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Modi’s first year as PM: An honest report card

Mid-May last year saw Modi-mania sweeping India. Now a year has rolled by and it is time for a report card on how the new bhai around the (South) bloc is faring. It is not easy to weave a narrative about Narendra Modi since our numero uno has tried his hand at numerous things since taking over the reins.

It is to the credit of India’s democracy that power changes hand through ballot and not bullet, as it often does in its immediate western neighbour. The American maxim of “from log cabin to White House” has come good in India too, where “from (railway) platform to parliament” or “from chaiwala to chairman of the nation” is a reality.

Since assuming the mantle, Modiji has met leaders of politics and commerce from A (Abbott) to Z (Zuckerberg of Facebook), and has completed whirlwind tours of the world, whipping up hysteria among the Indian diaspora like a rock star in Sydney and at NY’s Madison Square Garden. There are not many countries left for him to visit. For his sheer energy I give him ten out of ten.

Mr Modi has become a ‘model’ leader, becoming a fashionista like no other politician. He is a cut above the rest in his dress sense. A suit made for him, with his name printed all over, fetched Rs. 4 crores when auctioned. Again, ten out of ten for this sartorial samrat.

For inventiveness, Modi scores equally high. He has announced several yojanas starting from very basic cleanliness to complex computer projects like Digital India. Owing perhaps to his early experience of watching the trains moving slow and often late, Modiji has given the green signal to a number of projects at bullet speed. Yup, he wants bullet trains between major cities. Keen to clinch this multi-billion dollar deal, Beijing pressed its case during Modi’s recent visit there. Hope he has made it abundantly clear that he wants bullet trains and not trains of bullets. (We haven’t forgotten 1961 and fear Arunachal Pradesh could still be in danger!)

Next bullet point: Jan Dhan Yojana, a project to help every Indian to have a bank account. So far 70 million accounts worth Rs 5000 crores have been opened. If my recent experience with a Chennai branch of a Benagaluru-based bank is any guide, I wouldn’t bank on this project to gain much credit. It took a dozen emails and phone calls to arrange a small net-banking payment. Pity I can’t name and shame this mob. There is nothing I CAN RAve about this bank. Get it?

Another yojana, Digital India aims to usher in e-governance, where every application to government agencies will be in electronic format, so that several departments can view and deal with an issue without shuffling papers. This dream project may end up being a nightmare for Modi, I am afraid. The millions of government babus whose major task is to file applications in triplicates in red-taped files will become redundant, creating massive unemployment. Rahul may raise his middle digit in delight at this digital disaster.

Now Sansad Adarsh Grame yojana, sounds like a mouthful. This is to improve the development of villages with each MP adopting a village. So far 661 MPs have volunteered, but there’s not much left to adopt. Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha have already adopted, nay, absorbed, half of Tamil Nadu each and so have YSR in Andhra and Yeddyurappa in Karnataka. Sansad may turn out ‘some sad’ affair.

As Modi’s first act of fulfilling an election pledge to bring back black money hoarded in Swiss banks within 100 days, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed. People were expecting this team to unearth movie moguls, sports stars, powerful pollies, industrialists and so on. But all this team came up with in its first report was a couple of minnows with a few millions, no billionaires in sight! Either this body is SITting on its hands or the Swiss are not being ‘franc’. In its latest third report, SIT has added over 500 names, but they are securely deposited with the Supreme Court in sealed envelopes. So the SITuation remains normal. Modi’s score here is modest at best.

But in one cleanliness project he is sitting on top. As no other politician would dare to talk about toilets in public, Narendra bhai narrated, from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day, a plan to lavish the country with a million loos. Thus far, four lakh toilets have sprung up and this project is flushed with success. Top marks from the – bottom – of my heart.

Another major Modi program is Swaach Bharat (Clean India). Modi announced a panel of high profile people like Sachin Tendulkar and Salman Khan as ambassadors to drive this project. I have no progress report on this. However, since its launch, Sachin was known to be busy partying in Sydney. Salman may do time in prison with only a small area to clean.

Poor Sallu was doing his own brand of cleaning up of Mumbai footpaths sullied by homeless chaps sleeping there, and culling a couple of deers dear to the Bishnoi folk. The Indian legal system will no doubt find a loophole somehow to release him so he can complete his unfinished movies for release and make some more mega bucks. Some reward for knocking off those black bucks!