A common narrative that has enabled the rise of the BJP since 2014 revolves around Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clean image. Is that claim now up for a litmus test?
In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, Modi had said, “We need to free the nation from corruption. Do I have your blessings to take strict action against corruption? This menace of corruption is so dangerous, it can destroy the nation. And I can see that the nation can’t bear injustice any longer.”
BJP formed majority governments both in 2014 and 2019, by capitalizing on Modi’s personal charisma. Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoted himself as a decisive leader with a clean slate, unafraid of clamping down on corruption. The BJP’s anti-corruption agenda has been by far one of the most important narratives that helped the saffron party cut through communities and win over voters that had never backed them before.
The BJP’s anti-corruption agenda helped the saffron party cut through communities and win over voters.
In fact, the Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal-led 2011 anti-corruption movement, inadvertently set the stage for the re-emergence of BJP on the national stage. Modi vowed to free the nation of “menaces that have ruined (India) for 70 long years”. Unsurprisingly, Modi has addressed the issue of corruption countless times with terrific claims and vivid analogies. He and his party have also successfully solidified their narrative of a crusade against black money among the majority.
Huffington Post’s investigations claim that Modi PMO ordered illegal electoral bond sales before crucial state elections in 2018.
However, all good things come to an end. That is what has happened with the ‘clean image’ and ‘fakir’ status that the Indian PM has been able to propagate and enjoy.
That’s all tainted now
Huffington Post’s investigations by journalist Nitin Sethi claim that the Modi PMO ordered illegal electoral bond sales before crucial state elections in 2018. As part of a series called #PaisaPolitics, the media house claims that the BJP Government directed the State Bank of India to accept expired electoral bonds worth 10 crores, sold in an illegal window, soon after the 2018 Karnataka state elections that had resulted in a hung assembly.
The bonds were sold in a special sale window opened at the direction of Prime Minister Modi’s office. Breaking its own rules, PMO directed the finance ministry to approve special and illegal sales just before state elections. Furthermore, from documents analyzed by Huff Post, it appears that former finance minister, late Arun Jaitley, dismissed the RBI’s warning that electoral bonds might funnel black money into politics and thus destabilize the Indian currency in a matter of hours. Moreover, a confidential note reveals that finance ministry officials intentionally misled the Election Commission into diluting its opposition to the electoral bond scheme.
After the corruption allegations surfaced, an exclusive from The Wire claimed that the BJP also acquired a donation of Rs 10 crores from RKW Developers Ltd., a company that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating for terror funding. Furthermore, BJP received Rs 2 crores from Skill Realtors in 2014-15 and Rs 7.5 crore from Darshan Developers Private Limited in 2016-17, two more companies linked to the ED investigation.
Modi’s Self-Proclaimed ‘Clean Image’
In 2014, Modi claimed that the UPA coalition was addicted to corruption. He declared that India needed a dream team and not a dirty team. Consequently, he put the onus of choice on people while the BJP’s brilliant media campaign built a ‘clean’ image for Modi that remained unrivaled.
In many of his speeches, there have been interesting comments on corruption. Modi has promised that he’d bring “any person who has cheated or looted the country to justice, regardless of whether he is in India or abroad”. He has claimed to have “stopped the sweets of many” corrupt. He has claimed that red-tapism, cronyism, and corruption are on the decline and the corrupt are running for cover.
Modi says that in his ‘New India’, corruption, nepotism, dynasty, loot of people’s money, and terrorism have been reined in like never before. He referred to corruption as termites eating into India’s vitals and making it hollow. Modi has for a long time been able to keep himself detached from any corruption allegations and even frauds that have happened during NDA’s tenure.
Modi gave us the Solution himself
This is perhaps a watershed moment in the BJP government’s new era of Indian politics. BJP’s 2014 manifesto thoroughly envisioned the establishment of a new system that eliminates the scope of corruption. It also promised a system-based, policy-driven transparent governance. Modi claimed in the past that India is moving from Kala Dhan (black money) to Jan Dhan (public wealth). However, recent allegations put black money and corruption at the core of the party’s strategy of electoral domination.
Modi promised a new system that eliminates the scope of corruption. But recent allegations put black money and corruption at the core of the party’s strategy of electoral domination.
When Modi was elected PM in 2014, bringing transparency to political funding was one of his key promises that he built his clean image on. Interestingly, 95% of the contributions from the illegal bond sales mentioned in Sethi’s investigation, went to BJP. An electoral bond is a channel where corporations can influence policy decisions in return for huge donations to ruling parties. This is detrimental to the ethos of Indian democracy.
Bringing transparency to political funding was a key promise by Modi when elected PM in 2014. However, 95% of the contributions from the illegal bond sales went to BJP.
Driving its anti-corruption narrative, the government is trying to bring every single financial detail of the common man under surveillance. However, ironically electoral bonds that fund political parties remain protected by a tightly-guarded system of anonymity. Perhaps PM Modi should have tackled the issue of black money in political funding before targeting citizens. Today his anti-corruption stance looks like sheer hypocrisy. Despite an uproar in the Parliament, with the opposition accusing the PM of corruption, Modi has chosen to remain silent.
Modi once stated, “Corruption is like a termite, spreading slowly and reaching everywhere, but the damage isn’t irreversible and can be beaten with timely injections.” In another of his comments, PM also offers the right solution, “I want to reaffirm that this nation will get rid of corruption. We have to start from the top”. The PMO broke rules and fuelled illegal practices tainting the democratic election process. So now with the sword hanging over his own neck, Modi needs to live up to his grand claims. He needs to deliver on his stance of a new India which strikes hard against corruption.