It was said about Sachin Tendulkar, the master blaster, that he had an insatiable appetite for runs. He has more centuries under his belt than any other cricketer. Now it seems that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chasing ‘hundreds’ in his own inimitable (blasted!) way to put the God of the cursed game (thanks to shenanigans of BCCI big wigs, petulant players and whole-time fixers) in shade.
As he neared the hundred, heartbeats raced. The media was busy scrutinising with hawk’s eye Modi’s report card for the first hundred days. His achievements in the realm of foreign policy and breakthroughs—if any—in governance were examined and analysed threadbare. Grudgingly, even the detractors had to concede that the ‘candidate’ had performed very well—so far was the caveat. From visits abroad to running a tight ship at home, the self-proclaimed ‘outsider’ hasn’t stumbled once or allowed opponents to catch him on the wrong foot.
Now, that one-day match fever has subsided, we may move on to other spectator sport—sideshows and net practice. What is Big Brother planning to undermine the independence of judiciary? Or, how is he emasculating an already domesticated media? God! The way the ‘unqualified’ HRD minister is reducing to rubble the ruins left behind by Kapil Sibal—without doubt one of the ‘best and brightest’ gems in UPA diadem. If the PM is really serious about sabka saath sabka vikas, why is he not locking up the lunatic fringe in his cultural joint family? There is no dearth of innuendoes, snide remarks short on facts, long on prejudice, but undeterred by the erratic bowling and shamefully weak fielding, Modi lets his bat do the talking.
The way he stepped out of the crease and reverse swept the delivery to the boundary on Teachers’ Day is just one example of the contempt he has for the opposing team in total disarray. Reverse sweep is the stroke that comes to mind readily as Modi shifted focus dramatically from the teachers to the taught. After a stunned silence, there was a loud rumble of protest from the stands, “This isn’t cricket.” “This is the day to honour the poor, ill-paid, oppressed—even if absentee—teachers.” “Why should the PM force school kids to listen to his sermons?” “This was a cheap trick to brainwash innocent youngsters. Politicising and personal PR at its most vulgar”—one could go on, but what is the point? The army of progressive-secular-liberal elite guards has, after the elections of 2014, been reduced to a rag tag rump in retreat. Their wails sound more like a dirge than a battle march. The adolescents—without exception—appeared starry-eyed about a “PM who actually speaks”.
We would like to suggest that the focus should now be on the next 100 days. There are no signs that the not-so-Little Master—after all he boasts of a 56-inch chest—is going to give any respite. The chances are that the scorching pace he has set himself will continue. Towards the end of the month, he will embark on a trip to the US. Then in October, the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana will rivet our attention. One can safely bet that the PM shall distance himself from partisan politics. He now represents the country. Anti-incumbency will ensure that governments in power are on the defensive and trusted, time and again tested lieutenants like Amit Shah will efficiently organise their last rites. The following month Modi is scheduled to tour Australia, and going by the gushing praise showered on an ‘exceptionally dynamic and always trustworthy India’ by the visiting Aussie PM, we can rest assured that he will garner a few more brownie points.
The sceptre of drought is receding and the chances of ceasefire both in Gaza and Ukraine are improving. The blood and gore continues in Syria and Iraq, but prices of oil are falling in international market. The barbaric beheadings of Western journalists by ISIS have made it extremely difficult to portray young terrorists recruited from non-Arab countries—including India—as hapless victims of majoritarian regimes.
Responsible Indian citizens—free from personal and partisan prejudices—will do better by keeping track of time-bound implementation of various schemes and programmes announced by the PM. He has set a time frame for quite a few of his inspiring initiatives. We aren’t particularly bothered about his scoring a century in both innings in the ‘six month’ game. What should concern us all is the quality of the game and sense of fair play.
To return to cricket, Modi and his team have won the toss and are batting as they please. The attack can be as menacing as the bowlers can manage. And, let the fielders form a threatening circle. But don’t hope against hope that ‘no balls’ will get this wicket or dropped catches will win any matches.
Pushpesh Pant is a former professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi