Narendra Modi has made mistakes since he became Prime Minister. Serious ones. And, this column has not hesitated to point them out. But, what I refuse to do is become party to the new narrative of lies being spread by a cabal of leftists, liberals and disgruntled ex-BJP ministers that speaks loudest in the public square. This mostly leftist cabal has had control of the megaphone since 1947, but has used it most effectively in the past four years. The megaphone gets louder by the day now that Modi is seen to be weaker politically than before.
The essence of the new narrative is that Modi has ‘destroyed’ the institutions of democracy and that if he gets a second term he will make sure elections are never held again. These doomsayers appear to have forgotten that this was tried once before by Indira Gandhi and despite press censorship and the suspension of all fundamental rights she could not sustain her dictatorship beyond two years. Luckily for us India is made up of many states, the people of which speak in many tongues. Very rarely do they fight in the same revolution. It is important to remember that after the Emergency the southern states voted for Mrs Gandhi because the effects of the Emergency were not felt there as much as they were in north India.
Now let us examine how many institutions of democracy Modi has succeeded in ‘destroying’ since 2014. Parliament. He is the first Prime Minister in 30 years to have won a full majority and yet it is the Congress party with its handful of MPs who have controlled Parliament’s functioning. If it has seemed mostly non-functional for four years it is because this party’s 44 MPs have made it so. Notice that almost the only time there has been relative quiet in the Lok Sabha was on the day that the Congress President performed his hug and wink charade. So Modi cannot be blamed for not preventing debate on vital laws.
The judiciary. Personally I agree with Fali Nariman, the Supreme Court’s eminence grise, when he says that the day four senior judges called a press conference was a truly black day. Had they gone public to explain why it takes decades for justice to be done in India even in cases of terrorism, murder and rape, they would have deserved a standing ovation. Instead they chose to go public only to complain about not being allowed to decide which judges should be on which bench, while admitting that this was definitely the Chief Justice’s prerogative. That press conference diminished the Supreme Court but the judges were hailed as shining heroes by the cabal described in paragraph one.
The Executive. According to the new narrative Modi is so authoritarian that he does not consult his ministers on matters of grave importance such as national security and the economy. It is his prerogative to consult or not. But, he has not complained when he has been personally blamed for demonetisation and for implementing GST badly. He did not complain when Rahul Gandhi accused him of using demonetisation to ‘steal’ the people’s money only to give it to a ‘handful of his rich friends.’ Nor has he protested when lynchings by cow vigilantes have been blamed on him personally.
The media. He has not held a single press conference or given a single real interview since he became Prime Minister and this has harmed him more than it has harmed the media. I hear from colleagues that they have been called up and threatened when they have written a story that shows the government in a bad light. I have also heard that some editors lost their jobs because of their political views but I also hear every day on television and in the newspapers many, many personal attacks on the Prime Minister. On social media BJP trolls are so partisan and foolishly abusive that it’s clear that Modi’s supposedly sinister social media cell is staggeringly incompetent.
The final charge against Modi is that he is weakening democracy by appointing Hindutva types to positions of importance in universities and other educational institutions. Well, is he going to appoint those people instead who openly call him a fascist? University campuses have been bastions of not just the Left but of the extreme Left ever since I went to college 40 years ago. If there are new voices today on campuses it should be considered a welcome change.
It is worth remembering that when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister similar complaints were made against his HRD Minister all the time. His efforts to paint ancient Hindu India as a place where beef was never eaten were publicly mocked. That is as far as he got with erasing history. More proof that a false narrative always gets found out.