OPED

The results of Parliamentary Elections are very interesting. With 31% vote share BJP-Modi won 282 Parliament seats, Congress with 19% vote share got 44 seats, BSP polled 4.1 percent of votes and drew a total blank, the Trinamool Congress won 3.8 percent of vote share with 34 seats, Samajwadi Party won 3.4 percent with five MPs, AIADMK with 3.3 got 37 seats, Mamta with 3.8% of vote share got 32 seats while CPIM with 3.3 percent of vote share got nine seats. We should note that this time around Congress’s 19.3% votes translated into 44 seats while during last general elections of 2009 BJP's 18.5% had fetched it 116 seats. That’s a tale by itself, the crying need for electoral reforms which has been pending despite such glaring disparities which weaken the representative character of our Parliament. Many social activists have been asking for these reforms but in vain.

Modi has been of course the flavor of the season and this time around it is being said that it was his plank of ‘development’ which attracted the voters to him, cutting across the caste and religious equations. How far is that true? Keeping aside the fact that Modi was backed to the hilt by Corporate, money flowed like water and all this was further aided by the steel frame of lakhs of RSS workers who managed the ground level electoral work for BJP. Thus Modi stood on two solid pillars, Corporate on one side and RSS on the other. He asserted that though he could not die for independence he will live for Independent India. This is again amongst the many falsehoods, which he has concocted to project his image in the public eye. One knows that he belongs to a political ideology and political stream of RSS-Hindutva, which was never a part of freedom struggle. RSS-BJP-Hindutva nationalism is different from the nationalism of freedom movement. Gandhi, freedom movement’s nationalism is Indian Nationalism while Modi parivar’s Nationalism is Hindu nationalism, a religious nationalism similar and parallel to Muslim nationalism of Jinnah: Muslim League. From the sidelines, RSS and its clones kept criticizing the freedom movement as it was for inclusive Indian nationalism, while Modi’ ideological school, RSS is for Hindu nationalism. So there no question of people like him or his predecessors dying for freedom of the country.

There are multiple other factors which helped him to be first past the pole, his aggressive style, his success in banking upon weaknesses of Congress, his ability to communicate with masses supplemented by the lackluster campaign of Congress and the Presidential style of electioneering added weight to Modi’s success. Congress, of course, has collected the baggage of corruption and weak governance. The out of proportion discrediting of Congress begun by Anna movement, backed by RSS, and then taken forward by Kejriwal contributed immensely knocking Congress out of reckoning for victory. Kejrival in particular woke up to BJP’s corruption a wee bit too late and with lots of reluctance for reasons beyond the comprehension. Anna, who at one time was being called the ‘second Gandhi’ eclipsed in to non-being after playing the crucial role for some time. Kejriwal pursuing his impressive looking agenda against corruption went on to transform the social movement into a political party and in the process raing lots of question on the nature and potentials of social movements. Kejrival’s AAP, definitely split the anti Modi votes with great ‘success’. AAP put more than 400 candidates and most of them have lost their deposits. Many of these candidates have excellent reputation and contribution to social issues and for engaging challenges related to social transformation. After this experience of electoral battlefield how much will they be able to go back to their agenda of social change-transformation through agitations and campaigns will remain to be seen.

Many commentators-leaders, after anointing Anna as the ‘Second Gandhi’ are now abusing Gandhi’s name yet again by comparing the likes of Ramdeo and Modi to Mahatma Gandhi. One Modi acolyte went on to say Modi is better than Gandhi! What a shame to appropriate the name of Gandhi, the great unifier of the nation with those whose foundations are on the divisive ideology of sectarian nationalism.

Coming to the ‘development’ agenda, it is true that after playing his role in Gujarat carnage, Modi quickly took up the task of propagating the ‘development’ of Gujarat. This ‘make believe’ myth of Gujarat’s development as such was state government’s generous attitude towards the Corporate, who in turn started clamoring for ‘Modi as PM’ right from 2007. While the religious minorities started being relegated to the second class citizenship in Gujarat, the myth of Gujarat development started becoming the part of folk lore, for long unchallenged by other parties and scholars studying the development. When the data from Gujarat started being analyzed critically the hoax of development lay exposed, but by that time it was too late for the truth of development to be communicated to the people far and wide.  On the surface it appears as if this was the only agenda around which Modi campaigned. That’s far from true. Modi as such used communal and caste card time and over again. This was done with great amount of ease and shrewdness. He did criticize the export of beef labeling it Pink revolution, subtly hinting the link of meat-beef to Muslim minorities. This converted an economic issue into a communal one. Modi spoke regularly against Bangla speaking Muslims by saying that the Assam Government is doing away with Rhinos for accommodating the Bangla infiltrators. He further added that they should be ready to pack their bags on 16th May when he will take over as the Prime Minister of the country. The communal message was loud and clear. BJP spokesmen have already stated that these Bangla speaking Hindus are refugees while the Muslim is infiltrators.

If one examines the overall scatter of the areas where BJP has won a very disturbing fact comes to one’s mind. While at surface the plank of development ruled the roost there is definitely the subtle role played by communal polarization. BJP has mostly succeeded in areas where already communal polarization has been brought in through communal or violence or terrorist violence. Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP, MP, Bihar, Assam all these have seen massive communal violence in the past. While the states which have not come under the sway of BJP-Modi are the one’s which have been relatively free from communal violence: Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Kerala in particular. Orissa is a bit of an exception, where despite the Kandhmal violence, Navin Patnaik’s party is managing to be in power. The socio political interpretation of the deeper relations between acts of violence and victory of RSS-BJP-Modi needs to be grasped at depth; the polarizing role of communal-terrorist violence needs a deeper look. While on surface the development myth has won over large section of electorate, it has taken place in areas which have in past seen the bouts of violence. Most of the inquiry commission reports do attribute violence to the machinations of communal organization.

While overtly the caste was not used, Modi did exploit the word Neech Rajniti (Low level Politics) used by Priyanka Gandhi and converted it in to Neech Jati (low caste), flaunting his caste. At other occasions also he projected his caste, Ghanchi to polarize along caste lines.

What signal has been given by Modi’s victory? The message of Mumbai, Gujarat Muzzafrnagar and hoards of other such acts has created a deep sense of insecurity amongst sections of our population. Despite Modi’s brave denials and the struggles of social activists, justice delivery seems to be very slow, if at all, and it is eluding the victims. The culprits are claiming they are innocents and that they have got a ‘clean chit’. While there are many firsts in Modi coming to power, one first which is not highlighted is that, this is the first time a person accused of being part of the carnage process is going to have all the levers of power under his control. So what are the future prospects for the India of Gandhi and Nehru, what are the prospects of the values of India’s Constitution? Can Modi give up his core agenda of Hindu Nationalism, which has been the underlying ideology of his politics, or will he deliver a Hindu nation to his mentors? No prizes for guessing!

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ISP  III May 2014

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

An open letter to Narendra Modi

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
20-05-2014

Let this historic win be followed by a historic innings, which stuns the world by surprises your supporters may not want of you but many more would want to see you unfurl, writes Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Dear Prime Minister-designate,

This comes with my hearty felicitations. I mean and say that in utter sincerity, which is not very easy for me to summon, because I am not one of those who wanted to see you reach the high office that you have reached. You know better than anyone else, that while many millions are ecstatic that you will become Prime Minister, many more millions may, in fact, be disturbed, greatly disturbed by it.

Until recently I did not believe those who said you were headed there. But, there you are, seated at the desk at which Jawaharlal Nehru sat, Lal Bahadur Shastri did, and, after a historic struggle against Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, another Gujarati, Morarji Desai did, as did later, your own political mentor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Those who did not want you there have to accept the fact that you are there.

Despite all my huge misgivings about your deserving that rare privilege, I respect someone coming from so sharply disadvantaged a community and family as yours, becoming Prime Minister of India. That fulfils, very quintessentially, the vision of our egalitarian Constitution.

Revisting the idea of desh



When some spoke rashly and derisively of your having been a “chaiwala,” I felt sick to my stomach. What a wonderful thing it is, I said to myself, that one who has made and served chai for a living should be able to head the government of India. Far better bearing a pyala to many than being a chamcha to one.

But, Mr. Modi, with that said, I must move to why your being at India’s helm disturbs millions of Indians. You know this more clearly than anyone else that in the 2014 election, voters voted, in the main, for Modi or against Modi. It was a case of “Is Narendra Modi the country’s best guardian — desh ka rakhvala — or is he not?” The BJP has won the seats it has because you captured the imagination of 31 per cent of our people (your vote share) as the nation’s best guardian, in fact, as its saviour. It has also to be noted that 69 per cent of the voters did not see you as their rakhvala. They also disagreed on what, actually, constitutes our desh. And this — the concept of desh — is where, Mr. Modi, the Constitution of India, upon the authority of which you are entering the office of Prime Minister, matters. I urge you to revisit the idea of desh.

Reassuring the minorities



In invoking unity and stability, you have regularly turned to the name and stature of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The Sardar, as you would know, chaired the Constituent Assembly’s Committee on Minorities. If the Constitution of India gives crucial guarantees — educational, cultural and religious — to India’s minorities, Sardar Patel has to be thanked, as do other members of that committee, in particular Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the Christian daughter of Sikh Kapurthala. Adopt, in toto, Mr. Modi, not adapt or modify, dilute or tinker with, the vision of the Constitution on the minorities. You may like to read what the indomitable Sardar said in that committee.

Why is there, in so many, so much fear, that they dare not voice their fears?

It is because when you address rallies, they want to hear a democrat who carries the Peoplehood of India with him, not an Emperor who issues decrees. Reassure the minorities, Mr. Modi, do not patronise them. “Development” is no substitute to security. You spoke of “the Koran in one hand, a laptop in the other,” or words to that effect. That visual did not quite reassure them because of a counter visual that scares them — of a thug masquerading as a Hindu holding a Hindu epic’s DVD in one hand and a minatory trishul in the other.

In the olden days, headmasters used to keep a salted cane in one corner of the classroom, visible and scary, as a reminder of his ability to lash the chosen skin. Memories, no more than a few months old, of the riots in Muzaffarnagar which left at least 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus dead and displaced over 50,000 persons, are that salted cane. “Beware, this is what will be done to you!” is not a threat that anyone in a democracy should fear. But that is the message that has entered the day’s fears and night’s terrors of millions.

It is in your hands, Mr. Modi, to dispel that. You have the authority and the power to do that, the right and the obligation as well. I would like to believe that, overcoming small-minded advice to the contrary, you will dispel that fear.

All religious minorities in India, not just the Muslim, bear scars in their psyche even as Hindus and Sikhs displaced from West Punjab, and Kashmiri Pandits do. There is the fear of a sudden riot caused with real or staged provocation, and then returned with multiplied retribution, targeted very specially on women. Dalits and Adivasis, especially the women, live and relive humiliation and exploitation every minute of their lives. The constant tug of unease because of slights, discrimination, victimisation is de-citizenising, demoralising, dehumanising. Address that tug, Mr. Modi, vocally and visibly and win their trust. You can, by assuring them that you will be the first spokesman for their interests.

No one should have the impudence to speak the monarchist language of uniformism to a republic of pluralism, the vocabulary of “oneness” to an imagination of many-nesses, the grammar of consolidation to a sensibility that thrives in and on its variations. India is a diverse forest. It wants you to nurture the humus that sustains its great variety, not place before it the monochromatic monoculturalism of a political monotheism.

What has been taken as your stand on Article 370 of the Constitution, the old and hackneyed demand for a Uniform Civil Code, the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, and what the media have reported as your statements about “Hindu refugees” in our North and North-West and “Muslim refugees” in our East and North-East, strikes fear, not trust. Mass fear, Mr. Modi, cannot be an attribute of the Republic of India. And, as Prime Minister of India, you are the Republic’s alter ego.

India’s minorities are not a segment of India, they are an infusion in the main. Anyone can burn rope to cinder, no one can take the twist out of it. Bharat mata ki jai, sure, Mr. Modi, but not superseding the compelling urgency of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s clarion — Jai Hind!

A historic win it has been for you, Mr. Modi, for which, once again, congratulations. Let it be followed by a historic innings, which stuns the world by surprises your supporters may not want of you but many more would want to see you unfurl. You are hugely intelligent and will not mind unsolicited but disinterested advice of one from an earlier generation. Requite the applause of your support-base but, equally, redeem the trust of those who have not supported you. When you reconstitute the Minorities Commission, ask the Opposition to give you all the names and accept them without change. And do the same for the panels on Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and Linguistic Minorities. And when it comes to choosing the next Chief Information Commissioner, the next CAG, CVC, go sportingly by the recommendation of the non-government members on the selection committee, as long as it is not partisan. You are strong and can afford such risks.

Addressing the southern deficit



Mr. Modi, there is a southern deficit in your India calculus. The Hindi-belt image of your victory should not tighten itself into a North-South divide. Please appoint a deputy prime minister from the South, who is not a politician at all, but an expert social scientist, ecologist, economist or a demographer. Nehru had Shanmukham Chetty, John Mathai, C.D. Deshmukh and K.L. Rao in his cabinet. They were not Congressmen, not even politicians. Indira Gandhi had S. Chandrashekhar, V.K.R.V. Rao. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the UPA did not make Professor M.S. Swaminathan and Shyam Benegal, both nominated members in the Rajya Sabha, ministers. There is a convention, one may even say, a healthy convention, that nominated members should not be made ministers. But exigencies are exigencies. Professor Nurul Hasan, a nominated member, was one of the best Ministers of Education we have had.

Imperial and ideological exemplars appeal to you. So, be Maharana Pratap in your struggle as you conceive it, but be an Akbar in your repose. Be a Savarkar in your heart, if you must, but be an Ambedkar in your mind. Be an RSS-trained believer in Hindutva in your DNA, if you need to be, but be the Wazir-e-Azam of Hindostan that the 69 per cent who did not vote for you, would want you to be.

With every good wish as you take your place at the helm of our desh,

I am, your fellow-citizen,

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

(The writer is a former administrator and diplomat. He was Governor of West Bengal, 2004-2009, and officiating Governor of Bihar, 2005-2006.)

courtesy : “The Hindu”, 19 May 2014

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED