How many aircraft and helicopters do you have? And who owns these? How much do you pay or someone else pays? Why don’t you make public these air expenses?

A16. I would have loved had you asked the same question to all the Chief Ministers but you seem to have a personal grudge against Modi. Next, you will ask him how many underwear you have? Jockey or VIP?

A person who overstays in the government bungalow even after resigning as the Chief Minister, gives his ministers brand new Toyota cars, takes a Religare private jet sponsored by India Today doesn’t deserve an answer on this.

Q17.  If you become the PM, will you raise the price of the KG Basin gas, which has already been doubled by the UPA government to $8 per unit?

A17. Hypothetical Question. Yawn! Why should he talk about his policies even before he has become the Prime Minister.  One thing is for sure but that it won’t be and should not be free like the water in Delhi.