It is Disingenuous of Gadkari to Now Disown the Phrase 'Achche Din'

Over 60 years ago, a Bollywood film had also talked about how 'achche din' – the phrase Narendra Modi adopted as his electoral signature in 2014 – would never come for the poor.

PTI: You received a massive mandate from the people who wanted a change from absence of governance in the final years of UPA II. One year on, there are murmurs that you have not exactly delivered Achche Din.  Are people being impatient?

Narendra Modi: The 21st Century should be India’s century but from 2004 to 2014 bad ideas and bad actions have affected the country adversely… Today, after a year, even our opponents have not accused us of bad actions.  You tell me, if there is not a single scandal, is this is not Achche Din?

– From Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interview to PTI

Mumbai: Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari has made the astounding claim that the phrase ‘Achche Din’  – ‘good days’ – was first used by the previous prime minister, Manmohan Singh, but has now become “a millstone” around the BJP’s neck. “Then Modiji used it somewhere and now it is a bone struck in our throat,” said the minister at an event in Mumbai, while blaming citizens for never being satisfied with what they had been given.

Either Gadkari is being tongue in cheek or is acknowledging that even the BJP’s signature phrase – which the candidate Narendra Modi used freely during the election campaign in 2014 – was borrowed from the previous government, just like schemes such as MNREGA, Aaadhar and so much more.

For over two and a half years, not one BJP worthy has disowned the phrase; if anything, its spokespersons have happily used it. Now, when opposition leaders, ranging from Bhagwant Mann to Sitaram Yechury have used it to mock the government and citizens wonder when the much promised achche din will come, the party wants to blame – like much else – the previous government and specifically Manmohan Singh. Recently, even comedian Kapil Sharma, while tweeting about how he faced a demand for a bribe, used the phrase to ask Narendra Modi whether these were the achche din he had talked about.

Whatever Gadkari’s motivation, there seems to be a growing realisation in party circles that ‘achche din’  – like Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘India Shining’  – has become something of an embarrassment, an object of mirth and ridicule rather than a signifier of hope.

While Gadkari is trying to disassociate himself and his party from the phrase, because of perceptions of non-performance, a bit of digging by The Wire shows that the actual phrase was used way back in a song in the Hindi film Mr Sampat (1952).

Based on a story by R.K. Narayan, the film was about a charming conman, played by Motilal, who comes up with all kinds of foolhardy but useless schemes that are supposed to make money for a theatre company.

In this song, Padmini declares that achche din will never come for the poor because the rich and the powerful will never let that happen. Even after more than six decades, the song is remarkably contemporary.

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