Recently many pictures have surfaced on social media sites that show Narendra Modi, seated on an elevated pedestal, much like a spiritual master or deity, whilst groups of MPs and Ministers, some of them quite senior, not just in age but also stature, address him by standing up in their places.
The most striking pictures were those of former Chief Minister of Karnataka and current railway minister Sadanand Gowda and that of current Health Minister Dr.Harshwardhan from Delhi, whose body language betrayed the sense of them being a bunch of coy school-boys, reprimanded by their strict teacher for not knowing the correct answer!
Whatever transpired in that meeting, certainly did not give an impression of it being an arrangement where the Prime Minister treats his cabinet colleagues as equals.
Rather, it seemed to have been done to send out a stern reminder by Narendra Modi to his own flock, lest they forgot the campaign slogan "Ab ki baar, Modi Sarkar"! (We all remember how Rajnath Singh during the campaign was quick to replace the "BJP Sarkar" poster with the "Modi Sarkar" one within just thirty minutes of posting it on twitter!)
Journalist Dhirendra K Jha in his piece titled "Modi's authoritarian style in closed-door meetings annoys his own party MPs (link:http://scroll.in/?publisher=414&title=Dhirendra%20K%20Jha) has described how these Modi-monologues disguised as "interactions" along with the "know your place" power-games played by Modi, using this awkward seating arrangement, irked and intimidated many of his MPs.
After talking to several insiders who attended this meeting, this author discovered something even more shocking! Every MP or Minister was photographed by the official photographer at the behest of the PMO at this meeting and allegedly these pictures are being released by the official outlets themselves, at the instance of the PM, to 'cut down the size of those leaders who think they are too big'!
So, in essence, this is nothing but an exercise to establish that "Modi is the Boss"!
Further, in one such interaction with MPs from Bihar, if the BJP insider is to be believed, the current Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, a very senior BJP leader, was asked by Modi what he had achieved or done in the field of politics!
When the Minister, stood up and meekly started recounting his days as a student leader and his other activities, Modi curtly interrupted him by saying that he had already read Prasad's bio-data and did not want to know about his entry into BJP but his contribution towards the public!
The BJP insider says that it was one of the rare moments when the otherwise articulate Ravi Shankar Prasad was found fumbling for words perhaps because his confidence was dealt such a brutal blow!
If this incident is indeed true, it just gives us yet another example of the extent to which the writ of one individual looms large upon the ruling party and the government. Frankly, the existence of this kind of total control and subservience isn't too hard to find, either in the party or the government.
Back in his days as Gujarat Chief Minister, Modi not only exercised total control over the state government by retaining a dozen portfolios but also usurped total control over the state unit of the BJP and ensured a complete annihilation of the second rung leadership there. He also left no stone unturned in successfully dismantling the RSS and VHP in Gujarat. For all practical purposes, Modi was the BJP in Gujarat!
The sense of control he exhibited can perhaps even be described as "totalitarian" if the opposition voices are to be believed! Right from charging journalists and reputed sociologists like Nandy with sedition to throwing out the entire Opposition from the Gujarat assembly to allegedly tapping the phone of a young woman! The modus operandi has been very "Gestapo-ish" for the lack of a better description!
Today, the "Gujarat Model" is being implemented in Delhi- both within the party and the government!
In a previous piece titled "Is Saheb Listening" penned immediately after the Gadkari snooping scandal was exposed (link: http://www.countercurrents.org/poonawalla290714.htm) this author pointed out that every appointment to be made by ministers as part of their personal staff and logs of who meets the ministers are reportedly being scanned by the PMO and that gave an impression of a "stifled political culture" that had taken over South Block since the 16th of May 2014.
Gadkari's confidante, described the situation to be so dire that Gadkari, according to him, under duress, had stopped meeting certain individuals at his residence and office all together, fearing the response it would generate in the PMO to which the IB,RAW,NSA and other intelligence paraphanelia report!
These days, if the confidante was to be believed, Gadkari sends his car half-way to pick up these guests who may be on the PMO radar and then, much like lovers having an affair, meets them clandestinely at some undescript locations. Such was the lack of trust and confidence amongst ministers and the level of control being exerted upon them!
Modi's desire to control has even extended to the office of the Speaker and if sources are to be believed the Speaker had to bow down to Modi's wishes when it came to the appointment of her OSD! Wonder if she is also required to take the cue from him on running the proceedings in the House and giving the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha to the Congress party. If indeed she does, this does note bode well for Parliamentary democracy in this country.
In fact, the story published in the Indian Express dated 13th August 2014 titled "Home Minister is quietly cut out of senior officers’ appointments"
(link:http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/home-minister-is-quietly-cut-out-of-senior-officers-appointments/ ) validates my previous assertions and describes how Modi's control-freak PMO has virtually emasculated the Ministry of Home Affairs when it comes to important appointments!
(As a matter of fact, this issue was raised by Congress leader Digvijaya Singh in Rajya Sabha on 11th August and elicited an evasive, vague reply from a rather embarrassed Rajnath Singh! Little did we know that Modi's love for acronyms would deal Rajnath Singh, the second most important person in this government, such a deadly blow by reducing him to RS- a mere rubber stamp!
Now, with Modi slowly but surely ensuring that all important party posts too are occupied by his henchmen, beginning from the Presidentship of the party being surrendered to Amit Shah, the writing seems to be on the wall!
"Dictators always look good until the last minutes" and perhaps the last minutes of the BJP as we know it have also begun and increasingly its ministers, MPs and leaders are now realising the folly of a campaign they centred around one man and one slogan of "Har Har Modi"!
No wonder then, that the very next day after Modi declared his man-friday Amit Shah as the "man of the match" for the 2014 election victory, no lesser than RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat contradicted Modi's assessment in a desperate attempt to stake claim over the RSS' diminishing dominion!
In the days to come, turf wars between Modi and RSS are likely to play out on governance related issues. Whether India would benefit in a tussle between a so-called, unelected "cultural organization" from Nagpur trying to peddle influence on key issues and an authoritarian PM who intends to extend his narcissistic sense of obsessive self-control over every minute aspect of governance? Well, only time will tell!
Shehzad Poonawalla is a 1st generation, self-made, 26 year old, lawyer-activist engaged in politics and civil rights movement. Tweet @Shehzad_Ind Email: firstname.lastname@example.org