While his antecedents have little to do with the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often been accused of attempting to imitate Indira Gandhi more than once in the past and his latest criticism of the Indian Railways’ punctuality has reportedly resulted in the ministry looking at records from during the Emergency between 1975-77 when trains were said to have operated on time.
The Prime Minister has reportedly ‘sought an explanation’ from Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu after getting complaints from many quarters about the punctuality of trains. The Prime Minister’s Officer reportedly also realised that many of these complaints pointed out how trains ran on schedule during the Emergency.
CNN-IBN reported that complaints received by the PMO were being forwarded on a daily basis and last week the PMO reportedly called the Railway Minister and asked him to look at how trains ran on time in 1975-77. As a result, railway officials are reportedly dusting off files from that period to draw lessons on how trains ran on time.
And while there was some skepticism about whether trains did actually run on time during the Emergency, a railway official told the Indian Express that trains were far more punctual than they are presently.
“Old records show trains did maintain punctuality of upwards of 90 per cent back then,” a Railway Ministry official told the newspaper.
But then this wouldn’t be the first time that the Prime Minister has turned to the Congress icon for inspiration.
As this piece points out, there were many similarities in the manner in which Modi campaigned for the 2014 election which resulted in a landslide victory. He rose above the party to reach out to masses, he travelled even to states where the BJP didn’t really have a presence, wore regional headgear including a hornbill hat and coined simple slogans for the campaign trail that connected with his audience. In fact his ‘ab ki baar Modi sarkar’ slogan was seen as being the only political slogan that deserved to be on the same page as Indira Gandhi’s famous ‘garibi hatao’ slogan.
The piece also noted that “Like the former Congress prime minister, Modi trusts very few people. Authoritarian and insecure in equal measure, Modi’s ruthless streak has ensured that after a decade of ruling Gujarat his writ is unchallenged.”
Firstpost’s Sandip Roy had also noted that the most notable feature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure has been the direct copying from Gandhi’s playbook on the complete domination of the party:
“It is striking how quickly, whether consciously or unconsciously, Modi looks set to acquire some of Mrs G’s most distinctive traits–her authoritarianism, her attempt to develop a personality cult both of which ultimately proved disastrous, and her role in systematically destroying her own party in order to consolidate her hold on power . Someone has rightly described him as “Mrs G in trousers minus her cosmopolitanism.”
There’s no doubt about who’s in charge, who’s taking every decision and who’s holding every string in the government. All ministers and leaders are constantly updating the Prime Minister who in turn is constantly monitoring their performance.
The Prime Minister may have done away with the sense of occasion that marks Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, replacing it with functions marking the death of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel instead, but he has shown that he isn’t averse to picking the best practices of the Congress icon. Even if they took place during one of the darkest periods of India’s history since independence.