A Chaiwallah’s Advice For The Next PM

Suresh, tea stall owner, Jharkhand   There’s no way you can escape politics if you are a tea-shop owner. In Bihar, Jharkhand and UP, political fortunes are built and destroyed every day at tea shops. Everyone, young and old, is a psephologist here. In the face of so many discussions and opinions, it is difficult to hold on to your own opinion. However, I try not to lose track of my judgement. If I were to rate PM Modi, I would give him 60/100. Just above average. He may have a commanding personality, but he doesn’t put his weight behind things that really matter.  Take cleanliness for instance, it is something we can handle on our own (at least in villages that follow a sustainable lifestyle). It involves a change of mindset that will motivate people to take action and keep their surroundings clean. Lectures at rallies won’t help. Modi must put more effort in areas like education. I want both a clean locality and education for children. However, I feel that there the government is letting us down on the education front. More checks and balances should be put in place before hiring government school teachers. The central government should ensure that the infrastructure and quality of education improves in states. Crime is under control here and womenfolk feel safe here in the town of Deoghar. I’m very happy about the way the state government is streamlining its efforts to make our holy town more tourist-friendly as well as increasing its connectivity with other important towns and cities. The roads are in good condition here. However, I am not happy with the way the central government is treating farmers. The government needs to be more sympathetic towards the plight of farmers. Everyday, I hear stories of people affected by drought-like situations across several districts. The sowing has been below 50 percent in most districts owing to inadequate rain. Also, people here are scared of demons like demonetisation that may descend depending upon the whims and fancies of Modiji. My income remains constant, nothing has changed for me with the BJP government. A lot of people still want to support Modiji, maybe they still are expecting ‘achhe din’ to materialise. But for that to happen Modiji needs should come back with a better cabinet with efficient people, who have good intentions –or ‘saaf niyat’ as he claims. A huge country like India can’t be run by a Prime Minister’s charisma alone, we need a solid cabinet backing him. Supporting Opposition parties are still not an option, in my opinion. Other leaders don’t seem to believe in themselves and that holds true for Rahul Gandhi too. He seems to be too hard to impress people. A good leader sometimes has the capacity to walk alone in the beginning, knowing that if an idea is good, people will follow suit. He first needs to believe in himself for the people to be able to trust him. In my opinion Congress and Opposition parties need to strategize better, while BJP needs to understand the ground realities better.]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘No Vote For Gau Rakshaks’

Akhir Ali, proprietor, Bharat Sports, Morena Sim Bazaar, Madhya Pradesh

I am 71 now. I have been selling sports goods for more than five decades. We have a shop, Bharat Sports, in Sim Bazaar (Morena, MP) but our main income comes from fairs at small towns. My work therefore requires me to travel to Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. (Narendra) Modi may be a great leader, but his supporters are a violent lot. Buraai bardashth nahi (Modi’s criticism is unacceptable to them).

We keep reading about gau rakshaks ganging up against innocent Muslims. TV channels often report about lynch mobs targeting the minority community. Each time there is a mention of the word Modi, in a train, bus or public place, you will find people intensely defending all his actions. I stay away from such debates or discussions.

This wasn’t the case earlier. At the fairs, or during travel, we openly discussed politics. Today, it is not advisable to disclose your political views, especially if they are not in favour of the Yogi-Modi brand of leadership. ‘Mahaul bahut kharaab hai (Bad times have befallen).’ No matter what hardships you faced during note-bandi (demonetization), you must bear it silently.

In mid-November, 2016, several marriages in our village and nearby area were postponed. For the ones which could not be postponed, families gave written oaths to return money once things normalized. My business suffered. There were no crowds at the fairs where I had brought the stalls. Those were tough times. But no, you cannot say a word against note-bandi. Or you will be called gaddar (traitor).

It is doubly difficult for a Muslim, you understand. My vote is reserved for the Congress party. Only Congress can keep Modi in check. Anywhere the BJP comes to power, it lets loose idle youth branding swords and sticks in rallies. There was one Bajrang Dal procession here too some time back. These men with saffron bandanas kept shouting ugly slogans and looked at us threateningly.

I have advised my family to keep their gaze low whenever they faces such aggression. Good men are in each party. Shivraj Chauhan (former Madhya Pradesh chief minister) is a good man. The former BJP MLA Rustom (Tomar) phool wala is a good man. He even sanctioned Rs 8 lakh for the graveyard in Morena. We never had any complaint from him. But how can we vote for him? His party wily-nily patronises gau rakshaks, after all.

#MyVote2019 – ‘I Want Modi As PM, But…’

in bhar me 100 rupay ka petrol kharch ho jata hoga mera (I often end up spending `100 on fuel every day). I have been pursuing news and current affairs for several years. I know all about rise in international crude oil prices and OPEC countries production et al. I know about the American sanctions against Iran and the exemption given to India too. But I also believe that whatever the government is doing vis-à-vis the price rise of fuel is best for the nation. All economic/ national interest reasoning aside, the fuel cost still pinches on a personal level. I have to cut corners from the money that I earn by giving tuitions as well as the pocket money given by my family, so that I can manage petrol for my bike. I admit that on many counts I am happy with the current government. Modi ji is making a genuine effort to clean up the politics from the top. But he is often ill-advised when it comes to implementing certain avoidable decisions. Demonetisation, in my opinion, was a total failure.  Where’s the black money which Modi ji promised to bring back? Will he answer these questions when he comes here to ask for votes in 2019? I want to advise Modi ji to think twice before taking any big decision or making big promises in election rallies. I would like to see him become the PM again, but this time with certain checks and balances in place. I know right now there is nobody in our politics who deserves to be prime minister more than Modi ji. But he better choose a good cabinet and then use his time to take important decisions after getting an in-depth understanding of their impact on people’s lives. The Opposition needs to pull up their socks. They can beat many BJP leaders but they still have a long way to go to challenge Modi ji’s stature. They need to build a personality of their own and not one that is built in contrast to Modi ji’s personality.]]>