Narendra Modi: Few Issues

Published on June 21, 2014

By Thanggoulen Kipgen

Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) historic victory under the headship of Narendra Modi in the 16th LokSabha election deserves huge accolades. A new head of state coming from a very humble and sharply disadvantaged family background deserves respect and also ushers in a ray of hope for those who are on the same page as him. Our constitution framers must be happy to see the vision of our egalitarian constitution being fulfilled. And with an emphatic win securing enough numbers on his own, Modi is now simply the most powerful Indian political leader of his generation.

Nevertheless all is not well with the new development. True, Modi’s determination to carry forward the Gujarat model of development for the whole nation is resounding, its success and applicability, though, is one that is yet to be proven. And this is one reason why 31 percent of the population voted for him. However, Modi’s campaign based on ‘development’ and ‘good governance’ failed to address its commitment to the rule of law and equality of all. Modi’s record on protection of human rights and minorities is not convincing. Every Indian  is aware of what happened in Gujarat under his Chief Ministership. It is a state where minorities and the majority Hindu population are sharply polarized and somewhere minorities feel precarious and apprehensive. It is one state where religious minorities still bear scars in their psyche. This situation does not encourage confidence and is bound to be a major challenge for the government.

Narendra Modi has a strong character, is efficient, resolute and visionary. The country may perhaps move forward with better growth rate. Nonetheless development and growth is no substitute for security. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth may be high, investment may surge, jobs may be created, infrastructure may expand but what if just one Indian feels unsafe despite all these developments? This one individual defines human rights and equality of all. The great economist Amartya Sen even questioned Modi’s secular credentials and voted against him in this election. He argued that Modi has not done enough to make minorities feel safe and that minorities are scared of him assuming office. Sen has always been a critic of the Gujarat model of development arguing that the state failed miserably on social sectors. He said that “Gujarat is behind, particularly on the social side with lower educational pace, lower life expectancy, greater gender inequality, a busted healthcare system…”

It is true Modi single-handedly carried BJP to power with an absolute majority. But the fact remains that not a single Muslim is among the 282 elected members from the party. The BJP’s communal agenda manifested themselves during their election campaign, though implicitly. Amit Shah’s infamous remarks about ‘revenge’ against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and Giriraj Singh asking critics of Narendra Modi to migrate to Pakistan are few examples. India is a religious country, a birthplace of four of the world’s major religions- Hinduism, Buddhism Jainism and Sikhism. A party heading the government is expected to ensure a healthy blend of all religious groups. This status quo has generated tension and fear among the minority communities in different parts of the country. Religious pluralism in its membership must define a true pan- Indian party.

Given the role of corporate India in Modi’s campaign and the BJP’s neoliberal ideology, a legacy of Vajpayee’s era, it is likely that the corporate vested interests will possibly come into play sooner than later.This big business-driven model of development can only heighten economic and social inequalities. However, given the economic dimensions of Modi’s campaign which were based on inclusive economic development, efficient governance, better infrastructure, job creation and welfare schemes for the poor, diversion from these themes will be a big challenge for Modi and his government. Scrapping of social welfare schemes and redistribution policies will possibly be an agenda of the big corporates. If BJP is not conscious of building people-oriented programmes, it could face what the Congress did in 1989 when it won just 197 seats as against the 404 seats they won out of 533 in 1983.

There is a feeling that a corporate-driven government may further aggravate the situation of the poor and vulnerable groups. Whether Modi will enhance social and economic welfare schemes for the marginalized communities or promote corporate interests will definitely be one of his major challenges. The nation must prosper and grow together. In a diverse country like India development must take all sections of the society on board.

We expect a strong leadership with a cohesive and highly powerful Prime Minister’s Office, efficient bureaucracy, higher growth and friendly yet decisive foreign policy. As political analyst Surendra Kishore pointed out that in the initial euphoria of a landslide victory the winning party tended to see only the possibilities, but as time and administration progresses the challenges would grow, the challenges that the new government will encounter and deal with will define the future of the nation. As the head of the government, Modi’s secular credentials will constantly be called to attention.  India is a secular country and so long as it remains so, the nation will prevail. The moment India ceases to be secular will be the day the country will disintegrate. The first 365 days of his government with his major decisions and actions will be crucial. Meanwhile we all keep our fingers crossed.

The writer is a Research Scholar in Sociology at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

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