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Modi@2: 24 months, 24 controversies that have caught the public eye

Nikhil Kumar Verma | Updated on: 22 May 2016, 23:00 IST

On 26 May, Narendra Modi's NDA government will complete two years in office. People still have high hopes from the government, and the tall promises made by the Prime Minister have only fuelled these expectations.

The past two years have not been without controversies. Ministers, MPs and other BJP leaders often hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, overshadowing the government's achievements.

Read: Narendra Modi's Republic of Fear

It would not be wrong to assume that sidelining experienced leaders has cost the party and the government. It had to face the embarrassment of amending President's address to the Parliament consecutively for two sessions.

Here's a look back at some of the most infamous controversies involving the Modi government, which caught the public eye.

1. Comparing Kerala to Somalia (May 2016)

The Prime Minister made this gaffe while addressing an election rally in Kerala. His remarks drew criticism from all quarters. According to the Central government's own figures, Kerala is one of India's most developed states.

Then-Chief Minister Oommen Chandy hit back at Modi by accusing him of insulting the Prime Minister's office. Terming the statement as baseless, he demanded an apology from Modi.

2. Sanskrit education in IITs (April 2016)

The Union Minister of Human Resource Development (HRD), Smriti Irani, told the Lok Sabha that she has requested IITs to include Sanskrit in their curriculum.

This statement drew flak from many politicians and academicians. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury remarked sarcastically that the minister should change the name of her ministry to 'Hindu Rashtra Development Ministry'.

3. AgustaWestland controversy (April 2016)

Last month, an Italian court sentenced Finmeccanica's former chief, Giuseppe Orsi, and AgustaWestland's former CEO, Bruno Spagnolini, to prison for corruption in Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal.

The judgement also indicates the involvement of some Indian politicians and high officials in the scam. The name of Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh's son Abhishek Singh has also cropped up in the controversy. The BJP government has been accused of sitting silently on the issue for two years.

4. Degree row (April 2016)

The confusion over the Prime Minister's graduation and post-graduation degrees has still not been cleared.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party have alleged that Modi's degrees are fake. The AAP leaders have pointed towards the difference between his names in the two certificates.

The BJP, on its part, has denied these charges.

5. Vijay Mallya fleeing the country (March 2016)

The Modi government was severely criticised for allowing liquor baron Vijay Mallya to leave for London, without coming clean on his loan default. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has now asked Interpol to issue a red-corner notice against Mallya.

Also read- Jan Dhan Yojana: 21 crore new bank accounts, but is that enough?

The flamboyant businessman owes around Rs 9,000 crore to various Indian banks. The UK government has hinted his extradition might not be feasible.

6. President's Rule in Uttarakhand (March 2016)

The Central government had imposed Article 356 in Uttarakhand, after nine Congress MLAs revolted against the party. The decision came just a day before the vote of confidence in the state Assembly.

The matter went to the court and CM Harish Rawat got a chance to prove his majority only after Supreme Court's intervention. The Rawat government is now back in power, leaving the Modi government red-faced.

7. JNU controversy (February 2016)

On 9 February, a programme was organised in the JNU premises to mark the death anniversary of Afzal Guru.

The Delhi Police arrested the university's student union president Kanhaiya Kumar after some TV channels showed some students raising anti-India slogans during the programme. Charges of sedition were slapped against him.

The matter snowballed into a nationwide debate in no time. The Opposition strongly opposed the action against JNU students, and accused the government of infringing upon the autonomy of higher educational institutions.

8. Attack on Pathankot airbase (January 2016)

Modi's impromptu visit to Lahore last December stumped foreign policy analysts. It was hailed as a bold move by the supporters of the government.

However, the bonhomie generated by this initiative was overshadowed by the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase. The attack came just a week after Modi's meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Seven security personnel laid down their lives to neutralise six terrorists, in an operation spanning four days.

The Modi government has allowed a Pakistani probe team to visit the airbase. But, Indian investigators are still waiting for approval to go to Pakistan.

The lack of co-ordination between various government ministries was evident during the attack, as Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the completion of the operation on Twitter on the first day itself.

9. Rohith Vemula's suicide (January 2016)

Union Ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani's role came under the scanner in this episode. Dattatreya had apparently written a letter to Irani, demanding action against Rohith and four other students of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU).

Rohith's suicide note indicted the university administration for his decision to give up life. His death outraged student groups and Dalit organisations across the nation. The RSS and BJP were accused of being anti-Dalit.

10. DDCA controversy (December 2015)

The name of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had surfaced in the alleged scam in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).

Read more- 2015: How Modi lost his sheen this year

The BJP's own MP, Kirti Azad, was at the forefront of raising the issue. He paid the price with his suspension from the party.

11. The fall of the Arunachal Pradesh government (December 2015)

The Modi government was accused of misusing the Governor's office to topple the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh. BJP had compounded the constitutional crisis by extending support to the rebel MLAs of the Congress.

The Central government imposed President's Rule in the state, despite the fact that matter was pending in the Supreme Court. It was lifted in February, after the rebel group formed the new government with the BJP's support.

12. Akhlaq lynched over beef (September 2015)

BJP-ruled Haryana and Maharashtra toughened anti-cow slaughter laws in March 2015. The issue triggered an intense debate across the nation. The BJP was accused of working to the RSS agenda.

The lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq at Dadri near Delhi in September on the suspicion of possessing beef added fuel to this fire. It was followed by several incidents of violence over cow slaughter, attracting international condemnation.

13. Intellectuals' award-wapsi (September 2015)

Many writers, film personalities, and scientists returned their national-level awards to protest against the perceived intolerance.

The trend started with Hindi author Uday Prakash returning his Sahitya Akademi award, to protest against the killing of noted rationalist MM Kalburgi in Karnataka.

Read- Measure of the Man: why Modi loves hoopla

There was a sharp divide among the intelligentsia over this mode of protest. Actor Anupam Kher led a protest march in Delhi to oppose the 'award-wapsi' campaign.

14. The Nepal blockade (September 2015)

The Madhesi population of Nepal was opposing the new constitution of the country since September last year. The controversy became a diplomatic row between the two countries as the Nepalese government accused India of blockading essential supplies at the border.

The Indian government refuted this allegation by stating that the Nepalese protestors were stopping the movement from the Indian side.

Many analysts believe India is losing its hold on its closest neighbour, and the Modi government has failed to contain China's rising influence in the Himalayan nation.

15. Bihar DNA comments (July 2015)

Addressing an election rally in Bihar's Muzaffarpur on 25 July, Modi said: "Nitish Kumar's DNA seems to be poor."

Nitish Kumar and his campaign chief Prashant Kishor soon turned this jibe into a big election issue.

The grand alliance termed it as an attack on the pride of Biharis. A personal attack on the Bihar Chief Minister was perceived to harm BJP's prospects in the elections.

16. FTII fiasco (June 2015)

The government appointed TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the governing council of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune.

Chauhan was not only seen as a BJP supporter, his credentials also did not match the coveted post at India's premier institute.

FTII students agitated for 139 days against the decision. Many film personalities, as well as politicians, came out in support of these students. The students are still protesting against Chauhan's appointment by 'peaceful means'.

17. Lalit Modi-Sushma Swaraj controversy (June 2015)

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was accused of helping Lalit Modi in procuring British travel documents.

Modi faces accusations of corruption, related to the Indian Premier League.

Also read- Modi's 'jumla' nailed: how the BJP tampered with reservations in the past

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje also came under attack from the Opposition, as she had also allegedly helped Modi get asylum in Britain.

The Congress alleged the government is sheltering Lalit Modi.

18. Land Acquisition Bill (March 2015)

Many ambitious bills like Land Acquisition and GST are still pending, as the NDA lacks a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

The Modi government tried to push its version of the Land Bill by promulgating an Ordinance on three occasions. Yet, it couldn't get it through in Rajya Sabha.

19. The 'jumla' comment (February 2015)

Just two days before the Delhi Assembly elections, BJP president Amit Shah remarked that the pre-poll promise to bring back black money was just a 'jumla'. The party had promised the electorate that it would deposit Rs 15 lakh in every bank account after bringing back the illegal money stashed in offshore tax havens.

20. Modi's suit (January 2015)

The Prime Minister's carefully inculcated image of a common man took a severe hit when he chose to wear a Rs 10 lakh suit during US President Barack Obama's India visit. What's more, the pinstripes on the suit were made by writing the PM's own name over and over again.

The Opposition did not miss this opportunity to target Modi, forcing him to auction the suit for Rs 4.31 crore.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi termed the government as 'suit-boot ki sarkar' on several occasions, prompting Modi to quip that "suit-boot ki sarkar is still better than suitcase ki sarkar," indirectly calling the Congress corrupt.

21. Love jihad (August 2014)

There was a serious attempt to polarise voters in western UP just before bypolls in the state. Yogi Adityanath raised the bogey of 'love jihad'. A marriage between a Hindu girl and a Muslim youth in Meerut was portrayed as an example of this supposed phenomenon.

However, the issue did not pay dividends and BJP was defeated in the bypolls.

22. Resignations of Governors (July 2014)

The Modi government forced many Governors out of office soon after assuming power. Virendra Kataria, the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, was also asked to put in his papers in July 2014. Former Uttarakhand Governor Aziz Qureshi accused the Union government of adopting illegal means to make him resign.

Read more: Modi and Hindutva: how to read the good cop, bad cop routine

23. Smriti Irani degree row (May 2014)

Smriti Irani is said to be among Modi's favourite ministers. But, she often finds herself in controversies.

Irani was mired in a controversy surrounding her educational qualifications just days after she took the oath.

The Opposition alleged that she had given different affidavits to the Election Commission (EC) in 2004 and 2014 regarding her degrees. The court directed the Election Commission and Delhi University to produce her degrees.

24. Motormouth leaders (perennial problem)

The likes of Giriraj Singh, VK Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Kailash Vijayvargiya have dented the government's reputation by their remarks.

Every person that does not suit the hardliners is advised to move to Pakistan.

Giriraj Singh not only advised the people against Modi to go to Pakistan, he also alleged that Lalu and Nitish want to turn Bihar into Pakistan. He took similar potshots against actor Shah Rukh Khan.

VK Singh was also criticised for comparing Dalits to dogs.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 22 May 2016, 22:06 IST
Nikhil Kumar Verma @nikhilbhusan

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