Debate I Modi Government Cannot be Deaf to Concerns of Minorities
(As PM Narendra Modi completes three years in office, The Quint debates whether promises made in 2014 have been fulfilled by the NDA government. This is the Counterview. You may read the View by BJP Vice-President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe here.)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now been in office for three years. As the end of his term draws near, the BJP is already gearing up for the next round of elections. What standards do we deploy, then, to assess the NDA’s performance during these three years? Has the economy performed well? Is the law and order situation better? Are citizens satisfied? Has the Modi government, in effect, delivered on their campaign promises? These are the questions that need to be answered.
Our last prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, was considered to be slightly better than Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s puppet. The prime minister before that, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was sworn in as the leader of a bloc of some two dozen parties. He loomed large on the political scene but the nation didn’t expect any miracles from him in the way it does from Modi. Manmohan Singh’s failure to combat widespread bureaucratic corruption along with Modi’s marketing skills created the juggernaut in the form of our current PM.
Legitimate Questions in Third Year
Modi’s ascent to power was seen as the beginning of a new era for India, with our achhe din just around the corner.
It was hoped that India would transform into a global superpower overnight – inflation would end, Pakistan would be taught a tough lesson, Kashmir issue would be resolved and Naxalite forces will be contained, employment opportunities would abound, industries would register massive profits, the condition of women would improve and farmer suicides would stop.
Three years on, the government can no longer claim that it is still deliberating on these issues. Neither can it demand more time to implement policies.
The general understanding of a prime minister’s tenure is that all tough decisions are taken in the first year itself so that the next two years can be used to gauge results and fine-tune policies and the last two are dedicated to preparation for the next elections. Therefore, it is entirely logical and fair to make a final assessment of a party’s success and failures in its third year.
Rhetoric Takes Over
Prime Minister Modi’s biggest challenge was to deliver on the promises he so fervently made during his campaign, particularly those pertaining to economic development for all. The first blow came in the first year itself, when the Modi government was christened as a ‘suit-boot ki Sarkar’.
Amount of Rs 15 lakh that was promised to each citizen is yet to make an appearance. His promises of seizing all the black money were very soon replaced by more bombastic rhetoric.
Further, all talk of subjugating Pakistan was also revealed to be nothing more than fluff when the prime minister decided to visit Lahore to wish PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday in person. Save GST, there has been no major economic reform. Well-intentioned schemes like Jan Dhan and Swachh Bharat were kickstarted with much fanfare but their implementation at the ground level left much to be desired. ‘Make in India’ and ‘Startup India’ seem nothing more than mere slogans.
Unable to Assure the Minorities
Far from creating sweeping reforms, the BJP has instead fostered a cultural atmosphere that is radically at odds with our tradition of secularism and tolerance. Nehru’s democratic ideals and institutions are under attack in Modi’s India, Gandhi’s legacy lies in tatters.
While it is true that Modi’s reputation as a Hindu neta preceded his taking over as the PM, it was his promise of economic development for all (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas) that brought him to power. Three years later, that narrative has gone off-track completely.
Vladimir Lenin, leader of the 1917 Russian revolution, had an astonishing take on democracy. He defined it as a socio-political arrangement which recognises the subjection of the minority to the majority. It seems like our own government has been proving this statement to be true over the last three years.
The shameful incident of lynching at Dadri, where a Muslim man was killed for allegedly consuming beef, drew the ire of an entire nation, yet the PM stayed mum immediately after the incident. This only served to embolden the criminal elements behind such heinous crimes.
Cow Vigilantism Sparks Fear
A few Dalit men were beaten to pulp in Gujarat’s Una for a similar reason. Since then, these self-appointed cow vigilantes have been systematically persecuting people belonging to the minority community under the guise of religious indignation.
Yogi Adityanath’s appointment as UP Chief Minister, despite his history of invectives against Muslims, served as the last straw. Liberals who have been willing to give the government the benefit of doubt now began to see a sinister pattern.
There was an instant crackdown on UP’s slaughterhouses the moment Yogi Adityanath came to power. Not only were meat vendors deprived of their livelihood, they lived under a constant fear of threat to their lives. PM Modi could have put a stop to this had he so desired but he did nothing.
Silence of the State
There was another wave of crimes in the name of the cow. Pehlu Khan fell victim to this frenzy in broad daylight. Whether Alwar or Ranchi, there was a similar pattern in all these incidents.
In the midst of all this, “love jihad” reared its ugly face. In JNU, a student named Najeed Ahmed had a scuffle with members of the BJP’s student wing ABVP and is never heard of again. In Hyderabad, Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide after a confrontation with ABVP turned ugly.
It is not as if these incidents are unprecedented in Indian history; the complicity of the State in protecting the accused in all cases, however, is unprecedented.
The RSS concerns itself with the development and protection of just 70 percent of India’s population, not its entirety. Attempts are being made to rebrand this as nationalism.
Kashmir Slipping Out of Hands
Unrest in Kashmir as well as tension with Pakistan are victims of this discourse and are being re-defined, laced with a language of exclusion and hate. Once, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had exhorted the concerned parties to think of Kashmir as an issue concerning humans. Now, any alternative discourse that doesn’t toe the party line is instantly branded as anti-national.
In 1996, former PM PV Narasimha Rao had tried to connect Kashmir with mainstream political life by successfully conducting polls in Jammu & Kashmir. In Manmohan Singh’s regime, the situation was gradually returning to normal with a flourishing tourism industry and 40 percent voter turnout. Today that number has sunk to 7 percent.
Polls in Pulwama have had to be postponed. Kashmir has slipped further away from us in the last three years. Pakistan is adding fuel to the fire. Indian soldiers are found dismembered and those who once spoke of retaliating in equal measure now stand as mute spectators. Pakistan is preparing to hang Kulbhushan Jadhav while the matter is being heard at the International Court of Justice.
We should ask PM Modi, exactly when does he plan to retaliate to Pakistan’s provocation and how, and indeed whether he plans to do so at all? The rhetoric around nationalism might be at its peak right now but the harsh reality is that we are at the mercy of both Pakistan and China. Our relationship with the two countries has deteriorated since the days of the previous administration.
Opposition Wiped Out
Opposition parties are feeling persecuted under this government as well. Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi, and Sonia Gandhi are all seen frequenting courts for various issues. The CBI has been paying special attention to Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mamata BAnerjee and the late AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa. Naveen Patnaik too has cried political vendetta.
On the other hand, Shivraj Chouhan, Sushma Swaraj, and Vasundhara Scindia remain beyond scrutiny despite substantial allegations of wrongdoing against all three. In Goa and Manipur, the BJP forced its way into forming the government despite not being the single largest party in the Assembly polls while in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, it dissolved a pre-existing one formed by the Opposition.
Ideals of Democracy
Should we then conclude that PM Modi is influenced by Lenin’s majoritarianism? For Lenin, this referred to the dictatorship of the proletariat, while for PM Modi, it means Hindu-dominating rule. Hindutva and socialism are sworn enemies, of course. Hindu hardliners, in fact, consider those with socialist leanings as anti-nationals.
Our ideals should be those of democracy but it doesn’t feel like the spirit of Abraham Lincoln is alive within us. Lincoln said: “No man is good enough to govern another man without the other's consent.”
In India, however, a huge decision like demonetisation is thrust unilaterally upon the population and governments are formed without consensus. What is the matter? Have we lost the plot? Is all hope lost? Ultimately, I would like to reiterate Woodrow Wilson’s sentiments who argued that the world should be “made safe for democracy”.
(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)