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PM Modi’s ‘New India’

PM Modi’s ‘New India’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to transform India from Nehruvian to Modiean, which is tantamount to a radical departure from what India characterizes and represents. Mr  Modi visualizes something  which he calls ‘New India’.  To achieve this dream, he has to demolish the principles and ideals that the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and others visualized and articulated — a secular, inclusive, socialistic, free and democratic country.  Nonetheless, since 2014, there has been a radical swing and revival of political engagement. The episodes that we have been witnessing are gradually pushing the government machinery and electoral politics towards this vision. Hence, it is important to take note of the changing contours of the current political landscape.

Modiean ‘New India’ is radically different from and diametrically opposed to Nehruvian India. Unless and until Mr Modi demolishes the canvas of Nehruvian conceptions of India, Modiean conception of ‘New India’ shall never be realized. Therefore, in the last three years, the BJP, the RSS and other fringe outfits were systematically pushing his ideas of ‘New India’ via programmes and schemes, narratives and electoral politics. BJP has established its rule in more than a dozen States either on its own or in alliance with other parties. Modi-Shah combine is bent on taking over the rest in due course.  The Prime Minister is determined to change the basic  structure of India. The country is made up of  diverse cultures, races, tribes, castes, languages  and religious communities.  The core of India’s ethos and existential value-premise are rooted in plurality.

Modiean India does not believe in plurality and multiplicity, but it is embedded in majoritarian religio-cultural edifice. Accordingly, the BJP has chosen Yogi Adityanath, the head of the Gorakhnath Mutt (a monastic order), as the Chief Minister of  Uttar Pradesh,  which is going to play a pivotal role in  Indian politics. His elevation  would certainly change the current template of Indian politics radically. This is due to Yogi’s strong credentials as the principal polarizer and proponent of majoritarian-minoritarian politics. Yogi has been winning Lok Sabha elections from Gorakhpur since 1998.  After his elevation as the Chief Minister,  he is part of the nucleus of the BJP-RSS caucus which  has the capacity to translate and execute the vision and ideals of Modi’s  ‘New India’.

Mr  Modi’s narrative revolves around ‘development agenda’ that he highlighted in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Since then, he  encapsulated the slogan “ Sabka saath, sabka vikas(“with everyone, development for all”) which he used  in UP elections , but failed to stick to it  by choosing  Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister.  The slogan of “Sabka saath sabka vikas’’ gave way to  frenzied cries of “Jai Shri Ram” and “UP mein rahena ho toh Yogi Yogi kahena hoga” as Yogi took oath as the Chief Minister. Anointing the Hindutva hawk and founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini at the helm of affairs in UP was a “conscious decision” by the RSS. Uttar Pradesh is going to be the centre of India’s religio-cultural epitome.

One of the main things that Yogi is expected to focus on is the construction of  Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya. The climate is ripe for the temple construction as the Chief Justice of India has also expressed his willingness to mediate the issue for which the BJP-RSS combine has given its consent. But what is needed is not mediation, but a verdict as per the law and evidence before the court.  It is believed that the BJP-RSS combine  would galvanize the majority of the Hindu community in BJP’s favour before the 2019 General Elections. For this they needed a strong Hindutva logo, and Yogi has been assigned the job.

The BJP-RSS combine has reiterated and endorsed its notions on Hinduism:  “India is for Hindus and therefore it believes in Hindu Rashtra”.  Yogi will now aggressively pursue BJP-RSS notions on Hindutva and Hindu nationalism. He is  known for ‘ghar wapsi’ and ‘love jihad’ campaigns. He is  the mahant of Gorakhnath Mutt temple  since 2014 which is the only Thakur Peeth in the country. He is known for anti-minority inflammatory rhetoric. He heads Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Bajrang Dal-style militia. He believes in exclusionary, sectarian and divisive politics. His rhetoric includes: “If one Hindu is killed, we won’t go to the police, we’ll kill 10 Muslims”; “Mother Teresa was part of a conspiracy for Christianization of India”; “If they take one Hindu girl, we’ll take 100 Muslim girls”. After taking charge of UP,  Yogi went to Lok Sabha by virtue of being its member and was cheered with cries of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Bharat Mata ki jai”.  None raised any objections.

BJP-RSS combine has sent out a clear message to those who believe in inclusive and tolerant India by making Yogi the Chief Minister. Uttar Pradesh voted for change and Yogi Adityanath personifies that change. Development is being used as a mask, but the content and essence of it at the ground level is towards Hindu majoritarian consolidation. Development for BJP-RSS centers around Ram Mandir and Hindu majoritarianism. This is what we are going to witness from a man who is committed to Hindu Rashtra agenda and thus subscribes to Hindutva ideology.

Yogi has been a Hindu chief priest, fiery hate-speech orator, known for divisive politics. He  would certainly wait for the right time  for the construction of Ram Mandir and in the meantime sow the seeds of hatred as well as woo people so that Ram Mandir will become a reality. Yogi would use diverse forms, means and methods.  He would, under the directions and guidance of Shah-Modi, go ahead and complete his task.  

Mr Modi has now become the winnable symbol for the party and he knows how to mesmerize people with his narratives, particularly ‘development’. The next move of Mr Modi will probably be to implement BJP’s 2014 manifesto on Ram Mandir. For that purpose he  has been using the term ‘development’ more persuasively.  Many seem to have been outraged at the selection of Yogi as the UP Chief Minister.  But those who support him say that Yogi has a mandate. The people of UP gave their mandate to Mr Modi and not to Yogi. Further, what is that mandate? He says that he is confident that “the state will march on the path of development.” What type of development and how is he going to bring about that development? For him, development means Hindu Rashtra, ban on cow slaughter, shutting down slaughter houses, establishing anti-Romeo squads and so on. 

Yogi Adityanath has fused religion and state. By becoming the Chief Minister, religion and state have converged in him. Religion and state have begun to  play complimentary and mutually supportive roles. We have Mr  Modi at the Centre and  Yogi at the State. We will be witnessing choruses and chants in the Parliament and legislative Assemblies in the coming months and years. The soul of India’s democracy (Parliament) recently witnessed a Hindu chanting.  Is it the beginning of the end of plural India?

Mr Modi and Yogi should show to the people  what type of development they are planning for the country?  India has further been pushed down to 131st rank  in Human Development Index. With his powerful rhetoric and narratives, Mr Modi mesmerizes the masses by using the term ‘development’.  In fact, India has not moved up, rather it is moving down in human development.  

India’s Constitution offers many rights:  right to worship, right to express, right to movement anywhere, etc. But most of the time, citizens face problems at the ground level. Our parliamentary and representative democracy exposes its ingrained shallowness. Our democratic fabric is inadequately prepared when it comes to implementation.  

There are many members of Parliament and State Assemblies who face serious criminal charges. The new UP Chief Minister also faces a number of criminal cases. He has openly challenged rights and privileges extended to the minorities and Dalits.

Our democracy allows people charged with criminal cases to become MPs, MLAs,  CMs and Ministers. Does our Constitution provide mechanisms to stop any move to convert the country into a theocratic state?  In the given context, we need to look at this issue seriously as the present government is using democratic principles and provisions to establish theocracy. Let us go back in world history and flip through pages where we are reminded of how democracy had paved way for fascism, oligarchy, dictatorships and totalitarian governments.  

The BJP-RSS combine is using our democratic framework to realize Hindu theocratic state. Brute majority is more than sufficient in this endeavour. Our democracy allows the winning party or coalition to select any member of the legislature/Parliament as CM/PM irrespective of his/her credentials vis-à-vis strong fundamentalist religious position. Do our law and Constitution provide any safeguards against this? Some may argue that it would be a violation of the fundamental right to representation of a religious group. BJP could use its massive majority to initiate constitutional changes well before 2019 or forcibly impose a theocratic rule. Reasons and logic shall never prevail when it comes to usurpation of power.

(Published on 03rd April 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 14)#