Media might have been called Bazaru, Presstitute, paid or whatsoever but the year 2015 has been a gossipy one. Each and every issue hit the headlines and grabbed all attention of people and newsstands. From intolerance row in India to terror attacks by Islamic State in various parts of the world, the year witnessed several incidents which will certainly go into the history books. Ghar Wapsi, reconverting Muslims to Hinduism and advice on producing multiple kids to increase Hindu population was major issue and in between Cow too stole all headlines and became number one on the counting. There were many social issues which became fodder for political parties and took nasty twists. Indian politics has all high and lows. Modi’s numerous foreign visits to Indo-Pak visit rocked debates and headlines.
Meanwhile, some film personalities engaged in controversies and on the other hand the year 2015 saw some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters setting the box office on fire. From Baahubali to Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Bajirao Mastani became huge hits at the box office. The year 2015 witnessed a massive rise in the terrorist’s activities around the globe. Starting from Boko Haram’s deadliest massacre at Baga town in Nigeria killing about 2000 people in January to Paris attack in November, newspapers were flooded with such attacks throughout the year.
The year 2015 is incomplete without discussing intolerance row. The debate over intolerance became one of the talking points of the year involving a number of political parties and famous personalities. The sports fraternity also saw some of the biggest events. In fact, some of the controversies erupted like a volcano! The year 2015 saw some elections that changed the dynamics of Indian politics.
In one of the most striking comebacks in the Indian political history, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Arvind Kejriwal, registered a landslide victory in the Delhi Assembly Elections. Also, in one of the most interesting electoral battles in the recent history, the Janata Dal (United)-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress coalition of Grand Alliance recorded a landslide victory in the Bihar Assembly Elections.
The year 2015 witnessed a number of natural disasters around the world; floods in Tamil Nadu, earthquake in Nepal to name a few. With the so-called honeymoon period over in 2014, the pressure was enormous on the Narendra Modi-led NDA government to perform and be seen to be delivering on its poll promises in 2015. While the ruling government at the Centre had some good moments and were lauded for its efforts, there were some lows too which PM Modi would surely like to forget in the new year.
The year started with trademark Modi style. Many say that he has the habit of taking people by surprise and grabbing headlines and he did just that in January when US President Barack Obama landed in India for the Republic Day celebrations.
The ‘award wapsi’ by writers and artistes against ‘growing intolerance’, the ‘One Rank One Pension’ besides the Patel quota stir in Gujarat made headlines in 2015. The echoes of Vyapam admission and recruitment scandal in Madhya Pradesh and the Sushma Swaraj – Lalit Modi issue reverberated in Parliament, not to mention the DDCA controversy in which the name of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley figured.
All hell broke loose when it came to light that the former IPL chief had offered the husband of External Affairs Minister a position on the board of one of his family-run firms. However, Swaraj put up a strong counter-offensive in Lok Sabha when she launched a no-holds-barred attack on Congress accusing it of having taken money to help Ottavio Quattrochchi and Warren Anderson flee India even as the government rejected the demand for her resignation.
The contentious Land Bill which had passed the Lok Sabha test after the government carried out nine amendments to it, got stuck in the Rajya Sabha, with the government finally being forced to withdraw it and the Congress grabbing the opportunity to call itself the saviour of the farmers and the NDA as the ‘suit boot ki sarkar’.
The Modi government’s embarrassment over the intolerance debate reached a crescendo when Urdu poet Munawwar Rana and noted Kashmir writer and poet Margoob Banhali joined over 30 authors who had returned Sahitya Akademi award and top Bollywood actors Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan also echoed similar views. The matter reached such level that President Pranab Mukherjee had to come out with an appeal for practicing tolerance and to accept differences while respecting dissent.
Another needless controversy was Union Minister VK Singh’s remark which kicked up a huge political row when he tried to shield the government from blame in the Faridabad Dalit burning incident by saying the ‘government cannot be held responsible if somebody stones a dog’. Though, Singh later said that he had been misinterpreted, here too the damage was done.
However, there were the good moments too – The ‘landmark’ bill was signed to settle the 41-year-old border issue with Bangladesh and the year saw celebrations for the International Yoga day while 1993 Bombay serial blasts convict Yakub Memon was hanged to death. In August, after his ‘Make in India’ push, PM Modi announced a new campaign – ‘Start-up India, Stand up India’ – as he focused his Independence Day address on promotion of entrepreneurship, farmers’ welfare and tackling corruption and communalism.
Some of the other pleasanter moments was the announcement by PM Modi of doing away with the requirement of interviews for lesser non-gazetted central government jobs from January 1 and the return of deaf-mute Geeta from Pakistan to India who received an emotional welcome but failed to recognise a family which she had initially identified from photographs. At the same time, setting up of Niti Aayog, launch of Skill India were among key initiatives of the Modi government in the past year as it sought to speed up governance amid a legislative gridlock and political setbacks. The government took steps to expand skills and jobs, boost investment, strengthen higher education, enhance the share of solar and renewable energy and step up agricultural growth even as its critics alleged that it had not been able to show progress on the ground.
Underworld don Chhota Rajan’s arrest in Indonesia on a Red Corner Notice issued by Interpol after eluding law enforcement agencies for over two decades and his deportation to India, can also be said to be a feather in the cap of Modi government. Losing the Assembly polls in Delhi and later in Bihar impacted the winning momentum of the BJP and made the opposition more assertive. The constant tussle with the Congress did not allow progress on some key legislation such as the bill on the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
On a personal level, the defeat in Assembly elections in Delhi and Bihar must have hit PM Modi hard where he was the face of his party. Defeat in high-stakes Bihar poll also triggered first real challenge to party chief Amit Shah as veteran LK Advani was joined by three other seniors in bringing Shah’s leadership style into question.
Inputs from various agencie