WTF Just Happened: Sept 25

“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day,’” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know”

The Financial Times lit up British PM Theresa May in a scorching editorial. Inter alia:

It is a well-established rhetorical technique that, presented with a sticking point in the present, you shift your focus to the future. So again and again, Mrs May spoke not of how agreement would be reached, but of aspiring to agreement: “I hope . . . we want . . . it is our ambition . . . ” Jam tomorrow, then — but what jam!

It sums up government rhetoric to perfection. And it reminded me of some of Modi’s stump speeches during the 2014 election. For instance, during the recent controversies surrounding the Rohingaya refugees, a section of the media has been banging the drum for getting rid of all refugees. I trawled through my clippings file and found this speech in Darjeeling, where Modi spoke of how Bangladeshi refugees are the children of ‘Mother India’, and it is a national responsibility to care for them. It is a speech the noise machines on TV, who now clamor for all of them to be deported, appear to have forgotten — an amnesia shared by the government of the day. I was also struck by this trope, frequently used during that election campaign:

“I have come to make a special request to the people of West Bengal today. My brothers and sisters of West Bengal, you have chosen rulers for 60 years. Now, give a chance to a servant once. You have given 60 years to the Congress, try giving me 60 months,” he said.

That goalpost has now decisively shifted. India’s 100 most backward districts will be developed by 2022. 33 percent of IIT students will be women by 2022. Work culture and tax administration will improve by 2022. Child malnutrition will be eliminated by 2022. Farmers’ income will double by 2022. (That is to say, the Center says it will double by then; it also says it is up to the states to make their own plans to achieve this).

India will achieve a 10 percent cut in oil imports by 2022. Every citizen will have his/her own home by 2022. (Getting reliable figures on any government scheme is a frustrating exercise, but judging by the little evidence available, it isn’t going too swimmingly. In Rajasthan, for instance, 4.73 lakh homes needed to be built over the last two years to achieve the larger target. A grand total of 5974 homes have been actually built. Other states, same story.)

Every house will have electricity by 2022. The bullet train will fly India into a new era in 2022.  The Naxal menace in Chattisgarh will be ended by 2022 (that is Raman Singh borrowing from big brother’s playbook). There will be a ‘New India’ by 2022 (This last, by the way, was resolved at the BJP national executive today).

So, jam yesterday, when we knew the secrets of plastic surgery, and Durga was the Union defense minister and Laxmi held the portfolio Arun Jaitley now adorns, and we had aeroplanes that even flew from one planet to another, and pushpaka vimanas flew thick and fast…

And jam tomorrow, when a new India will come into being at the stroke of the midnight hour on the 75 anniversary of Independence. But no jam today…

In other news, the BHU protests have snowballed, in predictable ways. As inevitably happens when there is a problem in one of our universities, several worthies have started the victim-shaming process. Vide BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who says the protest over molestation is a “Naxalite movement“. Or a Yashwant Deshmukh, BHU alum, who is saddened by the “negative coverage“. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, who is reported to be ‘unhappy’, spoke to the UP chief minister. Lo, an FIR has been registered, for arson, against 1000 students.

See why I have ‘WTF’ right there in the headline?

In passing, remember Farooq Ahmed Dar? The chief of a gang of Kashmiri goons who pelted stones at our armed forces? And was then tied to the front of an army jeep as a human shield, to the delight of some of our more battle-hardened TV anchors? And how the army officer responsible was commended by the government? Well, guess what? He wasn’t.

Also, remember Narayan Rane? Who recently quit the Congress party because, in his own words, the party had not given him the promised chief ministership? (I’d mentioned him in the Sept 22 edition). He will meet Amit Shah in Delhi today. (I wonder which chief ministership he will be promised, leading to a ‘momentous’ announcement?)

PS: The blog is on a break from now till Wednesday, while I attend to some stuff offline. Be well, all.