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Abhinav Pandya

In search of a credible opposition

In the entire Karnataka election drama, the most exciting part was the swearing-in ceremony. The ceremony presented the so-called opposition for 2019 elections that India had lacked after the sad demise of Congress in 2014. The exciting picture that featured Mayawati, Mamta, Soniya, Rahul, Yechury Ji, Akhilesh and Lalu Ji with his absentee participation, is doing rounds in the intellectual and journalistic world as a revival of democracy after the four years of dark-age of the alleged suppression of dissent and free-speech.

To begin with, I would like to state that I am not at all surprised with the decorated qualified and educated intellectuals, academicians, former bureaucrats coming out with the most devious form of intellectual dishonesty in analyzing the performance of the Modi government over the last four years. However, exposing their intellectual deceit and chicanery deserves another detailed article or rather a complete monograph. Given the constraints of word limits, my focus in this article will be the objective and nuanced analysis of the performance of Modi government and the claims of so-called opposition.

First and foremost, the significant change that occurred in the last four years is the change of culture. I come from a family of civil servants, and in my interface with government officially and unofficially, I feel that there has been a genuine and a sea-change in the work culture of the government, including the ministers. Over the last 70 years, a culture of a client-patron relationship, red-tapism and avoidance had percolated deep into the workings of the government. Government offices symbolized arrogant and king-like babus and ministers whose whims and fancies ran the country. Nepotism, muscle-power, political and financial clout could help get your way through the corridors of power. And, in the official intellectual discourse, the idealistic jargon words of secularism and socialism reigned supreme which could be distorted most frustratingly to silence even the most reasonable criticism.

In the current government, the babus whiling away time on golf-courses is a rare sight. Babus run away from central postings now. The ministers like General VK Singh, Pawan Goyal, Nirmala Sitaraman and Manohar Parikkar are an altogether different breed. General VK Singh was searching the streets of Yemen on foot to rescue the Indian workers there when Saudis attacked Yemen. One can see a distinct sense of professionalism in the present functioning of the ministries, their social media presence and sensitivity to public grievances. Mr. Muley, the current overseas secretary of India, certainly deserves the epithet of the “Passport-Man of India” has traveled across the country to set-up Passport Sewa Kendra in tiny and remote districts of India. Getting a passport is now more comfortable than getting a driving license. The days when commission agents fleeced the applicants, and an organized network of graft ran from the bottom to top are over now.

The passport reform mentioned above is just one example of the governance becoming people-friendly, comfortable and convenient.  There can be many others. In Delhi, the old days when commission agents who got work done through ministries with kick-backs are a rare sight now. I am not saying that such malpractices have been wiped out, but yes, a significant dent has been made at least in the culture and mindset that encouraged red-tapism, delay in decision-making, institutionalized corruption, nepotism, client-patron nexus and an organized system of graft.

The measures such as demonetization and GST have several drawbacks such as a poor forethought, inefficient implementation, lack of a long-term vision, but we all have to agree that this needed to be done long back. There may be implementation failures, but the intent was good. Today when the world community is talking of a revolution of artificial intelligence in the global economy, how we can remain stuck in a pre-digitalization era and cash-based economy. In fact, these measures were long overdue. Previous governments should have brought them, but they hardly had time from devising politically correct, spineless and hollow schemes like communal violence bill and food security bill. Besides, Pakistan was pumping millions of fake currency notes in the country, so it had to be stopped somehow, and in those circumstances, demonetization was the best answer. And, one can see after demonetization the incidents of stone-pelting have come down in the valley, and cash-strapped militants are looting banks in desperation.

Similarly, if India wants to keep a pace with global economic giants like China, then reforms in taxation system are a must. GST was a much-needed reform, and in future, we will need many more such initiatives like the abolition of income tax, etc. if India has to become a business-friendly country that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation.

The most significant achievement of the Modi government lies in the domain of strategic culture and foreign policy. India always lacked a robust strategic culture, and as a result of the public opinion hardly reflected any understanding of external and internal threats. Though we have not succeeded for the first time, it appears that India has a strong leadership which has a consistent policy on Pakistan and separatism in Kashmir. Modi’s line that terror and talks can’t go together, and the water and blood can’t flow together has proved useful in conveying a strong message to Pakistan. It is a miserable situation that some Indian politicians and journos questioned the authenticity of the surgical strikes and failed to understand its strategic significance. Pakistan continued to bleed India for 18 long years with its nuclear threat, that was fake and hollow. Our strategic community failed to understand this. The surgical strikes busted Pakistan’s nuclear threat, and today the country stands vulnerable to surgical strokes in future. Tomorrow, if India bombs the Lashkar headquarters in Muridke, then frankly speaking Pakistan does not have a broad range of options except a complete denial.

Modi government deserves due credit for diplomatically isolating Pakistan. And, finally, India has succeeded in countering the propaganda war of Pakistan. The country is well-known as a state sponsor of global terrorism and in the next month, will be grey-listed by Financial Action Task Force, global terror watchdog, for terrorist funding activities.

Besides, India’s tough stand on Doklam has for the moment given a bad taste to China. Overall, a strategic culture has evolved in India and, in my opinion, that is the sound foundation for India’s emergence as a global military, intelligence, and economic power.

Further, it is often alleged that during Modi government communalism has increased and Hindutva extremism has taken a sharp upward trajectory. Now to this, I would like to say that let us admit, India was always a communal country. Most horrifying and bloody communal riots have taken place even in the rule of non-BJP governments such as the Moplah riots (1920), Bhagalpur massacre (1989), Nellie massacre (1983) and Gujarat riots (1969) were not instigated by Modi and RSS.  We have to be honest enough to admit that the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India has a long history that goes back to the year 712 AD when Arabs conquered Sind. Temple demolitions, forced conversions, rapes, and genocides of Hindus have left a broad sense of hatred and fear in the collective sub-conscious of Hindus in India. And, it can be seen in the fact that Christianity that arrived effectively in the 18th century with the British has integrated well into the Indian society. Hindu-Christian marriages are common. However, the case with Islam is different. Even after a stay of more than 1000 years, the relations between Hindus and Muslims are tensed. The Modi government must be given a due appreciation for containing the wahabbi radicalization of Muslims in India and emphasizing the need to protect the liberal Sufi Islam in India.

Further, in the last four years, no major terrorist attack has taken place. No major scam has taken place. Inflation has gone down except for the prices of petrol. Even the petrol prices have not seen a drastic hike.

I presented all the facts mentioned above because as a voter I want to know what claims does the honorable opposition has. Well, Indian voter has not forgotten the fact that it was the team of Rahul Gandhi and Chidambaram that fabricated the idea of “Hindu-terrorism” and peddled false conspiracy theories to suit their narrow political interests. The voter has also not forgotten the series of bomb-blasts that had taken place in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Ajmer, and Malegaon, and the Manmohan government was least bothered. When Pakistan bled Mumbai on 26th November 2008, the Congress government neither had the guts nor the capacity to teach Pakistan a lesson. And, yes a quick recap also brings back memories of coal scandal, spectrum scandal and an endless series of corruption.

When Mamta Banerjee stakes her claim to a position of power in Delhi, one immediately gets remained of the jihadi hubs that are flourishing in Nadia and Malda allegedly under her patronage. One also gets remained of the fact that she keeps a calculated silence while Rohingyas are populating the border areas in Kalimpong district, presenting a grave threat to national security. Gundaraj, corruption and cheating mafias that prospered during the SP government are not a secret anymore.

Finally, I would like to say that the fundamental question is of trust. And, masses may be unhappy and even angry with Modi, but fortunately, they don’t trust the opposition that includes the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Mamta, Sitaram Yechury, and Akhilesh. The same thing happened in the US. Hillary Clinton despite the entire army of media and intellectuals backing her, lost the election because the people had no faith in her.

Modi may not be the most honest one or even the most efficient one, but with his intent and work, he has been successful in establishing that emotional connection with the people of India. And, when intellectuals and journalists peddle false and devious allegations on Modi of robbing an ordinary man, suppressing free speech and persecuting Dalits the ordinary people get even more sympathetic towards Modi. For example, if an eminent scholar like Ram Chandra Guha says that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was the reason Masood Azhar  (the terrorist who was released after Kandhar plane hijack) became a terrorist, then the common man is not expected to take that allegation seriously. The left-liberal intellectuals, academicians, politicians, and journalists have lost the faith of a common man because they thrived on the appeasement of Islamic extremism, denigration of Hindu culture and the distortion of history to suit their narrative of secularism that has most often verged on pandering to Islamic extremism and the conversion activities of the Church . And, when Congress stalwarts like Mani Shankar Aiyar and Salman Khurshid visit Pakistan labeling Modi as the biggest stumbling block in Indo-Pak peace, then nothing remains to be explained. The common man of India then goes to the “chaywala” who can at least speak in his language and sentiments.


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