Now that Narendra Modi has been declared the BJP’s poll campaign chairman (effectively its Prime Minister candidate if he can lead them to a majority or a strong position), it’s time for the voter to decide whether Modi is the person he or she wants running the country.
Since you’ve read till here, I’ll assume this topic interests you and you may have already given it some thought. You might even be pro-Modi. But there are certain things you need to reconsider before you give him your all-important vote. Here are three reasons you might want to change your mind:
Are you the kind of person who likes free laptops from the government? Or a farmer who thinks free electricity is his birthright? Or a VHP worker who’s looking forward to the time of his life once Modi, the “saffron poster-boy” is in power? Or someone who belongs to the same caste as him and expects all the perks that that entails?
In that case, Modi’s not the man for you.
The Gujarat government’s Jyotigram Yojana did away with free electricity for a lot of farmers, instead ensuring continuous, constant supply. In fact, as this article (written just before the 2007 assembly elections) notes,
… more than 1,30,000 people — mostly farmers — have been raided and fined for power theft over the last five years. More than 2,000 farmers have been jailed for power theft and related crimes. Many of them were Bharatiya Janata Party or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh supporters who form the backbone of the anti-Modi campaign in Saurashtra region.
And they didn’t stop that even in an election year! Further, he has been known for giving meagre subsidies to farmers (a fact which the Congress exploits fully come election time), and even increases the tariffs with increase in production costs. What an anti-farmer government!
In an election year, not one politician dares to antagonize the communities he or she enjoys the support of. Whether it be the khap panchayats of Haryana who think chowmein causes rapes, or some Muslim communities who believe madrasas are a viable alternative to primary schooling, there always exist politicians who mollycoddle them. Forget election years, even in lazy, fodder-guzzling years no one asks them to start changing their views. Not Modi. Scarcely a year away from the all-important 2012 election, which Keshubhai Patel and the Leuva Patels (actively supported by the Bharatiya Kisan Singh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, whose reasons for being miffed with Modi are evident in the preceding and succeeding paragraphs respectively) were all set to spoil for Modi, he addressed a gathering of Kadva Patels (the other Patel sub-caste, who many assumed would side with the BJP if the Leuvas went with Keshubhai), and asked them to stop killing female foetuses. Yes, read that again. He actually told them to get their act together and bring the sex ratio back to natural levels. He went on to admonish them again a few months later (and hence closer to the election) when the Keshubhai cacophony was nearing supersonic levels.
The most oft-heard description of Modi is that he’s a “Hindutva hardliner”, “anti-Muslim”, “communal” or “saffron poster-boy”. To people who’ve not been to Gujarat in the past ten years, it must seem like Nazi Germany, complete with Muslims forced to wear identification and living only in ghettos and the whole shebang. Logical might be the conclusion that “goons” of the VHP-Bajrang Dal-RSS variety must be roaming free on streets, raping and pillaging in Muslim areas. Those people couldn’t be more wrong. The VHP in Gujarat is alienated from Modi because he does not allow its leaders to have their say at any level of government, and does not accord them any special status or respect. In fact, several of his government’s actions, such as demolition of illegal temples and demands in the courts for death penalty for 2002 riot convicts (many of them VHP or Bajrang Dal members) have rattled the VHP, many of whose cadres actually campaigned against the BJP in both 2007 and 2012.
It is becoming more common knowledge today, but three successive assembly elections have been fought in Gujarat without a majority of the people even knowing the caste of their Chief Minister. As a usually anti-Modi columnist grudgingly admits,
… he is not a caste-based leader. Like Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee, and unlike Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar and Mayawati, Modi’s electoral popularity does not come from belonging to a community. Modi is a Ghanchi from the OBC caste of oil pressers called teli in the north. It is not numerically significant in Gujarat in electoral terms, and not a votebank he can rely on. In any case he neither makes reference to it, nor does he have the reputation for promoting fellow Ghanchis.
There. No caste benefits.
Even Modi’s own relatives don’t have any great reasons for voting him in. He does not give them cheap land nor does he miraculously absolve their businesses of their tax evasions. In fact, all of them lead extremely ordinary lives. To top it all, one of his brothers is a ration association dealer who frequently campaigns against the government and another is a low-level clerk in Modi’s own government (he joined long before Modi became the CM, just in case the words “plum job” were about to enter your head)! Take a look at this video:
Well, you could argue they’ve hidden away the Porsche bought from money meant for tribals or something, but look at that house!
Lastly, if you’re Robert Vadra, you most probably won’t vote for him. If you were the only person mentioned explicitly by name on a particular list, you wouldn’t want to lose that privilege, would you?
Do you work in the mainstream television or print media and hope for a Padma Shri or Rajya Sabha seat? Does your media house rely on government tenders and advertisements of the “All hail His Highness Rajiv Gandhi, inventor of the internet, on the 50th anniversary of some insignificant event in his life” breed to stay afloat? Do you run an NGO for peace and and communal harmony which ostensibly works for those things and surreptitiously transfers funds to causes like Maoism and expanding your personal wealth? Are you someone who believes in ethics and morality and ideals like secularism and democracy, and somehow manages to find the Congress a paragon of all these? Are you an academic or a historian of the Left-liberal variety, who claims that the root of all evil is Hinduism and the “Brahmin-Bania nexus”, and their “oppression” of the lower castes, so that a low-caste leader actually proud of being a Hindu finally becoming the country’s Prime Minister on a popular wave would shatter your perceptions of Indian society? Are you in charge of a Christian evangelist organization (or the USCIRF itself) which gets away with its reprehensible activities because it pretends to be working for human rights and religious freedom? Are you a politician paying lip service to all castes and religions come election time, and then sleeping for five years, who are now afraid that if people see a public servant who actually works for them, you’re going to get battered?
In short, if the main goal (and source of livelihood) in your life in independent India has been to oppose the likes of Modi at every possible opportunity, and if his becoming the PM - not only without your support but also after fighting successfully against your incessant lies, insults and abuses - would deprive you of that livelihood, you should do well to vote against him, and also incite your readers, followers and sundry to do the same.
Anyone who’s been closely watching Modi for the last few years must be aware of his pet phrase, “Minimum government, maximum governance”.
A very common notion in India’s democracy is that a government rules over the country. This is, as pointed out here, a legacy of British rule and the governments we have had in independent India, which the author calls “British Raj 2.0″. To quote him:
In the US, they say the “Bush administration” or the “Clinton administration”; in India, it is the “Congress rule” or the “BJP rule”.
Administration and rule are different functions. In the former, the government is a means employed by the people to achieve goals that are essentially set by the people. In principal-agent terms, the people are the principal and the government is merely their agent. In this scheme, the people invest the government with certain limited powers to achieve specific goals. The government is like the driver who gets to drive the car but where the car is going is decided by the owner of the car. The driver is only nominally in charge of the car but the person really in control of the car isn’t the driver.
In contrast to the “administration” type of government, in India we have the “rule” type of government. The government rules over the people. The people are restricted by the government to only specific tasks. The people obey what the government orders. While it’s true that people choose the government but the choice they have is the choice of a slave about whom to serve, not the choice of being the master.
The coming of Modi would mean a transition from the “rule” type of government to the “administration” type. A government which allows citizens to do what they want, facilitates their aspirations and moves out of the way, not the mai-baap style of socialism followed by the country so far. Modi will not come up with gargantuan employment guarantee schemes that rob the country in the name of social welfare, fill the pockets of middlemen and actually encourage people to not do any productive work, thus ensuring their continued dependence on the system, the perpetuation of the system and therefore the relevance of the scheme-makers themselves.
Gone will be the days where months are required to get official clearances for even the smallest of businesses; gone will be the days where a handful of “social activists” can decide the economic policies of the nation, the days where the welfare of the poor will depend solely on benevolent handouts from the powers that be; gone will be the days where village students get free laptops but no electricity to run them on.
Modi believes in the spirit and the aspirations of Indians. He believes that an Indian is capable of achieving what he desires, if given a little push and a few basic resources from the government. To quote this article from India Today,
He seems to know where to focus the energies and resources of government. There are no freebies on offer in Gujarat but there is plenty of government investment in physical infrastructure, like power, roads and irrigation, precisely the opposite of what UPA does. For all the criticism of his authoritarian manner, Modi is perfectly willing to let the private sector free of government control. Where clearances are mandatory, he gets them done without fuss. He is liberal with foreign investors, unlike the BJP which suffers from frequent bouts of xenophobia.
If you are a bureaucrat who revels in red tape and delays in clearances (and the cash inflows they lead to); or a politician who’s only game-plan is to keep promising the world to the poor, give them enough to make them feel you’re doing something but not so much as to actually get them out of poverty, thus ensuring they’re permanently devoted to you; or a member of the media, the government or an NGO who thinks everything in India must be managed from Delhi; it is this quality about Modi that would scare you and compel you to press any button other than the one with the lotus.
It is this attitude that helped the Gujarat government under Modi empower local governments to themselves solve their problems of water supply and irrigation with proactive (yet minimal) State government intervention. It is this attitude that makes Modi wary of the Centre’s attempts at destabilizing the federal structure of our country with its policies to make the states powerless. It is this attitude that has let business, both large and small, flourish in Gujarat, with minimum intervention from the government. His is a government that facilitates, not one that constrains.
To close, I quote again from the India Today article:
The sources of growth must now come from within India, but outside Government.
For this, India needs a radical new leadership. Unfortunately, Delhi’s entrenched political establishment, irrespective of party, is unlikely to provide such a leader, simply because it benefits the most from the status quo. That is precisely why the national leaderships of both Congress and BJP fear Narendra Modi. He has positioned himself as the ultimate anti-establishment candidate who can end business-as-usual at the Centre. He is increasingly seen as someone who can address the biggest crisis of India: Bad, unresponsive, government.
So, be very, very careful while casting your vote. You might inadvertently end up electing someone who’ll actually take the country forward and lead it to peace and prosperity.