In April and May 2014 , during my travels in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, I talked to hundreds people and none of them said they were going to vote for the Congress party or its discredited allies, including Lalu, Mulayam, Karunanidhi and Mayawati.
Based on these interactions I should have correctly predicted the result of last Indian elections. But I misjudged the situation as I relied on English newspapers and TV pundits. Hardly anyone of them thought that the BJP would cross the half way mark.
Once again I am in India, reading newspapers and listening to the same old TV pundits. Though we have a government that sincerely wants to improve the situation, a vast number of political pundits are still predicting doom and gloom. Some of them are forecasting the destruction of secular India under Modi regime. Others are predicting the death of Nehruvian socialism. The Nehruvian model of planned economy is being abandoned, they moan. In 2015, they want India to adhere to the policies of the 1950s. Modi’s decisive style is being dubbed as dictatorial. The greatest virtue of democracy which promotes the rule of the majority, is now being described as its greatest evil. Some of the prominent, left-leaning intellectuals are telling us that majority rule is dictatorial,anti-minority and thus anti-democratic.
The doctrine of threatened existence
For more than two decades India’s weak and warring coalition governments had patronised a whole class of people whose favourite pastime was to assemble in exotic locations to deliberate on issues like social justice and poverty alleviation. They recommended policies that wasted precious resources, encouraged unaccountability, bred corruption and perpetuated poverty.
But how were they able to sell these outdated policies for so many years? In fact, they preached and practised what I call ‘the doctrine of threatened existence’. It’s easier to mobilise a threatened people.
Consequently, they led many of us to believe that the rural was threatened by the urban. Agriculture was threatened by industry. The farmer was threatened by the businessmen. The poor were threatened by the rich. The public sector was threatened by the private entrepreneurship. Indian companies were threatened by foreign investors. The minorities were threatened by the majority. Urdu, Hindustani and Tamil languages were threatened by shuddha (pure) Hindi. This resulted in huge mutual distrust. The idea of social cohesion was often paid only lip service. Interestingly, these divisive strategies were masked under some proclaimed lofty ideals. For example take the idea of India’s rich diversity. Our diversity needed to be enjoyed through mutually appreciative artistic and cultural
expression. Our diversity needed to inspire creativity and imagination to find solution to our innumerable problems.
We neither celebrated nor enjoyed our colourful diversity. It was only promoted through government patronage and political rivalries. Therefore, groups distanced from such official patronage felt aggrieved. And soon a rival group or political party would come forward to exploit this resentment. As a result many of our prominent literary and artistic institutions and intellectual assemblies were badly divided, being mere proxies of their political masters.
While following current political debate, I found many pundits who passionately wanted India to be governed by Gandhian and Nehruvian ideals. Gandhi died in 1948 and Nehru in 1964. Though the world has grown since then, sadly some of, and I repeat only ‘some of’, our top political pundits remain stuck in the past. They defy the basic premise of social and intellectual evolution that. Cannot be held back.
Their world view looks back to 1948 or 1964. They are opposed to globalisation, industrialisation and urbanisation. I am sure Nehru and Gandhi would have been greatly disturbed by the intellectual obstinacy of their followers. If Gandhi and Nehru were alive today, they would have certainly moved on from what they thought in 1948 or in 1964.
Let me quote Gandhi: “I do not understand this fetish for consistency. I grow from situation to situation.”
People are the best judge of political situations
To capture the current mood I spoke to a huge number of people, often playing devil’s advocate and provoking them to elicit some sharp answers.
“Is Modi a dictator?”, I asked to a retired college lecturer in Gurgaon, Haryana. “Nonsense, Modi is much less of a dictator than Mayawati, Mamta, Karunanidhi and Mulayam. Within their parties not even a leaf shakes without their wish,” he said. “And remember, no Congressman, not even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, could ever question the extra-constitutional authority of Sonia Gandhi. For ten years we were ruled by a prime minister who was never elected by popular vote but was handpicked by Sonia Gandhi. It was a fraud perpetrated on Indian democracy.”
But isn’t Modi’s image of Vikas Purush (a man of development) dented by outspoken BJP MPs and Sangh Parivar leaders. One of Modi’s ministers openly abused Muslims. Another MP praised Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse. And some of the right wing Hindu organisations have launched an assertive campaign to reconvert Muslims and Christians Most people agreed that this was an unwarranted distraction and it would dent Modi’s Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas agenda. It would also create unease among the minorities and might escalate communal tension in the country.
“Such an aggressive posturing is neither prudent nor right,” said a businessmen in Ghaziabad, “It has given the oxygen of publicity to many defeated politicians like Vrinda Karat and Sharad Yadav. We have virtually forgotten them until they came out to predict the break up of secular India.”
I also visited Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, where in a public ceremony the Hindu Jagaran Samiti, a fringe right wing Hindu group, had converted some Muslims to Hinduism. This created a huge uproar. Parliament was paralysed until the opposition parties forced the government to concede an immediate debate.
But the secular parties were caught on the wrong foot when the government agreed with them that forced conversions must be stopped. The government proposed a law to ban religious conversions through force or any kind of inducement. Such a law already exists in many states some of which are Congress ruled states. The secular parties refused to support such a law.
A civil servant in Delhi was absolutely spot on when he said, “These secular parties were actually saying that our conversions were right and your conversions were wrong. They were saying that it was fine for maulanas and missionaries to carry out conversions but Hindu organisations need not and should not indulge in such activities.”
A lawyer in Gandhinagar, Gujarat came out with a most sensible solution. He said, “All conversions organised and helped by the agents of any religion must be stopped. Mass conversions and community conversions must also be illegal. But individual conversion must be allowed because our constitution guarantees the freedom of conscience and freedom of faith. When it comes to faith you don’t need an intermediary – whoever he may be a Muslim maulana, a Christian missionary or a Hindu priest.”
Surely, ordinary Indian people are wiser than political pundits because they are not prisoners of a particular political ideology.
Dr Vijay Rana is a leading
journalist and the
editor of www.nrifm.com.