Modi in the line of fire
Mohammad Jamil


FORMER French President Francois Hollande reportedly said that the Indian government had proposed the name of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Private Limited for the Rafale jet fighter deal with the French government; and that his government did not have a say in choosing Anil Ambani’s company for the Rafale deal with India. Since the revelation has come from former president of France under whose watch the deal was done, the scandal has brought ignominy for India and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Thanks to Francois Hollande, we now know he (PM Narendari Modi) personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.” In recent months, the opposition has been questioning the government on the choice of billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as Dassault’s local partner instead of a state-run manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautical Engineering.

Many have demanded PM Narendra Modi’s resignation over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after former French president Francois Hollande was quoted as saying New Delhi had influenced the choice of a local partner. Indian political parties are critical of PM Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion. There is a strong perception that India has overpaid for the planes and the deal had not been transparent. Under Indian defence procurement rules, a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help it build up its manufacturing base and to reduce imports. For that, the French firm picked Reliance and not Hindustan Aeronautics, the state-run giant that has been producing planes for decades, most of them Russian under the licence.
Narendra Modi had come into power on the promises that he would rid India of corruption and poverty and improve the lives of teeming millions. During four years of BJP, economy did improve; however, the benefits of growth did not reach the masses, as rich have become richer and poor more poor. Lately, India currency has weakened and people are suffering from inflation and unemployment, which has led to public discontent. PM Modi is already under pressure to shore up his political base ahead of elections late this year in five states i.e., Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana this year, followed by general elections in 2019. In fact there is public discontent due to Rafale scandal, unemployment and rising prices, and also because of his policies towards minorities. It appears that BJP will meet the same fate that Congress had met in 2004 despite economic growth of 8 per cent.
In 2004, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who had called elections six months ahead of schedule and campaigned on the slogan ‘India Shining,’ was defeated. It was one of the biggest upsets in the political history of the world’s largest democracy. Vajpayee’s move to an early poll was designed to capitalize on the economic development and economic growth, and his bid for peace with arch-rival Pakistan. Few had expected of Sonia Gandhi to run such an efficient campaign in 2004, but she won in a stunning victory on the slogans for bread-and-butter issues such as jobs, prosperity, water and electricity. Gandhi’s Congress party and its allies had claimed that the nation’s poor, and propagated the common people had been left out of India’s newfound prosperity built on economic growth of 8 percent that year. Hundreds of millions of poorer Indians had voted for Congress because Vajpayee’s economic reforms had failed to improve their lives.
Many of India’s poorest people, farmers living in rural areas did not see any of the benefits of a booming economy that members of the ruling elite and well-educated urbanites enjoyed. If BJP could lose elections in 2004 despite the robust growth of more than 8 per cent, it is likely that this time round it would lose next year’s general elections, as Modi government is drawing flak for its policies. Ironically, India crossed the lines of international diplomacy and decency when spokesperson of External Affairs Ministry Raveesh Kumar tried to justify cancellation of the meeting between foreign ministers of Pakistan. He also launched a frontal attack on Pakistan and its premier, saying: “The evil agenda of the neighbour has been exposed and the true face of the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office.”
At the same time, Indian media in an orchestrated campaign has been creating war hysteria whereas Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat talked about the need for, what he said, a surprise attack in Pakistan like the one earlier surgical strike. Cross-section of the people and sober elements do not accept the claim of surgical strike in Pakistan, and seek evidence which the government failed to provide. Indian media is deliberately highlighting procurement of spike missiles, conducting successful interceptor missile test and foiling so-called infiltrations bids etc. In fact, India is doing all this to divert the attention of international community from local insurgencies, and ongoing struggle by Kashmiris. The UN has also taken notice of the atrocities committed by Indian forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir. International community knows that India is the only country that has simultaneous presence of ethnic insurgency, ideological terrorism and religious fracas leading to great social divide.