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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2648

The year that was 2007

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

The year 2007, like any other previous year, will be remembered for a lot of good and bad things, but one particularly interesting development was the attention –maybe adulation--received by the two contradicting strands in Indian politics. If the victory of BJP’s Narendra Modi in Gujarat was a reminder of the deep inroads made by his brand of exclusive politics, BSP’s Mayawati in UP was catapulted into power on the basis of an inclusive agenda that may contain some of the toxic effects of excessive Mandalisation of Indian politics.

Since it is so recent, the hurrahs for Modi may be more loudly registered in the minds of people but that should not take away the importance of Mayawati’s experiment in bringing the so-called high and the low castes together in sharp contrast to Modi’s blatant divisive recipe. If most historians and political scientists believe that only inclusiveness can hold India together then clearly Mayawati’s emergence from a somewhat restricted social confines to a broader family has to be viewed as the more important event of the year.

The continuous image-making exercises will probably ensure that the ring tones from the Modi camp will go on sounding louder and louder for quite a while. He and his publicists have successfully marketed his line that his record as a development-oriented chief minister was the secret of his electoral triumph. The publicists will have us believe that Gujarat’s reportedly break-neck speed march forward has helped wipe out ugly memories of Modi’s administration of 2002. In any case, the events are five years behind us and even some of the victims are said to be uneasy with constant reminders of their horrors.

If it is Modi who deserves to be patted for Gujarat’s accelerated growth, then so be it. But it may be remembered that the Gujarati community has always been known to excel as business entrepreneurs--in and outside the state, indeed outside the country too. Even during the long years of the Licence Permit Raj the Gujaratis in one corner of India and Punjabis in another part had not been able to dampen their entrepreneurial enthusiasm and their successful march.

Modi and his supporters have to ponder over the question how important it is for the chief minister to treat all citizens of his state equally and, more importantly, give them protection whenever they come under physical threat from organised and politically affiliated groups. Modi’s Gujarat resembles a rich corporate house where affluence is visible and envied by outsiders but some of the inmates suffer from a sense of insecurity and morbid fear.

Both during the pre-poll campaign and after his much-trumpeted victory Modi has shirked from starting the long-needed healing process in his state. But how can he? He refuses to express any regrets for the 2002 ‘pogrom’ in Gujarat for which a very large section in the country holds his administration responsible. Modi’s refusal to extend his hand of friendship to the minority community in his state is all the more surprising when many of them have expressed a desire to forget their past travails.

It is not a very comfortable thought that an unrepentant Modi on his own or with the help of his party, the BJP, can aspire to climb the top job in the country. This is where the contrast of his brand of politics with that of Mayawati looks most glaring.

She had started her political career under the shadows of a Dalit leader who was even more vehement in advocating exclusiveness than Modi, openly abusive and exhorting his followers to greet the higher castes with sandals. Kanshi Ram’s politics of spiteful revenge did not look appropriate but it united the divided Dalits into a potent force and helped in BSP’s rise on the national political stage.

But no matter how quick or impressive that rise it was clear that a political party that confines itself to wooing a single constituency cannot hope to sore higher on the political firmament. Mayawati did not hesitate to shift her party to a higher gear by broadening its base to include the hitherto hated upper castes and the minorities who were looking for new allies after their disappointment with the parties touting their secular credentials. And as though to mock at the Mandalisation of politics, she is also advocating reservations for the economically weaker sections in the so-called upper castes.

Defying many political ‘astrologers’, Mayawati’s new strategy worked in UP to demonstrate that inclusiveness still remains a preference for the average voter even though ‘Moditva’ may prove otherwise. The point is that ‘Moditva’ may go on succeeding in Gujarat as long as the man himself is at the helm of affairs in the state but his political theory will never see a countrywide triumph. On the other hand, the politics of inclusiveness will always have a better chance of getting the voters’ nod in most parts of the country.

However, a word of caution has to be added here. The Mayawati phenomenon can collapse fast if it continues to propagate opportunism in a bid to play the role of the ‘king maker’—hold the key to power whenever there is scope for her party to tip the balance in favour of one party. It is easy to scoff at the idea of parties sticking to their ‘ideology’ but chartering unprincipled course can also lead to political wilderness.

Mayawati is entitled to think of herself as a big player but not without remembering that in recent days the Indian voter is also showing signs of shying away from parties and candidates who contest only to ‘spoil’ someone’s chances. This has led many to believe that ultimately ‘national level’ politics in India may again be dominated by two or three parties; not odd conglomerates of disparate parties who have become adapt at wearing two masks.

- Syndicate Features -

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