The Prime Minister tried in Parliament last week to list the achievements of his government in the past four years, but nobody seemed to be listening. Political journalism in today’s India is steered by prime-time chat shows, so there was chatter instead about a Congress lady MP’s mocking cackle during the Prime Minister’s speech. And, there was talk about why Narendra Modi spent so much time in his very long speeches denouncing the Congress party.
It was a mistake to do this even if the handful of Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha screeched slogans throughout his speech. It was disgraceful behaviour but strategic disruption. It fits the story that the newest Gandhi to inherit the Congress party is hoping to win the next general election on. This story has a single premise. This premise is that Modi has failed to deliver ‘achhe din’ and has instead made life for the average Indian worse. The Dynasty has many loyal servants in the media and in leftist intellectual circles so this narrative began to unfold in newspaper commentary last week.
If the Prime Minister is upset about this, and he seems to be, then he should spend some time mulling over why the grand achievements he spoke of in his speeches in Parliament have gone mostly unnoticed. He could begin by asking himself why he allowed one of his party leaders last week to declare that there was no room for Muslims in India. Vinay Katiyar also said that the Taj Mahal must be demolished because it has been built on the foundations of an ancient Hindu temple. This second plan is easier to implement than ethnically cleansing India of nearly 200 million Muslims. In any case it harms Modi personally every time one of his MPs spouts this kind of rubbish in public.
While mulling over why his government’s achievements have gone unnoticed, the Prime Minister should also ask himself if this is not because of hate crimes in the name of Hindutva and craziness in the name of our sacred cows. Has he noticed that his chosen chief minister of Uttar Pradesh announced plans to turn jails into cow shelters? Then, why not the fine bungalows in Lucknow that house elected and unelected officials? Why not Rashtrapati Bhavan and all of Lutyens Delhi?
It could be time for the Prime Minister to notice that in the name of saving cows he has alienated Dalit communities across India and not just Muslims. Has he noticed that millions of jobs in dairy farming and in the leather and meat industries have been destroyed because of the cow craziness unleashed in the past four years? Has he noticed that this reverence for the sacred cow is confined to upper caste Hindus and not to Hindus in general?
The truth is that if the Hindu vote got consolidated in favour of the BJP in 2014, it was entirely because of slogans that promised not just better days but change and development for all Indians. The average Indian was sick of electing a political party that had been reduced to a private limited company by a Dynasty that did more for itself than for India. If the mood has now changed enough for Rahul Gandhi to be seen as a credible future prime minister by voters in Gujarat and Rajasthan, then it is mostly because too many BJP chief ministers have allowed their obsession with cows and their hatred of Muslims to take precedence over the agenda for change that Modi promised. This has harmed the personal credibility of the Prime Minister.
It does not help that the only serious economic reform we have seen in the past four years has been the implementation of GST, and it has so far been implemented badly. Demonetisation was dramatic disruption rather than an economic reform, and so far it appears to have done more harm to the economy than good. If by now we had seen major reforms like the privatisation at least of unprofitable government hotels and airlines and some attempt at reducing government spending on itself, then it would have been easier to overlook the hatred and hysteria that have spread in the name of Hindutva.
As things stand, the political future when seen from the vantage point of the Prime Minister must look pretty bleak. But, it is going to look a lot bleaker if he believes that delving into historical wrongs that may or may not have been committed by past Congress governments is going to make voters give him another full majority. Millions of young Indians constitute a large portion of the electorate and they are more interested in the future than in the past. They are more interested in improving their abysmal standards of living in the near future than in the glories of ancient Hindu India.
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