An article by B. Ananthanarayan
With pomp and ceremony Mr. Narendra Modi, the new Prime Minister of India has been sworn in, having been swept to power by a wave that has given a majority to the BJP and an even larger majority when the seats of the coalition partners are counted in.
There is the old saying that `He that pays the Piper, calls the tune’. The big industrial houses led by Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, Adanis, the big IT czars such as the bosses of Infosys etc., had for several months before the Lok Sabha elections declared that India needs a strong and stable government and that there was no one better to lead it than Mr. Narendra Modi, the `development’ Chief Minister of Gujarat who had been in power there for more than a decade. The same media which for long years had maintained that there was a dark shadow over Mr. Modi due to his complicity, direct or indirect, in the horrid riots of 2002, with complicity in specific events such as the Gulbarg Society massacre, Best Bakery case, Naroda-Patiya case, today says that Mr. Modi is the best Prime Minister that India can hope for. Mr. Modi who carped day and night about the `English language media’ when they were after him, now basks in the glory of the praise that is heaped upon him. Such is the state of affairs that has visited this great land with over five millennia of civilization.
Against this grim background, one may wish to ask what lies ahead for the people of this country in the coming years. One may wish to ask why is there so much enthusiasm in certain circles for a government to be led by such a man. What are his official proclamations that may tell us what lies ahead?
Mr. Modi has come to power assuring that what lies ahead are `ache din’, `Congress mukt Bharat’. While the latter is evidently true, atleast for the time being, it is not clear what one may say about the former. The content of `Congress mukt Bharat’ is clearly one in which the India people have vested their trust: a Bharat that is free of corruption,toadyism, dynasties, power mongering, and influence mongering. The flip side is that the people of India have shown their enthusiasm for an India free of poverty, disease, want, suffering, etc.. An India in which one would be safe and secure from the forces of nature and of society, an India free of crime and corruption, an India free of hunger, an India where the children of the country have education and security. In short, an India where the people would have `sukh’ and `raksha’ as spelt out in great Indian political classics such as Mahabharata and the Arthshastra. An India where a raja who would not provide these, would be ousted by the praja for derogation of duty. This then begs the question as to whether the `ache din’ promised by Mr. Modi has the above as the backbone, or is it an ache din of a different kind, and for a select few?
In order to answer this question, let us return to the Piper-payer, namely the big industrial houses and their spokesmen and their political philosophers. All the official pronouncements emanating from these quarters suggest that their frustration with the UPA Government of Mr. Manmohan Singh was with the fact that it was not decisive enough. Not decisive enough with labour reform, not decisive enough with pushing through reform in the crucial sectors of privatization and liberalization, not decisive enough in opening up retail sector, not decisive enough with reform in the banking sector, in the pension reform sector, in pushing through with stalled projects facing, for example, environmental clearance, not decisive enough with projects involving tribal lands, name a few. Thus the Piper-payer now wants a government that will be decisive in all these matters. In order to meet these objectives, all obstructions, juridical and legislative must be removed, and further concentration of power in the hands of those at the highest echelons of power. The very first acts of Mr. Modi in abolishing entities such as the Empowered Group of Ministers, suggest that he is very much on the path of concentrating more power into the hands of the Cabinet, and indeed in the hands of the Prime Ministers Office. Faced with a lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha and a President who was a life long Congressman, Mr. Modi’s acts suggest that the Prime Minister is on the path of gathering untrammeled powers. These powers are likely to ensure `ache din’ for those who backed him (the Piper-payer), and are not likely to bring any ache din to those whose are at the receiving end of the stick. This is the content of the slogan `less Government, more Governance.
When Mr. Modi uncorks all the stalled projects and pushes through all the stalled reforms, more disasters will visit the country. Factory workers have been thrown out in the lakhs across the length and breadth of the country. Peasants commit suicide in vast numbers. Reports in the media say that out of the world twenty most polluted cities, thirteen are in India. Other reports say that about half the people of India have no toilets. In the recent past, we have witnessed the utter destruction of vast historic regions of the country due to uncontrolled development such as in Kedarnath and surrounding regions. Train accidents are a dime a dozen in the country. Vast tracts of the country have been turned into wastelands by the policies of successive Governments of India, who in the name of growth and development have brought nothing but disease and pestilence to the people of the country. Mr. Modi by advocating the acceleration of all these discredited approaches will only bring more such `ache din’ to the people of India. He has also talked enthusiastically about militarizing the economy at an accelerated pace. Clearly, with India’s two biggest rivals being nuclear powers, any engagement with them will lead to mutual assured destruction. Mr. Modi is fully aware of this.
In fact, what he is not spelling out is that a modernized Indian armed forces would be the instrument of further repression on the periphery where various nationalities have been crushed, and of regions of the country which do not accept the dictates of the Piper-payers. Thus, these are the `ache din’ that lie ahead.
What then can be done? There are many paths forward. Let there be a debate on what real `ache din’ are, and how can they be achieved? Let all sections of the people, irrespective of creed or persuasion join this debate in an open and friendly manner and give the Piper-payer a run for his money. Let there be an alternative vision put forth, which would be of such a brilliant quality so as to light up the sky for all to see.