If Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not ensure at the earliest all the UPA-era crooks are behind the bars, all the achievements he goes about the town tom-tomming will not be enough to give him a second term; Jimmy Carter had a similar approach to work and communication

Jimmy Carter, the millionaire Peanut Farmer-Physicist-Naval Officer-Governor and one-term President of the US, from Plains, Georgia, projected weakness. This despite his essential and almost improbable decency, for a politician. However, events, as they unfolded, told us that he couldn’t do that in the most powerful political office in the world and be forgiven for it. That is why Carter lost 49 out of 50 States to Republican Ronald Reagan in his second-term campaign.

Of course, luck did not favour Carter either, with the Iranian hostage crisis dragging on throughout the campaign. But it ended, ironically, almost as soon as Reagan was elected. Carter wore cardigans and conducted televised fireside chats with the American people on folksy, largely non-political themes — rather like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s quaint Mann-ki-Baat sessions on All India Radio.

Carter prayed frequently in public, and put his Baptist faith on display, just as Prime Minister Modi does, visiting an array of temples around the country and abroad. Jimmy Carter spoke famously of lusting “many times” and committing adultery in “his heart” in a Playboy interview. Prime Minister Modi makes no comments whatsoever on sex, but he does speak up about the need to promote and preserve the “girl-child”.

The American people, despite Carter’s winning smile and Southern drawl, were not impressed. The Indian people, on their part, as the Modi administration completes four years, have long expected Narendra Modi to put a legion of corrupt people from the UPA in jail. Indeed, BJP supporters cannot understand why Modi as PM is so timid. The electorally mauled opposition, unable to believe its luck, counter-attacked within months of May 2014, and have never stopped since.

Carter had won his mandate as a Democrat President after Richard Nixon had gamed, quite unnecessarily, as it turned out, the American political system. Nixon escaped jail time by virtue of a presidential pardon from his mid-term successor President Ford, who was both unelected and dependent.

Nixon escaped a near impeachment in exchange for his resignation halfway through his second term, which he had won handsomely, without any real help from the Watergate break-ins to the Democratic Party headquarters that brought him down.

Modi’s timidity in office with an inexplicable surfeit of tolerance for corruption and scams from the UPA years has emboldened every crook, dacoit, and anti-social on his watch, to carry on regardless. They have realised Modi’s sonorous bark on the hustings in 2013 and 2014 is actually a substitute for his non-existent bite as Prime Minister. Not only are corrupt people allowed to strut about abusing the BJP, the Sangh Parivar and the Prime Minister himself, but sedition, anti-nationalism, fringe organisation atrocities, rapes, murders, including those that are politically motivated, insolent dissidence within the BJP, all appear to be treated as business as usual.

The challenges posed by a Rs 30,000 crore systems failure in the PSU banking system brought about by Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, is yet another demonstration of this strange lack of consequence. Things appear to be the same in Modi Raj, just as it was in the UPA years, for the rich and well-connected.

There is quite a hue and cry after the offenders have fled abroad under the noses of this government, and its sleuths, as did Vijay Mallya before this, and Lalit Modi before him. It remains to be seen whether they, or indeed any of them, are extradited back to India to answer for their multiple violations of a plethora of laws. These include money-laundering, shell companies, benami deals, round- tripping, hawala using black money, over and under-invoicing, grand larceny, fraud, loan default, etc.

These crimes come on top of almost 10 lakh crores worth of bad debts racked up by a score of mostly private companies in the UPA years between 2004 and 2014. And now a gutka businessman cum throwaway pen manufacturer from Kanpur has just added a further Rs 5,000 crores in defaulted on loans.

The financial system rot in the nationalised banks is deep and almost endemic. Yet, very little preemptive striking is being done by the Modi government. It seems content to hide behind the so-called due process of the law. This even when it is well known that the legal system is over-burdened, broken in most parts, and extremely slow.

The investigative agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate, The Central Bureau of Investigation, and so on, are leaky ships themselves, with informants and subverted operatives, whispering warnings, in cahoots with the thieves. Supervising bureaucrats seem lethargic, demotivated, ignorant and deeply compromised. The political will and competence atop this ineffective edifice in the home, law, finance, company law ministries is sorely lacking, too. Ditto in the Reserve Bank of India.

While the Prime Minister and indeed the PMO cannot fairly be held responsible for the carelessness of various operational units and ministries directly tasked to look after the various checks and balances which are supposed to exist, he is the one who has to find a solution.

Almost everything, from the Indian Constitution, to the legal system, the perpetual electioneering, the judiciary, the functioning of parliament, the historical burdens of Article 370 and 35A, the battle readiness of the armed forces, is in need of reform and renewal. It is a formidable task, but even so, it can and must be tackled.

But while this government has shown signs of being serious in this regard — the implementation of GST, the Bankruptcy Act, the Benami Act, the reformed Company Law, RERA, OROP is evidence — it is not tough enough on those who break the law. It cannot afford to continue with this. The Indian people want to see the corrupt punished. Nothing less than that will do if this government’s leadership is not to meet the fate of one-term President Jimmy Carter.

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