The age of loudspeaker plainspeak, prodigious economists and prodigal babus

Don’t be under the assumption that Bulldozer Baba is dozing after his stupendous comeback.

Published: 01st May 2022 07:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st May 2022 09:07 AM   |  A+A-

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath (Photo | PTI)

Launching Yogi 2.0 for Modi 2024
Don’t be under the assumption that Bulldozer Baba is dozing after his stupendous comeback. In his first term, Yogi Adityanath used bulldozers to get the voters bullish. The innovative idea was to establish himself as India’s most popular hardcore Hindutva leader. Although his government initiated massive development projects, his primary plan was to remove the impression that a section of the population can get away with murder. He bulldozed illegal and illegally acquired properties of criminals. Most of the land and building mafia panicked and fled the state.

Muslim dons were nabbed and the cops got complete freedom to punish criminals fearlessly. Over to Yogi 2.0. The determined demagogue ordered that all illegal loudspeakers in all religious buildings be removed. To dispel the perception that his government was targeting only the minorities, he signalled that all wrongdoers — irrespective of caste or community — will face his wrath. Over 20,000 loudspeakers have been silenced without deploying bulldozers. While other infuriated BJP states are tearing their hair out in frustration, UP’s relentless renunciate has achieved the impossible by invoking his image of a ruthless ruler. Both temple and mosques administrators have switched off their loudspeakers and vowed to follow the rules. The sanguine sadhu practices what he preaches; at Gorakhpur Math, the loudspeakers were re-positioned towards the building. Their numbers were reduced too. By neutralising the cacophony of competing preachers, Yogi did what even the courts and others couldn’t accomplish.

Now, the mass mobiliser monk is being repositioned as a non-partisan crusader against corruption. Yogi has applied All India Services (Conduct) Rules on his officers, warning that babus who don’t declare their assets within three months will meet the same fate as criminals. All ministers and UP’s vast legion of over 600 IAS and 500 IPS officers must post details of their and their immediate family’s movable and immovable assets on the government portal; truants will be punished as per government rules. Yogi has also cautioned them against accepting any gift worth over Rs 5,000. In any case, all gifts are deposited in the government treasury. According to insiders, this is an exercise to weed out tainted officials. In fact, Yogi has the goods on the dirty dozens, and is waiting to see what assets they conceal so that proper action can be taken. Similar rules apply to mantris and MLAs, who must file asset details for the CM and the Speaker of the Assembly to peruse. Ministers will also file a quarterly, annual and five-year action plan after holding meetings with officials in all districts. All this high octane action is a harbinger to Mission 2024 that will launch a well-oiled campaign to win at least 75 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the next Lok Sabha election.

Modi Banks on World Bank Musketeers To Burnish Image
Last week in New Delhi, the two-member Cabinet Committee on Appointments headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah took a late evening decision to replace NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajeev Kumar — who held the rank of a Cabinet Minister — with Suman Bery, a former World Bank economist. The NITI Aayog office was even opened on Saturday to welcome the new member and Vice-Chairman designate, while the outgoing Vice-Chairman was absent ostensibly for health reasons. Young professionals, other members and the CEO gathered in the conference hall to felicitate their new boss. Why was Kumar asked to go? How was Bery chosen? The buzz in media circles is that Kumar was undone by his extraordinary interest in EV policy and his connection with a particular manufacturer and operator. Modi’s choice of Kumar after the exit of Arvind Panagariya was touted as the PM’s love for indigenous economists.

Modi also chose an Indian with desi grassroots as the Chief Economic Advisor. But Bery’s entry is seen as the return of World Bank economists to the Indian economic ecosystem. A former chief economist of Shell, he is a non-resident fellow of Brussels-based think tank Bruegel. During the early 1990s, Finance Minister Manmohan Singh had wanted him to join the government, but Prime Minister Narasimha Rao shot it down because he didn’t want too many World Bank trained economists to influence India’s policy. Modi is perceived as Right Wing Leftist. He practices welfare economics by giving free or highly subsidised housing, healthcare and boosting farming income.

But he also encourages private partnership in economic policy. The induction of Surjit Bhalla as IMF executive director, Rakesh Mohan in PMEAC and Bery in Niti Aayog shows that economists of the same colour will block together homespun fiscal wisdom. Bery is working on energy economics and has acquired some expertise on climate change. According to government insiders, he was chosen on the recommendation of Panagariya, who is still consulted by Modi. Panagariya also belongs to the World Bank school of thought. Because of World Bank connections, Bery is likely to play an important role in hosting the G-20 meeting to be held in 2023, just before the general elections. He and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who will be joining the G20 Secretariat after his retirement, will be the backbone of the machinery that will project Modi as the global leader with cosmic vision.  

The Prodigal’s Return Piques IAS ranks
Is the return of Jammu and Kashmir cadre IAS officer Shah Faesal to the bureaucracy’s steel frame a part of Modi’s Mission 2024? Last week, the 36-year-old Harvard educated IAS topper of 2010 was allowed to re-join the service after three years. Faesal is perhaps the first IAS officer who quit the service, formed a political party, launched a tirade against the Modi government for its handling of Kashmir, detained under the Public Safety Act and facing an inquiry to be welcomed into babudom’s ranks without pre-conditions.

There is much angst-filled speculation on why his resignation wasn’t accepted? Why wasn’t he dismissed? Was it an experiment which failed? Or, is Faesal, a part of a bigger political game plan for the J&K elections? Many politically ambitious officers are watching Faesal’s future with keen and hungry eyes. If it turns out to be better than his past, they could offer their services to the party in power. Reason: Because the IAS is fast losing its gumption and glamour as elite enforcers of sarkari diktat.  

Prabhu Chawla

Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla


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