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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2589

Modi ‘New’ Speak

By Tukoji R. Pandit - Syndicate Features

The poster boy of the Hindutva forces, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, has challenged the Centre to file a sedition case against him for demanding that Gujarat be allowed to keep all its tax collections—income tax, customs duty, excise levies etc--for at least a year. Such a loaded statement from him is the kind of political gimmick that thrills his admirers in and out of the state. It further consolidates his position within the Bharatiya Janata Party as a combative, ‘natural’ heir to the Lauh Purush, L.K.Advani.

His brash demand has put the UPA government on the defensive because it will amount to playing into his hands if he is dragged to the court for saying something absurd at a meeting in Surat, a town teeming with some of the richest Gujaratis, including diamond merchants who would naturally be very happy to see their money kept within the state, if not in their bank vaults in their town itself.

Officially, the BJP has tried to underplay his statement on demanding ‘fiscal independence’ for Gujarat. But BJP apologists are out with full-throated cries in defence of his display of ‘innovative’ thinking on Centre-state relations. One of the high priests of the Hindutva ideology has said (not necessarily his words) the following while berating the ‘hysterical’ (?) response against Modispeak:

“Armed with all the revenue collected from the states, the Centre pursues a fatal policy of tending to ‘the last man in the last row’ in the states. This has led to resentment among the taxpayers that they do not get the same benefits that non-taxpayers get, though the government has a duty only towards the taxpayers and pursuing egalitarian goals is not compatible with democracy.

“Gujarat arouses jealousy among other states and the ‘demented’ propagandists of ‘Incredible India’ because it is a story of entrepreneurial success that has ushered the state into the 21st century while the rest of India lags behind. What Modi has said, according to this oracle of Hindutva, is a welcome departure from the current thinking on federal norms of tax collection and its distribution among the states. The corollary to this argument is that Modi’s wonderful out-of-box thinking needs to be emulated all over the country, unless it is the case on behalf of Modi that his formula of fiscal independence should be applied selectively—to richer states while the poor ones can go to hell. The demand for ‘autonomy’ for states has been voiced strongly in the country for a long time. But it does not include total fiscal independence for the states, as the next step to that would be the demand for secession of states.

“Populist pressure results in wastage of a lot of money collected from the states on ‘grandiose’ Central schemes which have no accountability (presumably BJP-ruled states are a paragon of accountability). The Centre (when the BJP is not in power) is not impartial in allocation of funds to the states from the vast pool of revenue collections. There is growing unrest among the taxpayers that they money taken from them by the taxman goes to help someone they do not connect to”

As stated, not everything said above is the exact reproduction of the words used by the BJP’s intellectual giant. But then intellectual giants tend to obfuscate uncomfortable issues to confound the critics. Modi being a very precious a commodity for defenders of a certain ideology has to be shielded from all criticism in any manner possible, the way he was after the universally condemned Gujarat pogrom of 2002. After all, the BJP hopes rest on Modi to capture the Delhi throne in post-Advani India.

Modi may not have to face the judicial court but he and his fans have to answer certain questions. First of all, does anyone believe that a perspicacious Modi had in mind all that the intellectual giant said in his support when he (Modi) made that fatuous demand at Surat? Does Modi believe in one India or stands for balkanisation of the country? When he demanded total fiscal independence for Gujarat he also implied that Gujarat needs no help from the Centre or any other state to manage all its affairs. Does he really think that an ‘autonomous’ Gujarat will be viable? Is he, for instance, confident that he can handle all by himself the threat he thinks is posed by the ‘Mian Musharraf’ forces?

Gujarat’s economic success is largely the result of the enterprise and business acumen of the people of the state. They have shown it all over the world—in places not ruled by anybody even remotely subscribing to Modi’s divisive and novel theories. In the UK and the US, the ‘Patels’ are among the richest and most successful Indians; most of them were forced to leave their homes in African in early 1970s with virtually nothing.

Gujaratis played a major role in raising Mumbai to its enviable status as the financial capital of India—much before the Hindutva forces (Shiv Sena included) had appeared on the political horizon of the metropolis. It is a different matter that the BJP sits silently as its political clone, the Shiv Sena, guns for non-Marathis in Mumbai and the rest of the state.

Modi also need to speak to some of the fellow chief ministers in the BJP-ruled states and ask if they whole- heartedly endorse his call for cutting loose from the Centre’s financial control over the revenue collections. The BJP has been or is, either on its own or in alliance with other parties, in power in some of the most backward states. How do these states view his demand for keeping the Centre away?

If Modi is really in a mood to challenge those who want him tried for treason he should ask his party bosses to allow him to make it an election issue across the country, and not just leave it as a question of the ‘asmita’ (pride) of ‘the five crore people of Gujarat’. The country must see the true ‘nationalist’ face of Modi, an unparalleled BJP icon.

- Syndicate Features –

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