Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yet UnModi-fied

Effete, Hinduphobic, pseudo-secular, unpatriotic - words used to describe those who are not yet 'Modi-fied.' The Sensex is-a-climbing, diplomacy is ascendent, only been a day of Modi-Sarkar, why should anyone be apprehensive? Long way to go. Many things to do. Fix the economy, build infrastructure, bring in investment, become a superpower, so much coming.

The 2014 Indian elections were unlike any other in recent history. Not only because a superstar candidate managed to sway the imagination of the Indian electorate, also because this election seemed to mark the end of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Modi won the elections on a pro-business and development agenda. The Congress suffered a terrible and embarrassing rout - a snub to the Congress for fielding yet another reluctant Gandhi to fight for 'the dream of India.' While Modi made eloquent speeches selling the 'Gujarat-model,' Rahul Gandhi stammered. The Congress lacked a cohesive economic policy. It had no sound idea to sell to the hungry electorate save for some rural development and welfare schemes, and memories of Rajiv Gandhi. No competition to the self-proclaimed 56-inch-chested Modi really.

Although the 'Gujarat-model' has done the trick for Modi - touted as a land of plenty, a land where business thrives, modernity lives side-by-side with Hinduism - it is a known fact that Gujarat has reported one of the worst Human Development Indicators in India. This means not everybody is Gujarat has food, education, sanitation or health services. Read: HDI in Gujarat Moreover, the press is not free in Gujarat, state-sponsored communal prejudices are freely circulated and civil rights activists are persecuted.

The Gujarati community is known for its entrepreneurial streak, its astute business mindedness, and has been thriving for ages - some of the most exuberant businessmen-sponsored architectural structures were built in Gujarat centuries ago, they traded all around the world, were one of the richest peoples in India - much before Modi came into the picture. It seems completely absurd to see Modi as a messiah when in fact Gujarat is what it is because of Gujaratis.

Since this election was fought on economics, it is important to point out that although the BJP is seen as pro-business and the Congress as pro-poor, the economic leanings of both parties are suspect. While the BJP was against FDI in multi-brand retail - and many BJP members are anti-West, the Congress passed its pro-poor bills only to gain votes in elections - they had no macroscopic plan to consistently bring change. Read: The BJP & Congress: A Muddled Economic Ideology

Coming back to Modi, yes, he is a good administrator and nobody can debate that. He can run the machinery very well. What's bothersome is his larger-than-life image, created by himself and endorsed by others, his subtle invocation of Hindutva in all his speeches (calling India 'Hindustan' instead of 'Bharat') - it might seem like a case of paranoia to talk about this, but words are important in politics. Also remember, the 2002 riots did happen, and the BJP and the RSS are blood-brothers. Modi himself made many hate-speeches against Muslims in the many years that he has climbed the political ladder. Read: The Rise of Narendra Modi

Today, those who subscribe to the Nehruvian concept of India are considered stuck in a time-warp. A secular, socialist India? Two concepts that have been misused for decades and have become mere euphemisms. The Congress claimed to be secular, yet developed vote banks based on religion. People have come to see the Congress as a hypocritical party. And more than the BJP's victory, many are happy to see the sycophantic politics of Congress fall.

It would seem that the people of India are alright with the Hindu tone of things, as India is after all a Hindu majority nation. So why not? Let us be proud of our Hindu culture. At least, the BJP is open about it's religious affiliation. People see Modi and the BJP as a party that stands for resurgent nationalism. An existential dilemma resolved simply by voting BJP.

This brings us to: what are we striving to achieve as a nation? We got independence through a non-violent movement, we told the world we aim to create a country where all religions are equal, where all cultures can co-exist. But the stark reality, people say, is that India has always been a Hindu, Hindi-speaking nation. The others are 'minorities.' So, let us forget all this hullaballoo about secularism and strive on. Build India.

It seems many nations around the world are voting for the right-wing. Is this a result of the economic meltdown? Read: Right Storms Europe Vote

Indians are at crossroads. What sort of India are Indians aspiring toward?

For many reasons, Modi's victory has signaled a clean-break from the past, from Nehruvian India. If this is so, then India is endowing a great responsibility on Narendra Modi, the right-wing BJP, and pro-Hindu organizations.

Hinduism is plurality. Hinduism is accommodation. But Hinduism is also caste, Hindutva at times is violent. Can the BJP and Modi rein in all the divergent forces of the RSS and other right-wing groups? Can they conduct office in a peaceful manner?

Further, can Modi end hunger and poverty, provide education to all children?

Only time can tell.

Is political democracy ever going to bring in a form of Utopia or development-for-all? All political parties in India and around the world are the same. Politics is, most often than not, hypocrisy. They go whichever way power lies. It's still debatable whether the world should trust a group of representatives to decide the fate of millions. How can you trust one man? Heard of fascism?

Meanwhile, I remain, as yet, unmodified.

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