A few days ago, the Vodafone tax issue reared up again—all because the tax department decided to send another demand for tax. Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s response was to not pull up the taxman but criticize the response to it, its coverage in the media, and paint the issue as a “sinister” scheme to tarnish India’s image.
Maybe he was simply following the lead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who fulminated during a rally on Sunday about a conspiracy hatched by foreign-funded non-governmental organizations and black marketers.
Vague allusions to foreign hands were already a tired tactic back when Indira Gandhi used them. Every government since then has used them, but four decades on, such tactics are simply risible. It is a fig leaf for political, policy and administrative shortfalls. And it projects an image that is less than flattering. It is time for more substantive responses.