Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Narendra Modi’s term as Prime Minister. And I, like others in the business of political punditry, spent hours mulling over what he got right and what he got wrong. At the end of much mulling it was his two biggest mistakes that jumped out above all else. These mistakes, in my ever humble opinion, are that he fell into the ‘suit-boot’ trap Congress set for him, so instead of taking India in a new economic direction he stuck to the Congress ‘socialist’ path and started declaring allegiance to the poor and thereby to poverty. To repeat that you love poor people means you are certain there will always be poverty.
Does he remember that four years ago he promised prosperity and not just the alleviation (glorification?) of poverty? Had he remembered, India would today be booming instead of just chugging along as always. Modi added Baba Ramdev lunacies in his quest for ‘black’ money and this revived for me memories of Indira Gandhi days when businessmen were treated as criminals except for those crony capitalists who helped make politicians rich. It was in that time that the dreams of enterprising Indians were crushed under an economic jackboot and the only dream left was a government job.
If only when Rahul Gandhi taunted Modi for running a ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’, he had said that his dream was to ensure that even the poorest Indian some day had enough money to buy suits and boots. It was a clever trap and he fell into it. But, despite his asserting ad nauseum that he cares only for poor people, opposition leaders continue to charge him with caring only for ‘his rich friends’. If he had shown the courage to take a new economic road, he would have spent the money wasted on MNREGA and waiving farmer loans on creating real jobs in rural India and winning in 2019 would have been certain. Indian farmers may even have been competing in the food markets of the world had money spent on welfare schemes like MNREGA been invested in rural industries related to agriculture.
His second big mistake was to allow the Hindutva fanatics in his flock to wander about killing Muslims in the name of saving cows. He remained silent every time there was a new lynching and this the killers took as license. He has spoken against Hindutva killers only twice and both times because they attacked Dalits. So today Muslims are more convinced than ever that they are being made second-class citizens under some sinister plan to create a Hindu Rashtra. They cannot be because they are not a minority community. They are India’s second largest majority community, so if they go to Pakistan, as Hindutva fanatics advise them to, then they would necessarily take with them another huge chunk of Bharat Mata.
When I watched that gathering of our main opposition leaders at the inaugural of the new Chief Minister of Karnataka last week, I wondered if the Prime Minister noticed that this disparate gaggle came together using the excuse of secularism? These were men and women who always warned that if Modi became prime minister he would ensure that Muslims were terrorised and they are delighted that they have been proved right. Had he spoken up when the first Muslim was killed in the name of beef three years ago, there would have been no more killings and the cowardly mobs that wander about videotaping their hideous hate crimes would have dispersed long ago.
Under governments run by our ‘secular’ opposition leaders there have been terrible riots after which when the dead were counted the majority of bodies were almost always Muslims. But, when the riot ended, everyone went back to being tailors, carpenters, electricians or whatever else they were and life went back to normal. Something much more insidious happens when there are hate crimes instead of riots. A climate gets created in which permanently lurks the possibility of violence. This has happened in Muslim communities across India and since this is not something that can be contained, it has seeped into the general atmosphere.
It is not an atmosphere in which you can speak glibly about the ease of doing business and things like that, so it is no surprise that the boom we all hoped for remains elusive. The Prime Minister likes to boast that it is much easier to do business in India now than it ever was. This is not true. If it was, then there should by now have been huge investments in new projects from private investors. It is when private investment begins to happen that millions of jobs will get created and the economy will start to boom. Most problems of caste and creed, hatred and violence will vanish if this ever happens.
This first appeared in print under the headline: Happy fourth birthday?
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