He is back

Votes cast and counted, the verdict out, and Narender Damodar Das Modi re-elected to office in a country notoriously harsh on incumbents. No mean achievement. Forget the aberrations noticed and those that went unnoticed, the Modi triumph has been no mean feat and all credit to him and the ruthless unsparing campaign he ran. Yet the country may have been left a bit polarized, given the divisions, the bruising nature of the contest unleashed by Mr. Modi and his alter ego Amit Shah. Now that the model-II of the Modi dispensation for the ensuing term of the BJP government has begun, one only hopes and prays that the leadership, meaning Mr. Modi himself, rises above petty, partisan considerations, and, hopefully, giving the nation a government that serves all. Having watched the closing phase of the just ended campaign from my little perch in troubled Srinagar I somehow feel uneasy even as I hope that the Modi government will serve all, unmindful of its ultra nationalistic agenda and majoritarian proclivities which in essence means rising above petty prejudices and thinking in terms of a vast landmass, home to some 1.3 billion who seek no more than their share of sunshine, their own little bit of space, as it were. Spared the taunts of being of this faith or the other. Mr. Modi has a great opportunity to give a new, more purposeful direction to the way our polity has been allowed to drift.

Good luck to Mr. Modi as he embarks on the second phase of his journey as India’s helmsman. Time also to remind him of his promise to Kashmiris that the way out in Kashmir was ‘’Boli’’ se nahi  ‘’Goli’’ se kaam chalana hoga. In the four weeks I have been in Srinagar half the time has been taken away by Hartals and the other half in recounting ‘’encounters’’ between the security forces and the militants. I don’t want to get into the number game but the fact is that life over here is very taxing and not particularly civil either. I do feel that while the security forces must be complimenting themselves on the hits they score each day, the number of fresh Kashmiri young men drawn to the cult of the gun is also steadily rising. As a layman I dare say the hit and run or the cordon and search regime is not bearing the kind of results expected. I have known for sometime, thanks to Modi’s Home Minister Mr. Raj Nath Singh, that Kashmir is due to get a not particularly happy gift sooner than many would imagine, in respect of abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A of the constitution. That obviously would be for starters with possible breakup of the State into three regions very much around. Add to this the Jammu report in a national daily suggesting that the Jammu BJP has asked for inclusion of eight additional assembly seats out of the 24 reserved in the Kashmir constitution for POK (Azad Kashmir) and amending rules enabling Kashmiri Pandits easy access to polling booths – a back door entry of sorts to enable Jammu to gain advantage in the State Assembly elections, whenever. I am reminded of the promises Mr. Modi himself had made on different occasions in the past of turning Kashmir into a paradise, all with a positive ring when delivered. Sadly all that seems to have become just a memory with the New Delhi dispensation probably discarding everything that may at the time sounded positive. Mr. Modi needs to set the record straight. His new term should begin on a more sensitive and humane note best summed up by him with his evocative observation that ‘’no Goli’’ only ‘’Boli’’. This would be more meaningful if Mr. Modi were to repeat it now if he continues to believe what he has said in the past. This would obviously add a hopeful touch to Kashmiri aspirations who at the time seem to be so terribly isolated. Take his only road link with the rest of the country via Jammu and Banihal, the only viable link that remains closed interminably causing havoc in the daily routine of a beleaguered people. The Modi government has never tired of claiming a revolutionary approach to road building in the country. Sad that it should be beyond its capacity to keep the road link in fine trim and usable, uninterruptedly throughout the year. Curiously the alternate Mughal road too is rendered unusable for the better part of year. Mr. Modi’s government could shake off its lethargy and restore both the roads to good health. After all road building in the country as a whole was tom-tommed as a major plus by the Modi campaign, with Mr. Nitin Gadkari projected as a real doer.

If it reads like a grouse list, so let it be. The 80,000 crore rupee package for the valley announce by Mr. Modi to uplift the valley has at best been a dream unfulfilled. Srinagar, the summer capital is far removed from the promise of a smart city which Mr. Modi had made in one of those pompous moments during one of his speeches in the valley four years ago.  Instead what you see on a rainy day in, say, Srinagar is a muddy bowl impassable by the human kind there miseries only enhanced by motor vehicles competing for space. In summers the city is likely to turn into a dust bowl thanks mainly to the competition for scarce road surface. And think of funds like the Rs. 14,000 crores offered by the World Bank for the various development projects here were allowed very nearly to lapse. Such lethargy is unbecoming of any State government and particularly so in a State which for political reasons has been under direct Central rule for almost a year. Instead what we see is V.I.Ps competing with one another in opening a furlong or two of road stretch when the need exists for hundreds of miles of such road to rebuild and readied for their ‘’inauguration’’ by narcissist V.I.Ps . I feel funny as I write this drain inspector’s report.