A new phase in Indian politics has begun with Bhartiya Janata Party’s parliamentary board choosing by a fully transparent democratic process Narendra Damodar Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. He has been elected to this post.
Why does a large part of the Indian media say that Modi has been anointed to this post? Why does it liken the BJP’s parliament board prolonged and contentious meeting to a coronation. I wonder what is behind this choice of words, or is it, and quite likely, just the poor knowledge of the English language. Some days ago I heard an anchor of TV channel say that “more stronger’s” response is needed on our part to meet the Chinese intrusion in our Northeast.
Our visual media has mutilated the English language. More harmful, it distorts perhaps, unintentionally, news. Give it up or use it, if you must, correctly. But the use of worlds like anointed or coronation by the ‘secularists’ in the media is meant to suggest that the process by which Modi was selected to be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was not democratic. The whole thing was like a coronation of king staged by the RSS, and therefore, the ‘secularists’ would say, un-democratic.
Incidentally, words like anointment and coronation come from the discourses of medieval Catholism. By using these words to slam the BJP, the ‘secularists’ are slamming themselves and their secular icons, Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi. Was Rahul democratically elected or simply acclaimed by the congressman at the party meeting in Jaipur last winter? He was then made the Vice President by his mother, who with tears in her eyes said to Rahul, “power is poison”. But you must taste it. I have tasted it over the years and my appetite for it grows every time I take it, Sonia could well have said to her son.
There is not a political party in India which elects its leaders democratically—certainly not the Congress and not any regional party. The DMK, AIDMK, Shiv Sena, SP, BJD, JD, Akali Dal are all family preserves, where power is passed from one generation to another by the heredity principle. We simply don’t have the American equivalent of primaries where a presidential aspirant wins primaries to attain the party’s nomination. In Britain it is the party that’s supreme and it selects its prime ministerial candidate by various party conclaves which are open and transparent.
A more valid criticism by some thoughtful liberal is that, Modi practices a presidential style of politics. But here he only follows the political practices of Nehru—I , II and III; Nehru—IV is yet to emerge, though he has been declared to be fit for the PM’s job by his mother and the caretaker prime minister Man Mohan Singh. But he simply does not have the make up to appeal to the masses. Here Modi beats him hollow.
However, one prefers, as I do, a cabinet form of government as opposed to a presidential form, let’s face it, this forms is now passé. In Britain, where the Cabinet form of government first emerged in the mid-eighteen century, has now given way to the presidential form. Margaret Thatcher and later Tony Blair behaved as president. Prime Minister’s office is supreme.
There is a good reason why parliamentary form of government is giving way to a presidential form. To be an appealing public figure you need to appeal to people, and more importantly, you need to appeal to people’s aspirations. Modi public image is striking: Stylistically dressed in a half-sleeve kurta, a well trimmed beard and confident strides he takes on the stage, all tell the audience, whether at a maidan in Haridwar or in the hall of IIT, that here is a man who knows his business. He articulates people’s aspirations, what matters most in our country is aspirational politics.
People yearn for a leader who articulates their aspirations or frustrations. Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal says, “People think he (Modi) has created Dubai or Singapore in Gujarat, and if he is made the prime minister of the country, he will do the same to other areas” (Business Standard 14th Sept). This is what people expect of Modi.
For past several years, but particularly after his impressive victory in the December 2012 Gujarat election, he has talked of the youth and its aspirations. Growth, modernisation, industrialisation are the themes of his numerous public pronouncements. Casteism is his great bugbear and often he has inveighed against castes. And the way to make India, a Singapore or Dubai, is by an alliance of business and the state. This is what he has done in Gujarat during his ten years rule.
What he wants is a decisive shift in the Indian economy: centre right. Free market with minimum state interference in the economy. Burying the license permit raj is Modi’s central objective. He has done it in Gujarat and has succeeded brilliantly in it. His yearly Vibrant Gujarat meeting is a forum where business and state meet amicably and transact relationship that is transparent.
India Inc. Cheers Narendra Modi
Modi has become popular in India’s corporate world where he is seen as a market-friendly leader who has energetically wooed industry to set up their facilities in his state. Modi was appointed the BJP’s election committee chairman in August and has since then widend his appeal, as an advocate of economic development, by stressing his achievements in promoting industry. After a long spell of policy drought, industry leaders are clamouring for strong leadership, decisions met with action and for this they are looking towards Narendra Modi.
With the anointment of Narendra Modi as PM candidate of BJP, jewellers, diamond retailers and bullion traders, from across the country are also pledged their support to Modi. India has become the world’s headquarters for rough diamonds, overtaking Antwerp in Belgium, which has been unofficial headquarters to the global diamond industry. The country is also the hub of the diamond cutting and polishing industry, accounting for 9 out of 11 diamonds produced globally. Citing the example of Surat, some of the bullion traders, while fretting over the Congress policies for the sector, opine that India has become a diamond trade hub, with contribution from one city only and “we express hope that Modi being PM will bring tranquillity in the business”. The ruling Congress party is drawing flak from the bullion community: over the rupee fall to a record low and for the many gold import curbs instituted by the Manmohan Singh government. They also blamed the government for having narrow outlook on foreign investments and for the exodus of the foreign business from the country. Continuing his criticism against the government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Narendra Modi has recently alleged that the ruling Congress party can turn gold into sand. This statement is being seen as an open support to the bullion market.
In January 2013, many national and international corporate houses arrived in Gandhinagar, Gujarat for the ninth Vibrant Gujarat Summit. In the summit, many business tycoons expressed their full faith in Narendra Modi’s leadership skills. Mukesh Ambani, RIL chairman, praised Modi and said: “In Narendra Bhai, we have a leader with a grand vision.” His brother, Anil Ambani termed Modi ‘a king among kings’. Comparing Modi with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, he said : “Let me attempt to paint another picture: October 2, 1869, Porbandar, Gujarat—the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of the nation; October 31, 1875, Nariyal, Gujarat—the birth of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s man of steel and September 17, 1950, Vadnagar, Gujarat—the birth of Narendra Modi.” He claimed that Modi has Arjuna- like clarity of vision and purpose. Anand Mahindra of Mahindra and Mahindra also lauded Modi and said: “Today people are talking about China model of development in Gujarat but that day is not far away, when people will talk about Gujarat model of growth in China.” Not only the Indian businessmen were lavishing praise on Modi, but also, international corporate honchos praised him for his amazing leadership. Ron Sommers, who represented US-India Business Council in the summit, termed Gujarat growth ‘stunning’. He said :”Progress of Gujarat is stunning. It has set a new benchmark not only in India but across other countries in the world because Chief Minister Narendra Modi has shown that progress trumps politics. Gujarat has achieved double- digit growth because of stability and sustainability.” Ratan Tata also gushed over Modi and praised him for his leadership skills. He said: “Today, when investors look for locations to make investments, they would be looking for locations which are investor-friendly. Gujarat stands out distinctly in the country and the credit for it goes to Modi.” While many industrialists pledge their support to Modi, some are sceptical of his leadership traits. Adi Godrej in an interview to Indian Express, said: “I do know Narendra Modi has done a reasonably good job in Gujarat, may- be if he becomes the Prime Minister he can do a good job at the Centre, but he has not been tested at the Centre. He has never been in the Union Cabinet. It’s difficult to say.”
A recent survey, conducted by Neilson and Economic Times newspaper, among 100 CEO’s of Indian industry, has shown that around 74 per cent of the industrialists want Modi to be the Prime Minister of India, while 7 per cent have accepted Rahul Gandhi as PM. This survey was conducted between August 1and September 1, when not one of the two leaders was officially anointed as Prime Minister candidate. Indian business has always, in the past, applauded Modi as an investor-friendly chief minister who led his western state of Gujarat to double-digit economic growth. And the results of the survey represent the strongest recorded vote of confidence, from the industry for Modi.
By Nilabh Krishna
But this has been possible by the unique culture of Gujarat. There is the centuries old Vanijay, a culture that sanctities entrepreneurship. Making money is not an activity that invites disapprobation as it does in some other cultures. Jawaharlal Nehru typified the Brahmanical distain for those who made profit; he preferred the state commanded economy model and his daughter in her fourteen years of rule created the license permit raj on a gigantic scale. Corruption prevailed and productivity and entrepre-neurship died.
Economic liberalisation came under the stewardship of Narasimha Rao, surely the most intelligent and innovative prime minister after Nehru, but Sonia Gandhi has erased his name from history. But the economic reforms he began still survive, though without much vitality. The real seat of power, 10 Janpath, would rather have babu administered welfare schemes. Despite reforms of 1990, we remain a largely closed economy.
Modi would like to bury the license permit raj, in Delhi, as he has done in Gujarat. Can he do it nationally, assuming that he comes to power with sufficient strength (say about 180-200 seats). It is not easy to dismantle a well entrenched state commanded economy and institute a market friendly economy. It took the energy and will and a good dose of authoritarianism of Margaret Thatcher to move Britain from a post-war state centred welfare state to a market friendly state.
Then there is the staggering diversity of India. Linguistic, ethnic, religious, cultural diversity of India is so immense that one asks, often in wonderment, how it stays together as one nation. Politically this diversity expresses itself in the rise of regional parties. Since the end of the hegemony of Congress Party in 1989—when it lost the 89 election and the subsequent formation of the Janata—BJP coalition—there has been a large increase in the number of regional party. The period between 1996-1998, saw 20 odd regional parties come together to form a coalition
government which were headed by obscure regional leaders Gowda, Gujral.
ADVANI WILL HAVE THE LAST LAUGH, PREDICT EXPERTS
The declaration of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has stirred a hornet’s nest among the minority and secular fronts. While, on one side, there is this section that is concerned and apprehensive about what may happen to India, there is also a much smaller group that feels that the BJP has put the last nail in its coffin by choosing a candidate like Modi regarded as the perpetrator of violence.
“It is no hidden secret that Modi is unacceptable to nearly 50 per cent of India’s masses, which include both the minorities and secular Hindus. It will take years for Modi to even be considered a suitable candidate for this august post, at least not in this lifetime,” says Nutan Thakur, an RTI activists and lawyer.
Ms Thakur said that though at this point of time it is an internal matter of the BJP, whom they want to project as their prime ministerial candidate, it is unlikely that majority of Indians will share the same sentiments.
“If just the prospects of Modi becoming Prime Minister can invigorate the ambitions of the communal forces and cause so much bloodshed in Muzaffarnagar, then one can only imagine the plight of the nation if God forbid, he becomes the PM. Such a man must be kept at bay at any cost,” says a social worker, Saira Mujtaba.
“By declaring the name of Modi for the prime ministership of India, BJP and Sangh Parivar have declared a war against secular, democratic fabric of Indian polity and society. People of India, irrespective of their caste, creed, region, linguistic and religious differences and preferences are basically secular and democratic in their outlook. They will not let the nefarious designs of the divisive, communal forces succeeded,” said Prof Ramesh Dixit.
Mumtaz Ali Khan, a retired officer of a corporate, was of the opinion that it will actually be LK Advani who will have the last laugh on Modi’s elevation.”Modi should have had patience and waited for the assembly elections to get over in the five states. Now he will have the pressure of ensuring that the BJP does well in all these states. If not he will be written off even before he begins,” said Khan. Adding that “let us hope the Congress can do it, otherwise the Devil will get its due,”
According to retired police officer and Dalit activist SR Darapuri, Modi signifies the return to the fascist Hindutva mode of RSS. BJP is trying to revive the saffron agenda to polarise the vote bank. He was of the opinion that such forces must be dealt with an iron hand by the secular forces.
Prof Abus Salam Siddiqui, former principal, Mumtaz Degree College, Lucknow, has challenged the very concept of announcing a prime ministerial candidate. “It is against the principle of parliamentary democracy to nominate anyone for the post of Prime Minister and the Election Commission must take note of it and ban the practise with immediate effect,” said Prof Siddiqui. Calling Modi a “mass murderer”, he said that this is a sad happening that such a man can be projected by any party as the future Prime Minister of the biggest democracy of the world.
But there is a forward-looking section that feels that Modi is a good administrator and that he has done a lot to take forward Gujarat and that he must be given a shot at ruling this country.
“Modi is dynamic, intelligent and a good reformist who worked for growth of economy. But he missed to realise that the minority of India deserves as much protection as the majority gets. I think he must be given a chance to rule and mend his thought process,” says LK Lakhina, a former banker based in national capital.
By Kulsum Mustafa
The first BJP lead government in 1999 was a coalition of some 20 parties and so were the subsequent Congress-lead coalitions in 2004 and 2009. Coalition of parties is a political expression of the underlying cultural diversity. How are coalitions to be held together?
Hindutva ideology is too narrow to hold them, and the BJP discovered that in 1996; it then was the largest party but it could not find even one party to form a government with it. It’s only when it gave up Hindutva—no Ram Mandir, no common civil code, no Hindi—that it was able to form a government. Vajpayee’s skill and suppleness helped to run the coalition.
The most challenging tasks before Modi, the party’s prime ministerial candidate, is to build a political platform on which a future coalition government headed by him could stand. He realises that Hindutva nationalism simply cannot be that platform and Hindu nationalism cannot supplant India nationalism. He talks of the Constitution as the dharma.
If Modi can succeed in making his party give up Hindutva, it will be his greatest achievement. Hindutva nationalism that spawned the Ramjanambhoomi movement and brought the party rich electoral dividends has now has no takers. Development and the Constitution must be planks of his government.
By Bharat Wariavwalla
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