In 2014 when the NDA came to power under Narendra Modi, the coalition promised to change India in every possible way. Such an ambition is not unique to this government but is the character of all new governments worldwide. The BJP began in earnest by replacing people with left-of-centre leaning from key academic positions with people who agreed with the party’s ideology. The next target is the education policy, which is in the works. The human resource development ministry had put out a draft of the new policy but later faced with serious criticism clarified that the document was an input. No ‘change’, however, can be complete without revising the culture of a country.
Under the stewardship of culture minister Mahesh Sharma, his ministry has begun to do its bit. Late last month, the minister quietly reconstituted the Central Advisory Board on Culture (CABC) by bringing in artistes, almost all of whom are associated with some BJP or right wing association. On the board are Sonal Mansingh (the danseuse was one of the few artists who defended Modi’s PM candidature ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections), vocalist Pt Channu Lal Misra (proposer for the PM’s Lok Sabha candidature from Varanasi) and actor Anupam Kher whose support for the ruling dispensation is well known.
The CABC is the ministry’s cultural think tank that is supposed to focus on areas that are “either neglected or not sustained through the existing institutional mechanisms’ and to examine the extent to which Indian culture is being addressed by various agencies, give inputs for new government plans and guide the work of the various national missions set up to oversee culture. These objectives seem laudable and if new forms and artistes come up this way, we are all for it.
But by the look of it, the board seems to be a parking lot also for those who spoke up for the government on different contentious issues: Hindi author Narendra Kohli took on the many authors involved in the Award Wapsi campaign and Kannada author S L Bhyrappa allegedly paints Tipu Sultan as a religious fanatic. Even at the risk of sounding repetitive, the NDA is not doing anything unusual. Only that the promise of change does sound real anymore. By packing such a prestigious board with those who either have no qualifications or are given positions as grace and favour, the NDA is doing a UPA on us.