New Delhi: Former Union minister Arun Shourie on Friday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of “narcissism” and of running a one-man “Presidential government” the direction of which was “dangerous” for India.
Shourie, a Cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government who has drifted away from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in recent years, called the Modi government “a Presidential government without checks and balances” and said that the direction of the government under his supervision “is not good for India”.
In a 40-minute interview to Karan Thapar for India Today TV’s “To The Point” programme, he analysed the two years of Modi government and warned that over the next three years he expected “a more systematic attempt to curb civil liberties” and an increase in “decentralised intimidation” besides “choking” of “inconvenient voices”.
Bracketing Modi with leaders like Indira Gandhi and Jayalalithaa, Shourie accused the prime minister of indulging in narcissism, which he described as both “self-love to an exaggerated extent and insecurity”, and Machiavellism, which meant that he “exploits events to his benefit”, according to a press release issued by the channel.
The former minister, who has criticised Modi in the past also, said that the prime minister’s “attitude to people is to use and throw them”. He treats people “like paper napkins” and was “remorseless”, he alleged.
Shourie also referred to the raging controversy over the AugustaWestland helicopter deal and criticised the Modi government for not appealing against the acquittal by the Italian trial court of the company’s two former chiefs Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spagnolini.
According to him the reference by the Italian appeals court judge to the Indian government being unhelpful in the matter was specific to the Modi government.
Commenting on Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s speech in Rajya Sabha on the helicopter deal, Shourie used a Hindi metaphor to say it was like digging a mountain to find not a mouse, but an “invisible chouha (mouse)”.
He compared Modi’s two years as prime minister “as a boxing match with everybody” and said that he had not “had the focus we expected of him”. This was a “great opportunity completely missed”, he added.
The press release quoted the former minister as saying that one of the problems was that Modi “is getting inputs from very few people and they are, additionally, the people he has chosen”.
Shourie saw “a clear line of logic” that linked ghar- wapsi, love-jihad, beef ban, the return of awards, the campaign against anti-nationalism, the focus on ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and student protests. This was “deliberately orchestrated by the government”.
Shourie said the intention was to create “confrontation and polarisation” as he accused Modi of deliberately dividing India, calling it a policy of “divide and rule”.
While accepting that under Modi corruption at the Centre had diminished or disappeared, he said that nothing was deliberately done in the states, citing Vyapam scandal in Madhya Pradesh, Lalit Modi episode and Saradha scam.
The former minister described as “unconstitutional” the imposition of President’s rule in two Congress-ruled states of Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. The “deliberate” BJP policy of attracting and inviting defectors would “undermine” the party, he said.
Shourie was sharply critical of Modi’s handling of relations with Pakistan, saying, “we have made fools of ourselves in the eyes of Pakistan”.
Shourie said there was no consistency or logic to Modi’s Pakistan policy which had “confused” India. He was sharply critical of “U-turns” in handling Pakistan.
Attacking the prime minister’s policy towards China also, he said that it was comparable to Jawaharlal Nehru’s policy towards the big neighbour.
Both believed that “they could charm the dragon” and both turned out to be wrong, he said, adding that Modi’s policy could encourage China to claim that Kashmir is not a bilateral but a trilateral matter with Beijing being the third party because of its presence in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Speaking about the economy, the former World Bank economist said he believed that the claim of 7.6 per cent GDP growth was similar to the “exaggerated claims” of investments made during the Gujarat investment summits.
According to him the government had failed to be radical in its policies and had failed to handle tax issues, including retrospect taxation and the banking crisis.
Shourie accused the government of “gross negligence” and of being “irresponsible” in handling the banking crisis.