Skip to main content

Nitish Kumar a 'Modi-fied' chief minister 'refusing' to hark to reason

Yesterday, I came across an unusual Facebook post by my veteran journalist colleague, Law Kumar Mishra. It recalls an incident which took place when Mishra was posted in Rajkot as the Times of India correspondent during of the worst droughts in the region in late 1980s. At that time Amarsinh Chaudhury was Gujarat chief minister. Currently Patna, Mishra compares how Chaudhary handled drought with the way Nitish Kumar has been handling Bihar floods.
Alongside the Facebook post, Mishra shares a picture (reproduced above) captioned: "This is a picture released by Directorate of Public Relations, Government of Bihar on Sunday. (Encircled by me).CM in serious discussion with chief secretary, principal secretary, disaster management, his secretary etc. on floods, two of them enjoying it,may be cracking jokes".
A middle-sized post, I am tempted to reproduce it:
"During the worst drought in 1980s in Saurashtra-Kutch, the then principal secretary to chief minister-cum-Information Public Relations Department (IPRD), PK Laheri, had requested the media (then private channels were not there) to highlight the plight of the drought-hit people and cattle. He also suggested the media to highlight the loopholes of administration in managing drought relief works. He had arranged media teams from New Delhi and Bombay to visit different districts and write free and frank/true stories.
When Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Rajkot and Bhuj, the government presented albums with photos and reports published in the press -- Gujarati, Marathi, English and Hindi on drought related and water crisis stories.
The PM immediately sanctioned central assistance,Rs 35 lakhs for water-holes for Asiatic lions of Gir, Rs 4 crore for Bhadar dam-Rajkot 45 km pipeline, extra money for more relief works in villages. He told press, 'I am leaving, Sarla ji is here.She will be here for detailed talks with Gujarat officers. Money will be no problem.'
Sarla Grewal was PS to PM. She said, 'PM saw all reports and photos and sanctioned relief projects instantly. PM relied more on media reports than official memorandum.'
On the other hand, in Bihar,chief minister Nitish Kumar says, 'Likhte rahiye, bolte rahiye, humko jo kaam karna hai, hamari sarkar karegi'. It has percolation effects on bureaucrats.
In one of the water starved districts in Saurashtra, a distinct magistrate was quoted in the press, 'Whatever I could do,I have done, rest is on God'. The then Gujarat CM Amarsinh Chaudhary told him, 'When you are depended on God during crisis, you do not deserve to be DM, guardian of the common man.'
Our Bihar CM is putting blame on rain God and Hathia Nakshatra and the meteorology office.
Media must not be PRO of government, at least during crisis. They are expected to be PROs of people during calamities, not of government. There is big gap between claims of government and woes of the people, at least in Patna during the present crisis."
***
During my posting in Gandhinagar, when Keshubhai Patel was chief minister (1998-2001), I recall, lobbying for the state was still a factor, allowed to be used by the then administration. A terrible cyclone hit the Kandla port in May 1998, one of the biggest cargo handling facilities across India. It killed around 2,000 people.
Less than a week later, on a Sunday morning, I was relaxing at my Gandhinagar residence. Suddenly, IP Gautam, secretary to CM, phoned me up and said, "Please come over at Keshubhai's residence."
I promptly got ready and reached there walking -- it took me less than 10 minutes to reach, as my house in Sector 20 was on one side of the J Road, while on the other side were Keshubhai's and other ministers' sprawling bungalows. A small walkway from J Road (closed after Narendra Modi became chief minister in 2001) took you to the ministerial enclave.
Gautam was waiting for me. He began blaming the manner in which the Kandla crisis was being handled by the Centre, pointing out, the port was a Central property. Interestingly, AB Vajpayee was India's Prime Minister at that time. But that didn't bother Gautam. He gave me all the details, including the damage caused to the people surrounding Kandla, apart from the port itself. "Write all this in Keshubhai's or in his aide's name", he told me.
With the story in hand, I rushed to my office in Akhbar Bhawan and filed it. It was taken as a flier the next day in the Times of India. I don't know what impact it had, but surely it was used by the then administration to get Central funds.
After Modi became chief minister in 2001, things turned political. A report would be prepared on the state government's demands to the Government of India as part of the state's representation to the Finance Commission. There would also be an yearly booklet containing a list of "pending issues" the Centre should take up.
Initially, the reports would show Gujarat's finances in poor light in order to elicit more Central help. For instance, there used to be a talk of Gujarat facing a debt trap. As babus would leak these reports, I used to do some exclusive stories after getting them first.
Four years after Modi came to power, post-2004, these reports would contain only a much longer list of "pending" demands with the Centre, which had now Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.
However, as for the analysis, it was all praise on how the state was doing so well on all the fronts! The argument would be: Only those states doing well should be "awarded" with better Central funds, and also that since Gujarat contributed a higher proportion as Central taxes, it was entitled to a higher Central allocation.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Surprised? Communist candidate in Ahmedabad bypoll in a Hindutva bastion

On October 11, 2019 morning, as I was scanning through daily news online (I don’t read papers now), I found that both BJP and Congress candidates from Ahmedabad’s Amraiwadi assembly constituency, which fell vacant following the victory of its BJP MLA in the Lok Sabha polls, have been asked to explain as to why they had cash in hand for election campaign, and why they did not deposit their money in a bank account. Fighting the bypoll, BJP’s Jagdish Patel and Congress’ Dharmendra Patel had declared they possessed Rs 1.81 lakh and Rs 1.70 lakh as cash in hand, respectively, for election expenditure.

Tree-felling for greenery? Gujarat govt 'accepted' proposal; awaits implementation

The other day, I went to Nadiad, a town in Central Gujarat, about 55 kilometres from Ahmedabad. For a change, I took an alternate route, which falls between two toll roads – the Expressway and the National Highway. What surprised me was, I saw truckloads of wooden logs moving to and fro on this state highway soon after I left Ahmedabad. I was immediately reminded of a "tree enthusiast" I had met in 2007. Introduced by former chief secretary PK Laheri, who was then chairman of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), Jayantibhai Lakdawala came to my Times of India office in Gandhinagar with a unique proposal, which, he said, he had put up before the Gujarat government to grow more trees.

What was wrong with Rahul Gandhi's Chowkidar chor hai campaign?

A few days back, I came across an interesting Facebook post by Vinod Chand, an FB friend. I always read his comments with great interest. This one was on Rahul Gandhi launching what he called “a broadside on Narendra Modi” during the initial phase of the campaign during the last Lok Sabha polls -- “Chowkidar chor hai.” However, during the later phase of the campaign the slogan appeared to have been dropped, not because it seemed derogatory, but perhaps because it was not having the “desired impact.”

When Gandhi said Congress can 'only die with the nation'; warned of its weedy growth

I don’t recall when, why and how, but I have been under the impression for decades that Mahatma Gandhi wanted the Congress dissolved after India attained Independence. However, a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised on seeing a Facebook post by Hari Desai, a well-known Gujarati journalist and a Sardar Patel expert, putting on record and claiming that this, indeed, was never the case. Desai released the photograph of “Harijan”, edited by Gandhi himself, dated February 1, 1948, which carried an article by Gandhi written on January 27, 1948, three days before he was murdered, clearly stating that the “Indian National Congress ... cannot be allowed to die”, and that it can “only die with the nation.”

A top Gujarat High Court lawyer who lived and worked for the underprivileged

When I came to Ahmedabad to join as assistant editor of the Times of India in 1993, I didn’t know Girish Patel was a senior advocate of the Gujarat High Court. Apart from assisting the then editor, Tushar Bhatt, my job was to specifically look after the editorial page, which also meant I should be selecting from among the letters to the editor that we would get, edit them appropriately, and put them in the Letters to the Editor column.

Enlightened Buddha didn't want monks to get enchanted by the glance of a woman

Some of my Dalit friends, including Martin Macwan, whom I respect as one of the best human rights activists I have met, have a great fascination for Buddhism. Nearly all Dalit rallies or functions I have attended carry with them Buddha’s photographs. Probably, one reason could be that Dalit icon Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism because he believed this was the only religion of India which does not believe in casteism. Many Dalits, not without reason, get converted to Buddhism.

Attack on Gandhi: Where diehard Left and extreme Right appear to meet

Another Gandhi Jayanti has come and gone. Several of the top comments – some which we also published in www.counterview.net – on this occasion hovered around US president Donald Trump calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi “father of India”. Perhaps things wouldn’t have taken a turn that it did had not Modi’s “diehard” followers like Union minister Jitendra Singh going so far as to say that those who “do not feel proud” of Trump’s comment that Modi is the “father of India”, do not consider themselves Indians.

The enigma called Amit Shah

Those were turbulent days. It was, I remember, second half of March 2002. The post-Godhra riots in Ahmedabad, as elsewhere in Gujarat, may have lost their intensity, but rioting had still not stopped. It was my first meeting with Amit Shah, Gujarat’s former minister of state for home, who has shot into prominence after the CBI arrested him in 2010 allegedly for being an accomplice in a triple murder case, involving the fake encounter of a gangster, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauserbi, and aide Tulsiram Prajapati. At that time, he was MLA from what then was one of the largest state assembly constituencies, Sarkhej, in Ahmedabad, with a voters’ strength of 10 lakh. All that I knew of him was, he was “very popular” in his constituency, almost invincible. He had just met chief minister Narendra Modi, and I had a very vague idea on his proximity to Modi, who had taken over reins in Gujarat.
Shah was coming out of the chief minister’s office (CMO), situated on the fifth floor of Block No…

Why Gujarat imposed mobile internet curfew during the Patel agitation

It was Wednesday, October 31, 1984. After finalizing the semi-left Link newsweekly, for which I worked then, the office driver boldly drove the Ambassador late at night through Delhi streets, which were already in the grip of anti-Sikh riots, erupted following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The driver squeezed his way through burning vehicles. At several places we could see houses in flames and heard painful, shrieking voices. It was a ghastly scenario, of the type I had never witnessed, or even imagined, before. I reached home, a middle class South Delhi locality; to my consolation all was quiet, though we had a Sikh neighbour.