Thane Richard’s article on QZ.Com about what the implications of voting for Modi was brilliantly astute and bang on target. His argument in the article can be summed up in his own words which are reproduced as under,
“If you truly believe Modi is innocent, then you are excused. You then only have to reconcile with having a prime minister who is obviously incompetent at maintaining law and order in a nation where Naxals abound and multiple secessionist movements are ongoing. But if you believe he may be guilty of either ordering the riots or not preventing them, then you cannot comfortably ignore that judgment just because it is convenient to your privileged view of India’s future. To do so is nothing less than cowardice.”
I seek to pick up where he left off and throw light on where the fight against the Modi wave is failing. Be it the Aam Aadmi Party or the Congress, their principal attack on Modi can be summed up into two main arguments, one involving his involvement or the lack of it in the handling of the Gujarat riots and the other calling into question his claims about the Gujarat Development Model. And both Congress and AAP, except for sounding like burnt out gramophones, are neither causing any serious dent in the Modi Armour, nor are they bettering their own chances and the question therefore is why is the strategy failing so horribly?
Guilty or Not- Doesn’t Matter
Let us first understand that the Gujarat riot was an unpardonable failure of the rule of law. There is absolutely no denying that in those few days, law and order crumbled and survival of the fittest became the order of the day. The only point of contention remains if Modi was responsible for it or not. Let me resolve that question right away. Whether or not he endorsed the violence, whether or not he intentionally looked the other way as people killed each other, the fact remains that as a Chief Minister he could not prevent a particularly dark chapter in Indian history. That reflects on the poor enforcement of rule of law on the part of Gujarat and his personal failure as a leader. In that sense, he shares the stage with the Congress of the Anti-Sikh riots and Samajwadi party of the Muzzafarnagar riots.
But India doesn’t care about that. Having tasted wealth, Indians want more. Having seen GDP growth rates at 8% or so, the present growth rate is devastating for the ordinary Indian middle class newspaper reading person. Be it Muzzafarnagar or Gujarat of 2004, the victims that emerged in their wake remain alien people to a population grappling with purchase of homes, expensive cars, designer clothes and the latest smart phones. Look around in your own families, the man who has amassed wealth, notwithstanding the moral falling he may or may not have undertaken to get there, is still assailed as a hero and worshiped. In this India, talk of human rights, especially during a period where populist economics stands to run the country down under, will find neither any listeners nor any serious takers.
India WANTS an Authoritarian
AAP has a different problem. Their line of attack revolves around branding Narendra Modi as an authoritarian tyrant whose development story is a farce, as it is the antithesis to the socialist policies Kejriwal attempted to promulgate. But the Indian has seen a Prime Minister, exemplify inaction and lack of authority in the past decade. In mind of this Indian, whether or not our PM is responsible, he remains guilty by association for all the wrongs that the government may have committed in the past decade. This India wants to see a man wield authority, take charge and move things along. This India, therefore, loves Narendra Modi. While Arvind Kejriwal’s humility invoked sympathy and pity, it fails to invoke the following which India will give only to the man who promises to be the messiah, regardless of the inherent improbabilities of such fantastical claims.
Growth or No Growth?
The Gujarat Development story is no doubt more complex than the BJP would like us to believe. But without acknowledging the truths in the growth story, no matter how small or how insignificant, the opponents cannot expect an attentive audience for the arguments around how Gujarat fails on areas such as nutrition and education. No wonder I chanced upon a Facebook page claiming to be supporting BJP Gujarat, launching a reprehensible and outright misogynist themed attack on Amartya Sen, challenging his standing to highlight Gujarat’s deficiencies because he failed to “reign in” his adult daughter and prevent her from “posing provocatively” as a model.
Was this lashing out because Amartya Sen had whispered something that made Modi uncomfortable? As homework, being part of an intelligent electorate and all, let’s find out, shall we?
I remain a man of deep reservations against Narendra Modi and BJP in general. I have found their conservative inclinations and even their stand for Section 377 to continue, to be outright unacceptable in a country with a constitution such as ours. When economic prosperity finds itself emerging from such schools of thought, intolerance and oppression are not just difficult to fight, but become accepted given all the prosperity it apparently seems to have caused. The Nazi Party consolidated its hold over Germany precisely by exploiting the prevailing economic conditions to do what they did to people they considered inferior and today, we find ourselves in an analogous spot as Thane Richards eerily notes. The Congress and AAP have some serious thinking to do, because right now, they have already lost half the battle in the mechanical and shallow attacks they have authored against Narendra Modi. India deserves better than such a one sided campaign, India needs better than such a one sided campaign!
By Ashok G.V.