The well known wisdom of the Indian voter can still prove opinion polls and media speculation drastically wrong. Just as in 2004 when the ‘India Shining ‘campaign came as a cropper, Narendra Modi may yet bite the dust. However, it is worth anticipating what the BJP may set out to do on the security front if it manages to subvert the electorate by cobbling up an opportunistic coalition.
Modi And Manifesto
Wisely the BJP delayed releasing its manifesto till the last minute to make sure that its contents would not affect the personality cult built up around NaMo. The manifesto has a few security related elements that are likely to vitiate societal, Indian and subcontinental security: the building of a temple at Ayodhya; introduction of the uniform civil code; the removal of Article 370; and the rethinking of the nuclear doctrine respectively.
BJP manifesto so closely based on Modi’s views that it seems expanded from January ‘Vision of Modi’ document: Express http://t.co/HPvTDekeIV
— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) April 7, 2014
But first is a look at Modi’s cryptic remark at the manifesto release function stating that his will not be a policy of revenge. This is a loaded remark and in itself carries an implied threat. He probably had India’s minority on his mind, hoping that his remarks will influence them to be milder in their voting patterns towards him and his party. Given the mobilisation within the Muslim community, he is unlikely to make headway. This will no doubt keep him for the 270 mark even if he does manage to cobble up a coalition. This will no doubt put him off further; making it is unlikely that he would spare even the sops usually spared for India’s largest minority by its secular state under the Congress.
A poor beginning as this will goad him on to addressing the bullet points in the BJP manifesto of concern to India’s minority. First would be completing the demolition agenda at Ayodhya of the early nineties in which he had earned his spurs as a pracharak. This will also be to keep his fellow Hindutva travellers busy while he gets on with the task of making India safe for corporate takeover, quite like he did during his long reign in Gujarat. The Sangh Parivar’s use of the temple issue to mobilise support for itself, will likely increase social tensions across India.
This will set the stage for the legislative manoeuvring that will inevitably attend introduction of the uniform civil code, a left-over from the BJP’s earlier stint at the Center. The supposed motivation for the bill of ensuring women’s rights will be used to further pressurise the minority. Pushing it to the corner will be useful to instigate the hotheads in the minority to mount a violent challenge that will then justify a resounding crackdown on its ghettos and strongholds.
The ensuing strong arm methods will be easier to swallow for the middle class bent on voting Modi to power to further its economic interests. Any reservations in some quarters will be smothered by a nationalist build up to remove Article 370. This will no doubt provoke a backlash in Kashmir, perhaps just as intended.The army, with its hands full restoring order then, will be too busy and well placated with the needed powers and military goodies, to bother as to what is being done to India’s polity.
Modi and Kashmir
Resulting troubles in Kashmir will easily be attributed to the resumption of the long predicted Pakistani mischief in wake of departure of the Americans from Afghanistan. This will ease the rethinking promised on the nuclear doctrine. The first casualty is expected to be the No First Use principle. Jettisoning it will not amount to much in itself, since in any case Pakistanis find it both less than credible and quite unnecessary in light of superiority of India’s conventional forces. But the advantage will be in buttressing Modi’s image as a ‘strongman’ and as a message to Pakistan to avoid provocation.
Using the opportunity for a nuclear reorganization, Modi could ‘kick upstairs’ the current army chief, Bikram Singh, into being India’s first permanent chairman of the Chief’s of Staff Committee. Recall that Bikram Singh’s bête noire is General VK Singh of ‘DoB’ (date of birth) fame, the BJP contender for the Ghaziabad seat. During VK Singh’s fracas with the government, the innuendo was that the chain of succession was manipulated by the Congress to get Bikram Singh into the chair. As permanent chairman of COSC he would be a general without an army. It will leave open the army chief’s chair that Modi could fill in with a candidate of his choice; thus undercutting the next one in the current line of succession, the vice chief General Suhag. These moves, reminiscent of the sacking of Baghwat in the early part of the BJP’s last tenure, will keep the military quiet while Modi goes about his India reset.
There is a view that such fears are unfounded because Modi may wait till he gains a measure of Delhi. He is driven by an economic agenda. This will likely be upset in case he privileges security and gets internal security vitiated. Therefore, he will bide his time, gain legitimacy with developmental work and then when he is set into his second term, he could reveal his hand. By then, if the economics works, then he would be better positioned with a middle class majority behind him.
This misses the point that he may strike while hot from his election victory. The Hindutva brigade may prove less than patient. He also has the earlier precedent to be wary off in which the BJP was swept from power after just one term. The economic reforms that promise to be more neo-liberal than Manmohan’s may require a dose of ‘nationalism’ for being administered on unwilling non-middle classes. This may compel an early resort to religious nationalism for stoking legitimacy and authoritarianism. There is also the argument that there are checks and balances in the Indian system that will prevent his doing a Gujarat in the rest of India. This neglects the precedence of Emergency in which the civil service crawled when it was merely asked to bend. In any case, of his moving either sooner or later, India is in for interesting times in the Chinese sense of the word.
Consequently, Modi’s security agenda would bear watch. Apprising ourselves now will be timely in terms of taking the necessary preventive measures, in particular ensuring a defeat at the polls. Relying on the good sense of the Indian voter is useful towards this end but democracy can yet be hijacked. So a final push of a warning such as this is necessary.
By Firdaus Ahmed