Soon after he took over in 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced biometric attendance for employees in all ministries. In 2019, after becoming Prime Minister again, he has given another radical order: ministries should go paperless. All old files are to now be digitised. What it means is also that a mountain of paper will be discarded once the process is complete. When he was Gujarat chief minister, Modi had done this too and truckloads of government papers went out of existence. It will take time but Modi wants it done.
S Jaishankar has been Modi’s biggest surprise for the Cabinet but now the question is where will he come from into the Rajya Sabha. Three vacancies have been created after Amit Shah, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Smriti Irani won their Lok Sabha elections. Modi is said to be wanting to give Jaishankar the seat in Gujarat which Shah vacated to signal his importance in the Cabinet. Within the party and Sangh Parivar many are not excited by Jaishankar’s lateral entry. They are asking what has he done for the Hindutva movement. He is also not a BJP member, plus he is considered a friend of the US. But Modi remains firmly behind him and that is what counts.
The JD (U)-BJP alliance might have worked wonders in Bihar for the Lok Sabha elections but Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is in a catch-22 situation. Not having got enough ministries, he is distancing himself from the BJP in Delhi. The JD(U) stayed away from the Cabinet altogether. In Patna, he has to however play the part of the faithful partner because of the threat from old foe Lalu Prasad. Nitish is also giving some extraordinary leeway to Prashant Kishore, who is the vice-president of the party. He has allowed him to continue to be a political strategist professionally for other parties outside Bihar, like Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in Bengal and Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress in Andhra. He even helps the Congress in Punjab.
Amit Shah has silently changed the Kashmir strategy almost immediately on taking over the home ministry. During Rajnath Singh’s tenure, former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma had become a mediator for Kashmir. This had also to do with the then Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, with whom the BJP was in alliance in the state, insisting that a dialogue with local youth militants must be started. Sharma’s remit was to bring these youth back into the political mainstream. The thinking then was that with Hurriyat leaders being considerably weakened politically, these youth were more relevant in the scheme of things. They however have become the vanguard of today’s militancy. Amit Shah has changed the policy. On taking charge, he met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Home Secretary Rajiv Guaba and directed them to not compromise with militants. Intelligence Bureau has been reporting that youth militants are getting support from Pakistan; so Shah’s stance is why have a peace process in such a scenario? Instead, he advocates an all-out operation to combat militants which will break their resolve. When they surrender, the Government will think of a ceasefire.
Imran Khan was keen on watching the India-Pakistan match in the cricket World Cup jointly with Narendra Modi. Recently, when Pakistan foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood, who was high commissioner in Delhi until April, came for a private visit during Eid, he met several journalists and mooted the idea. But the mood of the Modi Government remains unchanged about Pakistan. So there will be no cricket diplomacy happening in London.
Article 355, not 356
There was a time when Mamata Banerjee used to demand imposition of Article 356, or President’s rule, in Bengal citing its deteriorating law and order under the then ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) government. She even resigned as a minister once over it. And now, some BJP leaders, including the party’s general secretary in charge of the state Kailash Vijayvargiya, are giving the same reason to argue that it is time for Article 356’s imposition against her rule. Bengal’s governor met the Prime Minister recently and submitted a five-page report. It had an enclosure about the election violence Bengal saw but he did not recommend Article 356. Sources say that while Modi’s and Shah’s strategy is to mount pressure on Mamata and the Bengal government, they are not keen on removing her government by diktat. It would, first, bring her into the streets in agitation mode and thus get an issue to create a diversion in Bengal politics. Second, after the Supreme Court’s Bommai judgment it is not easy to impose President’s rule since it will definitely be contested in court. Also, the opposition would get a readymade issue to come together in solidarity. Instead of Article 356, Shah is therefore using Article 355 which says that says the Centre can issue advisories, akin to a show-cause notice, to states. The home secretary this week sent such a notice under Article 355 to the Bengal chief secretary.