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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2703

A Modi Speech That Should Have Come Before Polls

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

Swept back to power with a massive mandate, Narendra Modi has spoken of his vision of a ‘new India’ that ought to be greatly welcomed except that his record in office during the past five years as prime minister will make it difficult to believe that he meant what he said.

His ‘sab ka vikas’ slogan started looking misleading when many of his party stalwarts, including ministers, were giving vent to the hatred they nurture for certain sections of society. Those who differed with Modi are routinely called ‘anti-national’ and even in a more foul language. Modi’s silence was shocking when many of the saffron followers went on a lynching spree, spreading terror and virtually forcing closure of the lucrative leather export business.

Addressing the BJP parliamentary party in the Central Hall of Parliament he used words and phrases like the need to win over the trust of minorities and working without discrimination for the benefit of all sections of society. He extolled the virtues of ‘humility’ and said ‘let bygones be bygones’. It is to be seen if he really meant that let bygones be bygones which will signal an end to the competition in vituperative language by politicians with him not hesitating to take the lead.

By common consent, one of the biggest challenges Modi faces now is repairing the economy which will not recover by taking whimsical measures or abusing the Opposition. Indeed, if Modi continues with the habit of blaming all ills on the Opposition and his critics, he will find that his ‘brahmastra’ of hyper-nationalism will not work anymore, nor his ’56-inch’ chest.

It appears that finally Modi has acknowledged without admitting in public that the image of being a ‘strong’ and ‘decisive’ leader will require some matching action if he has to meet his ambition. It might have reached his ears that his regime was not fair to the minorities and the many under privileged sections. So, he has to speak of removing the ‘fears’ of minorities and renew the pledge that the glaring shortcoming of the past five years will be removed in his second innings.

His admiring army in the country will cite that to claim that he does intend to take along all sections of society and he believes in inclusiveness. But others would recount that almost all his important assurance given to the people in 2014 had failed to materialise while the country was pushed on a dangerous path of divisiveness like never before.

There are reasons that raise more doubts. Modi has been very emphatic in countering the charge that in the past five years his regime had under-performed but by quoting figures which have been rejected by independent sources, both Indian and foreign. An advertisement blitz of unprecedented scale and extensive self-promotion campaigns were employed to challenge the ‘negative’ narrative almost throughout the past years.

For instance, the BJP refuses to believe that the country has seen a big rise in the number of unemployed and the Modi government failed to address the problem of farmers’ distress. The government’s vehement defence of demonetization and the manner in which GST has been implemented are not supported by ground realities. The assault on various institutions in the country has been blatant.

It might be asked if things did not go right, how come Modi was re-elected by an even more impressive mandate in 2019 than 2014. An easy explanation which will be, of course, countered by Modi and his battalions of worshippers is that hyper-nationalism and encouragement to divisiveness paid rich electoral dividends to the ruling party. Undoubtedly, Modi used his skill in playing upon words and oratory of theatric quality to the full. Not for nothing his ‘marketing’ qualities are envied by his rivals. He gets carried away often enough and does not realize that his words lack conviction and sincerity.

The controversy over the selection of Pragya Thakur, an accused in a terror case, for contesting a Lok Sabha seat and speeches made by her and many other BJP leaders strengthen a negative impression of the saffron party among many. She qualified to be a BJP candidate despite talking about her ‘curse’ on a 26/11 martyr and hailing Nathuram Godse as a ‘patriot’. According to a media report, followers of Pragya Thakur (who won the election) raised ‘Godse Zindabad’ slogan at the counting centre in Bhopal.

If that report is true it mocks the strong words that Modi used against the Bhopal Lok Sabha winner: ‘I will never forgive her’ (for hailing Godse). It is odd that when Modi was speaking of Mahatma Gandhi in the Central Hall of Parliament before his party’s newly elected members, Pragya Thakur was in attendance. As a prominent BJP member she is likely to be among the party luminaries who will attend the 150th year celebration of Gandhi’s birthday in October this year.

It may not be wrong to assume that Modi has begun to worry about the bad press that he has been getting in the West. Leading media outlets have been writing things about him and his government which have lowered his standing in the world. He might have been rankled by the Time magazine calling him ‘divider-in-chief’, not because the essay was written by the son of one of his better known admirers but because Modi has been very keen to win over the Americans despite the phase when he was barred from entering the US when he was the Gujarat chief minister.

It will be a good thing if Modi is willing to change his image from being a ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ to a leader of all sections of Indian society. It just might have occurred to him at least that leaders of nations who practice discrimination and are intolerant of political Opposition are looked down upon. In the recent past the Western media has often compared Modi to leaders who are viewed unflatteringly.

- Asian Tribune -

A Modi Speech That Should Have Come Before Polls
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