Dear Prime Minister,
As the pyres blaze day and night like the hopes of India burning and the people die gasping for breath in hospital corridors and parking lots, the time has come for us to recall Napoleon Bonaparte's words, "A leader is a dealer in hope". When India chose you twice, over 1.30 billion of countrymen were convinced that you, the first genuine non-Congress politician, are their best hope for a New India. Two thirds of the states also voted BJP after you became the PM, as voters placed their faith in your promises and performance. You had vowed to open up the economy, scrap obsolete laws, eliminate corruption, tame the bureaucracy, minimise minority appeasement and ensure a uniform tax regime. Your motto was 'let work speak, not the leader'.
Seven years later, Brand Modi is in on oxygen. Your admirers and well-wishers are crestfallen by your silence to questions about your government's ability to tackle the pandemic. You have weathered many personal and natural storms. A couple of months after taking over as Gujarat’s chief minister, your innovative and hands-on approach quickly brought the state back on track after a devastating earthquake.
During COVID-19's first wave, you were hailed for containing the virus faster than other countries. You were applauded for encouraging indigenous manufacturers to invent and produce the vaccine within a minimum timeframe. Then you had said recently, "A terrible pandemic that has come after 100 years is testing the world at every step. There is an invisible enemy in front of us. We have lost many of those who were close to us. The suffering the people of this country have endured in the recent past, the pain that many people have gone through, I am also experiencing the same."
Why didn’t these agonising sentiments strike your team earlier? The agony of India has washed away your vocabulary of commiseration as the sights of unclaimed bodies floating in rivers, Indians dying outside hospitals, toddlers losing their parents, patients begging for oxygen and shortage of life-saving drugs and hospital beds numbed the collective soul. They have always trusted the slogan 'Modi hai to Mumkin hai'. As the healthcare system collapses, the slogan coined by your enemies ‘Jab tak Modi hai, to Mushkil hai’ is, unfortunately, gaining traction. Tragically, the sound of negativity now sounds soothing and happily welcomed than the sponsored cacophony of positivity made by the patronised and hired sycophants.
Those who have faith in you and your leadership feel that the government has lost the battle of perception due to betrayal by your trusted lieutenants. The success of a leader depends on the success of team members. The public believes that sycophancy is the sole mission of your entire team, including party office bearers, ministers, chief ministers, civil servants and self-proclaimed social influencers.
It is natural to counter fake narratives against an elected Prime Minister with a credible counter-narrative. But those who claim to be your supporters only indulge in acerbic, confrontationist and abusive tirades against government attackers. They manufacture childish, obscure websites and SM handles to promote and defend your performance and you, who has been called India's real guardian. At this time, we need your performance and your lost mojo and not publicity. The second COVID wave has set many dismal global records in terms of number of cases and fatalities. The system has failed to anticipate the catastrophe on our doorstep.
If India can be the world’s pharmacy, why was the Centre not India’s physician who provided sufficient vaccines for its people instead of embarking on an ill-conceived Vaccine Maitri? Why didn’t your soft-soaping advisors place enough orders? It was left to a usually passive judiciary to excessively intervene and restore some sanity in health administration. When questioned about the government’s failure, their retort was cynical ---- India is the first country to administer over 170 million doses in the shortest possible time. Is that a legitimate answer? The government ordered only 110 million doses initially. In contrast, the US sought 1.2 billion, the EU 1.3 billion, the UK around 500 million and Brazil over 230 million.
We are not even clear about the timeframe and frequency of jabs even after the pandemic has claimed over 2.50 lakh lives. What traumatises most Indians is dependence on others to save us. You made us proud by declaring that India would become a five trillion dollar economy soon. You asked us to work for Atmanirbhar Bharat. Look at the chaos on the ground. Our pride has bitten the dust by seeking foreign aid and accepting medical assistance in small amounts. Our government agencies and middle-level leaders resort to claims that "a flight from Kazakhstan arrives at Delhi with 5500000 Surgical mask and 150000 N95 mask" and "DEMA 129 arrives at Delhi airport from Qatar with 200 oxygen concentrators, 8 ventilators, Remdesivir injections". Their total value may not exceed a couple of thousand dollars.
Indians now feel diminished when they see news reports about Pakistan offering help. India is the world's fifth largest economy. We are self-sufficient in food grain, technology, pharmaceuticals and many other segments. While figures are fudged and desperate people seeking oxygen for their relatives are intimidated by the police, ministries and official departments have unleashed excessive publicity campaigns on the Oxygen Express, PSUs setting up plants and hospitals and placing orders for imports. If they could react after the damage has been done, why not earlier? Because they were busy competing in bootlicking and flummery. Your Gujarat model of development and governance was a huge success in a culturally cohesive tiny state. But pandemic needs a paradigm shift in administration. You may tweak the architecture of governance which can heal the nation through genuine cooperative federalism.
Soon after your arrival on the national scene, Indians got a place of pride everywhere. They were most sought after because they belonged to a nation which was ruled by a popular and powerful leader with a mission and vision. But tragedy is like strong acid - it dissolves everything. The pandemic has eroded the nation’s credibility. Indians, who were till recently adored, are now abhorred or pitied. It is during these times that the mettle of the leadership is tested. India needs concern and conciliation, not confrontation. Keep the brownie points for later.
A leader must take the responsibility for failures if he is to be considered a statesman. Your heart has always been in the right place. But it seems toadies, fair-weather civil servants, ladder climbers, opportunists and semi-educated scientists have infiltrated the system. They are saboteurs from within. Their target is to destroy Brand Modi. They hide their incompetence by making noises on social media and TV debates, while genuine professionals are debarred from reaching you and telling you the truth.
No doubt, a formidable cabal is working against you, but those who still see a ray of hope in you expect genuine introspection. Jack Welch told his audience once: "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." You gave chances to those who failed you. Now is the time to purge them from the system. Indian voters are brutal. They didn't spare a saintly leader like Vajpayee who tolerated the arrogant members of his political ecosystem. Their hubris brought agony to both the party and him. Ailing India is still looking to Modi for hope, not hopelessness. Silence of sadness is no longer golden. It may erupt like a volcano.