Modi’s Vic­tory to Hide His Weak­nesses

If Modi has to break free of past im­age, he needs to make him­self vis­i­ble in places he does not nor­mally go

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - NILANJAN MUKHOPAD­HYAY

There are two ways to make an en­try into In­dia’s po­lit­i­cal cen­tre stage: from ei­ther the Left or the Right. But to stay firm on the plat­form, gov­ern­ments and its lead­ers have moved to the cen­tre. So would Modi have to per­force make a lat­eral move sim­i­lar to the one made by his party in 1998? Be­ing more a po­lit­i­cal prag­ma­tist than a zealot, Modi would make this tran­si­tion in the nor­mal course un­less there is greater po­lit­i­cal div­i­dend in adopt­ing a more stri­dent pos­ture than he has done in the course of his elec­tion cam­paign. De­spite fears of in­creased in­ter-com­mu­nity tem­per­a­ture in the im­me­di­ate aftermath of Modi’s as­cen­dance it is un­likely that he would want to so­cially ig­nite the Gangetic Plains. Modi’s man­date has been built on the prom­ise of el­e­vated lev­els of de­vel­op­ment, more ef­fi­cient forms of gov­er­nance, putting the econ­omy back on tracks, elim­i­nat­ing a sys­tem that nur­tures cor­rup­tion and pro­vid­ing more jobs. The man­date has also been built around the be­lief that though Modi’s govern­ment will not run on prin­ci­ples of re­li­gious ma­jori­tar­i­an­ism, he is not ini­ti­at­ing im­me­di­ate steps to re­dress grievances of re­li­gious mi­nori­ties. But Modi has evolved in the course of the cam­paign from the one who bran­dished his Al­pha Male im­age at a rally in Go­rakh­pur to one who re­ferred to Varanasi’s syn­cretism. So will Modi make that elu­sive grand ges­ture? An an­swer to this can be pro­vided by Modi alone, and mak­ing as­sump­tions is haz­ardous. It de­pends if in his as­sess­ment, af­ter hav­ing won votes, he needs to win hearts. But as a reader of pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios, there is lit­tle chance of Modi ei­ther ex­press­ing pub­lic re­gret for events in 2002 or for him to wear a skull cap and pay obei­sance at a Dar­gah. Dur­ing the last dra­matic day of his cam­paign at Varanasi, he was dis­al­lowed from ad­dress­ing a meet in a pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim area, Beniya Bagh. But Modi was not go­ing there to win hearts and in­stead ap­proach­ing with the in­tent of con­quer­ing. If Modi has to break free of his past im­age, he needs to make him­self vis­i­ble in places he does not nor­mally go to. As prime min­is­ter Modi has to de­cide if in­creased ghet­toi­sa­tion of our towns and cities is good for the coun­try. If he con­cludes in the neg­a­tive, then he could con­sider vis­it­ing even Juha­pura the well known Mus­lim ghetto on the out­skirts of Ahmed­abad or Sig­nal Falia, the in­fa­mous Godhra colony. How Modi po­si­tions him­self vis-à-vis will de­ter­mine his ap­proach to the ag­grieved com­mu­ni­ties. Though Modi will no longer face the chal­lenge of man­ag­ing a coali­tion, he will be up against him­self greatly when it comes to ca­jol­ing other par­ties to of­fer sup­port in Ra­jya Sabha, cru­cial for pass­ing key leg­is­la­tions. His per­son­al­ity pre­cludes the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing per­sua­sive with re­luc­tant sup­port­ers. This vic­tory will prob­a­bly hide sev­eral of Modi’s weak­nesses and know­ing him he would not use this respite to ad­dress those. Modi’s vic­tory is the big­gest news to have em­anated from In­dia in a long while and has pre­dictably been an­tic­i­pated keenly the world over. Most would ap­pre­hend a re­play of 2002 and the be­gin­ning of a reign of sup­pres­sion of the mi­nori­ties. But, his govern­ment is un­likely to al­low such de­vel­op­ments to emerge as hur­dles in the path of gov­er­nance and de­vel­op­ment. In the course of the cam­paign, Modi came down fairly heav­ily on the fringe el­e­ment in his own po­lit­i­cal fra­ter­nity. This should set the tone to­wards deesca­lat­ing so­cial ten­sion and in­ter-com­mu­nity con­flict. He will have to ad­dress Mus­lim anx­i­ety some­thing that he has not done. The world will also look keenly at Modi’s neigh­bour­hood pol­icy es­pe­cially given the as­sorted state­ments he made on Pak­istan and Sri Lanka be­sides the com­mit­ment to con­sult states while for­mu­lat­ing for­eign pol­icy. As far as In­dia’s western neigh­bour is con­cerned, this mas­sive man­date en­ables him to pick up threads of Indo-Pak ties from a po­si­tion of strength. With the United States warm­ing up to a Modi-led regime, he will utilise diplo­matic routes to lever­age this into his ad­van­tage while deal­ing with Is­lam­abad. The greater than ex­pected man­date was prob­a­bly not an­tic­i­pated by any­one save the man him­self and his core team. In this sce­nario, he prob­a­bly would have a game plan worked out. But it would be a tragedy if Modi al­lows hate and dis­like to de­rail the chance he has got to emerge as one of the most sig­nif­i­cant lead­ers in In­dian po­lit­i­cal his­tory. Modi’s track record has been the worst when it comes tack­ling dis­sent. But to make In­dia feel proud once again, he has to give people the con­fi­dence to be able to op­pose him. Modi needs to prove that he be­lieves in what he re­cently said - that he dis­likes people who level al­le­ga­tions against him but re­gards those who eval­u­ate him crit­i­cally. When he is not ad­dress­ing key pol­icy is­sues, he will be up against him­self.

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