Why PM Modi is failing India
Even a casual observer of the Indian political scene can discern that communalist utterances and violence have been on the rise ever since Modi regime took power in 2014
Written by Ujjal Dosanjh
Don’t be offended. Have the courage to face the stark truth: Modi is failing India. With the exception of the Emergency years under Indira Gandhi, his regime is the most acquiescent and complicit in the most widespread denial, ever, of the basic rights and liberties of people disagreeing with the governing party or its ideological guru and mentor — in this case the RSS; there has never been so much divisiveness in India. There is rampant suppression of free speech on university campuses. Modi’s ministers openly support the violent disruptors’ rationale for interfering with ordinary students’ right to free expression, and that too on university campuses, which ought to be the most sacred shrines of free, open and respectful debate, no matter how extraordinarily disagreeable the expressed views might be. His ministers and their inspired disruptors speak the language of narrow nationalism –the kind that brooks no disagreement or difference of opinion on such things as their view of patriotism — shades of serious and virulent authoritarianism. Things have come to such a sorry and dangerous pass that mere disagreement is treason.
This clear and present threat to the core principles of secularism and freedom upon which the Indian Republic was founded didn’t manifest itself overnight. The process has been long. But this dangerous trend toward the communalising of Indian politics, fragmentation and diminution of it into us and them has been there for some time, for all to discern if they at all cared.
But it didn’t take long after the deaths of Nehru and Shastri — both steeped in the secular ethos of the freedom struggle — for politicians to begin accentuating differences among Indians by pandering to regional, religious, caste and other identities. The Congress can shout itself hoarse about its commitment to secularism but its record of years of pandering to castes and communities is damning –perhaps not as inelegant and disgraceful as that of the BJP via its embrace of RSS’ Hindutva. The Congress has implicitly fuelled communalism for several decades by the way it has been selecting its candidates for elections — based not on merit but on the largest caste or faith in a particular area. It chose to play up the differences rather than rising above them. Of course the BJP has taken pandering to another level. It has honed to the hilt its communalising skills and developed communalist campaigning into a fine art — whether it is Modi’s shamshan versus kabirstan comment or others like it or Amit Shah’s jumlas designed to sow divisiveness and polarisation amongst Indians along caste, regional or religious affiliations.
It is clear that even the Election Commission can’t completely and satisfactorily police hate speech during elections. While it has done exemplary work in ensuring free and fair electoral process, it has been a completely toothless tiger in the prevention of poisonous communalist hate and rhetoric during the elections. The EC can’t do it all. The responsibility to improve and raise the calibre of the political discourse in the country falls squarely on the shoulders of the political leadership — the very people that often thrust it into the dark alleys of hate, divisiveness, parochialism and narrow nationalism.
Even a casual observer of the Indian political scene can discern that communalist utterances and violence have been on the rise ever since Modi regime took power in 2014. Several BJP MPs and supporters, the RSS and its followers and some members of the other parties such as Azam Khan of the Samajwadi Party have been vitiating the political and public environment in the country with their dangerous communal vitriol. Good on the RSS for expelling the Ujjain sahparchar parmukh Kundan Chandrawat for placing a bounty of Rs 1crore on the Kerala Chief Minister’s head but BJP’s Madhya Pradesh Home Minister who blatantly offered an obscene justification of Chandrawat’s criminal threat rather than condemn it as he should have is still the home minister. Why? This is just the latest example of the RSS’ and BJP’s supporters’ open season of hate and violence. This heinous behaviour certainly takes its cue from Modi’s silence on these matters and finds inspiration in his communalist political digs of the shamshan-kabirstan variety.
It is quite clear and sad that at this crucial moment in its politics and history, India finds itself without a Prime Minister unreservedly and unhesitatingly prepared to stand for communal amity, secularism and harmony. It is the duty of the Prime Minister to stand ever vigilantly for the communal peace and harmony of his country, particularly a country that is inherently, ethnically, religiously, linguistically and otherwise diverse. He may not know or respect it, but above all he is the guardian of all that is valuable and good in India. He is the chief trustee of its peace and harmony. When he is the Prime Minister, Modi is not just a politician. He is the protector of its national and public interest. Indisputably India’s communal peace, harmony and basic freedoms are its priceless assets; it is therefore his solemn and bounden duty to safeguard and enhance them — in the national and public interest.
India needs and deserves a Prime Minister who will, in all his actions and words, without fail and always, place country before religion, caste, region, ethnicity, language or any other differences among Indians; and above all India deserves a PM who will invariably and always place India above Party; as parties come and go but great countries live on and India has lived through several millennia; and India is great. In his 2014 national campaign, in his over two years in government and in the state elections now happening, Modi has clearly shown he is not that Prime Minister. Time and again he has proven that India can’t depend on him to take the high road in political debates or show leadership in elevating the political discourse in the country. Quite tragically for India, he readily reverts to being just an RSS Parcharak he once was, often descending into shamshan ghats and kabirstans; such jumlas do not a great prime minister or a greater India make. So clear, Modi is failing India.
The views expressed by the author are personal. Dosanjh is former Premier of British Columbia, and former Canadian Minister of Health. He tweets @ujjaldosanjh