The year was 2014. Results of the General Elections for the 16th Lok Sabha were announced on 16 May. BJP, the leading constituent of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) achieved an absolute majority with 282 seats out of 543, 166 more than the previous 15th Lok Sabha. The results emphatically ended 49 years of governance by the Indian National Congress, which had won outright majority on six occasions in the 15 general elections since independence, and had led ruling coalitions a further four times. BJP’s blitzkrieg at the elections surprised political pundits. An ‘opposition’ was rendered non-existent, which had many a doubting Thomas accuse the BJP of rigging the polls by manipulating the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), though unsubstantiated till date.
BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate, Narendra Modi was sworn in as 14th Prime Minister of independent India on 26 May. The first ever government headed by the rightist BJP on its own through a massive mandate thus took over reins of governance. An excited India, rife with expectations sat back to watch an entirely new alliance which romped to power on an entirely new ideology- Hindutva ( the politicized avatar of Hinduism) govern world’s largest democracy, on a manifesto to set her ‘firmly and resolutely on the path of development’ as the new Prime Minister swore. Modi assumed office promisingly by picking up the broom and cleaning the streets of the national capital straight after he deplaned after a ‘highly successful’ tete-a-tete with his then American counterpart Barrack Obama, with whom he struck warm personal rapport. This looked promising to India. Modi seemed a determined Prime Minister. His action symbolized his determination to make The Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, or ‘Clean India Mission’, his pet dream aimed to make India ‘Open Defecation Free’ by 2 October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi by constructing 90 million toilets in rural India at a projected cost of Rs.1.96 lakh crore (US$ 30 billion), a reality. The initial days as Prime Minister saw him visit capitals of numerous nations, that earned him the tag- ‘globetrotting Head of State’. Once unthinkable presence of the invited Pakistani head-of-state at his swearing-in indicated the importance he attached to improving ties with various nations, especially India’s neighbors, and SAARC nations. India seemed to be in the safe hands of an able non-Congress head of State.
But, with teething problems behind him, and firmly saddled on the seat of governance with a whopping majority to back him, he soon fell into the hands of rightist extremist fringe groups like the RSS, Karni Sena, Hindu Mahasabha and others. This ultimately proved to be his undoing. He lost the faith and confidence that thousands had reposed on him. He allowed national discourse and India’s unique identity to be usurped by those fringe elements. He condoned their actions by his silence, which clearly symbolized his masked green signal to their destructive ways.
The cow, considered holy by majority Hindus was conferred ‘larger-than-God’ status. Cow slaughter was banned, especially in Uttar Pradesh. People, especially Muslims dealing in beef trade were waylaid, attacked and lynched. Leather industry which ran out of cow hide almost ceased to exist, banishing hundreds in that trade to penury and uncertainty. The government peeped into the kitchen of Indian homes to ensure beef wasn’t on the stove. The RSS with tacit connivance of the ruling BJP poked its nose into academia, deciding what India’s future generations studied. Personalities like Nehru were taken off history textbooks. Their contributions to Indian freedom struggle were belittled. Instead, rightist elements like Vinayak Damodar Sarvarkar and K B Hedgewar substituted the former, distorting history to augur and further Hindutva. Things reached their zenith when rightist elements idealized Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, and demanded his death anniversary be observed as martyr’s day! Modi remained silent.
Senior BJP legislator, Sangeeth Som described Jaj Mahal as ‘a blot on Indian culture, and ‘a monument built by traitors’. The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the modern world, and described by Rabindranath Tagore, as ‘a teardrop on the cheek of time’, was after all built by Shahjahan, a Muslim. The writing on the wall was clear. Modi remained silent.
Rightist fringe group the Karni Sena stormed into the sets of Bollywood movie, Padmavati, ransacking it. They believed the film maker and the actors aimed at tarnishing the honor of Padmavati, the Rajput queen. The film was later released after court proceedings as ‘Padmavat’! Modi said nothing as rightist zealots seemed to go berserk, and hell-bent on making India a laughing stock among more sensible nations, riding on the wings of development and advancement on all spheres, and not wallowing in the muck of irrelevant and warped ‘nationalism’.
Asifa Bano, an eight-year old Nomadic Muslim girl was drugged in Katua in the outskirts of Jammu, locked up in a temple and raped by many men and bludgeoned to death by smashing her head with a stone to ensure her death, with the blessings of the temple keeper, who wanted to terrorize Bano’s tribe and have them leave the place. Rallies were taken out in Katua in support of the rapists. Modi remained unfazed. At the time of writing, a Pathankot Court made mockery of justice by rewarding the rapists life term and even exonerating one of them, when all of them ought to have been sentenced to the gallows.
The Modi governance was known for its tacit approval for snuffing out freedom of expression, and shutting the door on fearless expression of opinion. Opinion of the intelligentsia was simply snuffed out by doing away with them, while the PM maintained his stoic silence. On September 5 2017, journalist-turned activist Gauri Lankesh, who spoke against the Sangh Parivar’s attempts to Hinduise society and to drape Hinduism with the garb of Hindutva, was shot pointblank before her house in Bangalore by motorcycle-borne helmet-wearing cowards, who, till this day have not been nabbed. On August 30 2015, motorcycle-borne elements shot dead academic and former Vice-Chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, MM Kalburgi by barging into his home. Another thorn in the rightists’ flesh was thus done away with. On February 16 2015, Govind Pansare, who opposed the glorification of Nathuram Godse, besides other wayward priorities of different sister concerns of the Sangh was shot dead by motorcycle-borne helmet wearing cowards when he was returning home from a walk with his wife. These murders were notable for similarity of execution and the fact that their perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
To top it all, Prime Minister Modi almost derailed Indian economy through some of his measures, which had the tacit approval of his yes-man- his Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. On November 8 2016, Modi declared invalid currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 in circulation- a measure termed ‘demonetization’, meant to check counterfeiting by Pakistan, and thus indirectly check cross-border terrorism, and also to check black money, both of which have not materialized till date through the draconian measure. ATM counters across India dried up. Many died standing in queue before dried-up ATM counters for precious, legal money. Farmers bore the brunt of demonetization. Currency notes were a premium, that Karif crops could not be traded. Farmers who depended on this couldn’t repay bank loans, and many took their lives, unable to put up with staggering loan and penury. Rural India, heavily dependent on agrarian economy was in tatters. Modi and his Finance Minister, put in place GST (Goods and Services Tax), which slammed brakes on businesses and economic growth.
The Aadhaar card was misused to the hilt by the government to sneak into the accounts of every citizen, just like the Modi government sneaked into the kitchen of Indian homes to look for beef being cooked. It was made compulsory and legal to link The Aadhaar card to the PAN card, bank cards and even mobile numbers. Indian citizens were thus placed under the microscope of ‘financial surveillance’ of a government who cared nothing for their privacy. All these measures on the economic front only led to economic slumping and spiraling unemployment.
The Modi government equated nationalism with fundamentalism. It was made compulsory to stand up when the national anthem was being sung or the tricolor unfurled. A physically disabled man on a wheelchair was thrashed inside a Goa cinema by rightwing ‘nationalists’, because he couldn’t stand up when the anthem was being played on the screen. Modi pretended blindness and remained silent.
Modi chose to remain silent when the government in distant Kerala chose to enact the Supreme Court ruling of September 28 2018, allowing entry of women into Sabarimala Temple. BJP ‘workers’ wreaked havoc in Kerala. This was perceived by the BJP as a God sent opportunity to garner votes and to drop the only state to refuse to yield a single seat to the BJP at the hustings, into the party’s kitty. Modi in fact silently supported his party going on a destructive mode bordering on anarchy, to undo Kerala’s peaceful social milieu.
The progress report of the Modi government looked rather bleak. The promising start of Modi rule fizzled into misrule, with the Prime Minister Choosing to be a puppet in the hands of extremist rightwing elements. He blew to the winds his promises and ideals with which he came to power in his first innings as Prime Minister-(Modi 1.0). He seemed to be bothered only about the good- standing certificate of the Sangh leaders, and the RSS. India and Indians were only his second choice- so it seemed.
Five years went by, and it was time to elect the 17th Lok Sabha, and the next head of state. BJP-led NDA contested the elections, with Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate and campaigner-in-chief, aided by the wily National President of the BJP, Amit Shah. The general Election of 2019, held from 11 April to 19 May 2019 was one of the most bitter to have been fought in post-independent India. The opposition led by the Indian National Congress had a false start at the very commencement of electioneering by failing to patch up a united front consisting of ‘like-minded’ parties to take on the seemingly invincible behemoth- the NDA. The opposition tried to cash in on a wrecked economy and an all-time high unemployment rates. The NDA, on the other hand cashed in on the attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama by Pakistan-sponsored J-e-M that killed over 40 CRPF personnel, and India’s retributive ‘surgical strike’ on J-e-M terror ‘factories’ in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan. The 2019 elections witnessed personal attacks of the most distasteful kind fly thick and thin between political rivals. Electioneering proceeded on a no-holds-barred mode.
When the results were declared on 23 May 2019, the BJP alone won a dazzling 303 seats. The NDA won 353 seats, far better than its performance in 2014.the INC-led UPA could manage only a mere 91 seats. The INC failing to secure the requisite 10% of the seats (54 seats), left the nation without an official opposition party in the 17th Lok Sabha. Riding on a truly spectacular majority, the second innings of Modi government-(Modi2.0) commenced, when he and his ministerial cabinet was sworn in on 30 may 2019.
Modi 2.0 is a Godsend golden opportunity for Prime Minister Modi to make amends for the opportunity squandered during his first term to set India on the road of development that mattered. To turn away from the irrelevant. To reset priorities. All this, by putting in place the rightwing zealots, whose one-point agenda was to derail India’s tryst with destiny. To be reborn as a nation to which other civilized democracies would look up to and salute. Modi has a lot to turn his attention to and to reset his priorities to achieve that.
- He must attempt to legalize Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the constitution, which says that ‘the state shall provide for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the territory of India’. The objective of this article was to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonize diverse cultural practices. Every citizen in the country must only be known as an Indian and not by his/her religion, caste, creed or gender. India must cease to be a nation in which the Hindus pull towards the south, Muslims to the north, Christians to the west and Buddhists to the east. There ought to be a single code which every Indian must abide by, irrespective of faith. It is difficult to enact. Rampant and vociferous opposition would have to be contended with. But the government has the majority to see this important need of the hour enacted.
- Close to the heels of the UCC, another abominable practice so rampant in the country like Sati in yesteryears- religious conversion and proseletization must be put paid to. This practice which corrupts the social milieu in India, and dilutes her plurality is rampant especially among Christians (while the fact is, it is Christians themselves who need to be converted to ‘better Christians’, going by their track record as ‘Christians’). Recently, Muslims too have taken to conversion through ‘love Jihad’ to indoctrinate the naïve within that community to add to man power indulging in terrorism and jihad. Many have disappeared from Kerala, falling to this mechanism to be tracked to distant Syria, where they’re enrolled into terrorist outfits like the IS. The constitution only confers freedom on every citizen to practice his/her religion, and not to convert. Nobody has any right to ‘rate’ various faiths based on which conversion takes place. Nobody has any right to rate Christ a better ‘spiritual option’ than Lord Krishna or Shiva! Every Indian must stick to the edict ‘live and let live!’ within the ambit of the constitution.
- Modi must seek to push for the success of various welfare schemes, which he himself had designed, the most notable one being the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, which envisages a healthy, capable and contend new India (nicknamed Modicare) by making quality medicare accessible to majority Indians irrespective of their financial capability.
- It must also be Modi 2.0’s priority to ensure every Indian’s access to basic education, medicare, potable water, hygienic food, roads of world-class quality, electricity, affordable fuel, and employment that renders these basic amenities affordable.
- The lot of women and the girl child must improve. The audacity with which they are raped, eve-teased and molested at work places, and subjected to domestic violence by drunken husbands and violence for dowry must be practices of distant past. It must begin with ruthlessly clamping down on female feticide.
- Modi 2.0 must win the confidence of every Indian by keeping at bay the divisive and destructive mechanizations of the Sangh Parivar and rightwing zealots, which was the most glaring undoing of Modi 1.0
- Modi has the determination and intensity to make these a reality. His electioneering bears testimony to that. More importantly, he has a majority in Parliament to back him. Modi 1.0 was a bad dream. Modi 2.0 is an opportunity to make the dream of every well-meaning Indian to see the nation scale the ladder of development in real sense, fruitioned. He needs to realize the biggest hurdle to this is the mechanizations of the elements of the Sangh Parivar, which he permitted to run roughshod over other more important things which further the civility and respect as a nation. He is answerable to the millions who voted him to power on a trailblazing majority. He isn’t answerable to elements who specialize in sowing division, hatred and isolation along religious lines. He needs to isolate them to foster healing of hearts, bolstering of plurality that India was once proud of. It is up to Modi and only him to ensure that Modi 2.0 is a much better chapter than Modi 1.0 in the history textbooks that students of tomorrow would study in their classrooms.