Tea seller Prime Minister achieves what three generations of Nehru Dynasty could not

Every village in India now has electricity. A headline that was over 30 years past due. But on April 28, 2018, it finally became a reality.

Of course, media coverage of this historic moment is muted, if news channels are covering it at all. It’s not like something big has happened … like Taimur getting potty trained or like Rahul Gandhi managing to spell his own name.

You know when India wins, these are supposed to be moments when we come together and congratulate each other. They are moments when we are supposed to forget partisanship and embrace everyone no matter what their political creed.

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Here is my reaction:

Anger, bitterness, and contempt. 

Yes, that’s right. Because this moment, achieved on Apr 28, 2018, only makes me angry about the Congress Party and its Bharat Ratna Prime Ministers who have milked this nation for 55 years but couldn’t give us 100% rural electrification. They eagerly took their Bharat Ratnas but didn’t care to give us electricity, clean water, schools or sanitation.

Because the only thing they ever focused on was making sure their sons and daughters would become Prime Minister after them.

In 1950, India became a Republic. Jawaharlal Nehru assumed power as Prime Minister of India. In the elections that followed, the Congress won three-fourths of the seats in the Lok Sabha. They formed the government in every state. The whole country was at their feet. Every form of power was theirs.

In 1950, another thing happened, an event that quite literally no historian, no journalist would have recorded at that time. A little baby boy was born in an ordinary family in Vadnagar in Mehsana district of erstwhile Bombay state. He grew up on the Railway platform in Vadnagar, helping to sell tea.

Who would have thought that Jawaharlal Nehru, that all-powerful Prime Minister, and all his children and grandchildren after him would leave the job of 100% electrification unfinished? That it’s the little boy who would grow up to become Prime Minister and finally bring electric power to every village in this country?

Well, for that matter, who could have imagined a lot of the things that happened after 1950? Who could have imagined that newly independent India would spend the next four decades chasing the mirage of Communism and end up as a basket case by 1990? Who could have imagined that all the other countries of East and South East Asia would turn out to be tiger economies while India would remain stuck in the mud?

The Japanese had two nuclear bombs dropped on them. The Germans had their country literally turned to rubble, then carved up and divided between two hostile superpowers. The Israelis got a thin strip of desert to defend and like 4-5 large powerful Arab neighbours determined to wipe them out. The Japanese, the Germans and the Israelis all did fine. In 2014, India still had 18000 villages without electricity.

Who should we thank for this? Which Bharat Ratna winning Prime Minister?

Right now, there is a lively debate in the media about how to “debunk” PM Modi’s achievement. The favourite topic among experts is the official definition of “electrifying” a village.

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A village is considered electrified if just 10% of its households are connected to the grid.

Ridiculous? You bet.

You know what’s even more ridiculous? The fact that even this much could not be achieved in 70 years.

Imagine someone taking 70 years to learn A, B, C,…. It’s ridiculous. I agree. Even Rahul Gandhi could have learned the alphabet in 20-30 years. But knowing A, B, C,…  is better than not knowing anything at all. It is now that we begin the process of learning words by putting letters next to each other.

But you know what is the ridiculous thing of all? That all these knowledgeable experts who are dissecting the definition of “electrification” today was missing in action until May 26, 2014. The energy they have spent in “debunking” Modi … if 10% of that had been used for due diligence and auditing the performance of Bharat Ratna Prime Ministers, India would have been a much more advanced nation today.

One more thing. When others, including myself, began talking about this milestone on Twitter, we were faced by a small flock of Pidi trolls. They accuse me (and others on the Hindu right) of deliberately ignoring the work that UPA did towards electrifying villages.

Ha!

So let me make this clear. There is a huge difference between UPA electrifying a village and Modi sarkar electrifying a village. When UPA brings electricity to a village, it is merely compensating, some 30 years too late, for the work that their own leaders Nehru, Indira and Rajiv failed to do!

When Modi sarkar brings electricity to a village, it is picking up the slack for what three generations of the ruling Nehru clan could not do.

So, UPA gets no credit for bringing electricity to a village. Zero. Zilch. Why was there even one village in India that did not have electricity by, say, the year 1990? The only reason UPA has the opportunity to connect a village to the grid is because their own leaders were too lazy and incompetent to do it decades ago. You can’t encash the incompetence of your own leaders into political capital.

But then the Congress is no stranger to this form of argument, in effect taking advantage of its own incompetence. In 1950, the Congress Party set the nation on a disastrous socialist/communist track that ultimately blew up in our faces in 1990. From the early 70s, Dr Manmohan Singh was embedded in this socialist/communist system and became one of its prime beneficiaries, holding a series of powerful positions. When India’s economy collapsed in 1991 under the weight of Congress policies, the same Congress Party took credit for coming up with economic reforms 40 years late. After supporting Nehruvian socialism and benefitting immensely from it for 20 years, Honorable Dr Singh decided to take credit for bringing “economic reforms.”

I am glad that Narendra Modi made rural electrification a priority and finished the task. Otherwise, the Nehru Dynasty, 2-3 more generations down the line, would probably have been taking credit the day India finally achieved this milestone.

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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