Suddenly last week emerged Leftists of varying hue who have been almost invisible since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. They held press conferences, made angry speeches, went to the Supreme Court with petitions and set up Twitter handles to declare that they were ‘urban Naxals’. This resurgence happened because of the arrest, for reasons that remain obscure, of activists with alleged Maoist sympathies. As someone who believes Maoists should be in the same garbage bin as fascists, I thought at first that the police must have good reason for the arrests. They have so far come up with none. And the Supreme Court has correctly pointed out that dissent is not a crime. The end result is that the Modi government has notched up one more black mark against itself.
Not good. Not good at all if you consider how many black marks have lately become evident.
Demonetisation appears to have failed in its primary objective to unearth black money. It also appears that the economy has not done as well under Modi as it did in the Sonia-Manmohan regime. And, the Prime Minister has failed to show a serious commitment to economic reform and liberalisation. Had he delivered on the promises he made in the speech that launched him onto the national stage, he may have delivered on jobs and prosperity and that would have been his strongest weapon against ‘urban Naxals’.
This speech is the one he made in February 2013, to students of Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce. I accidentally came upon it on the day that ‘urban Naxals’ were being rounded up and their ideological leanings served to remind me why Indian voters gave Modi a full mandate to bring change and prosperity. The central point he made in this speech was that India had achieved ‘swaraj (freedom)’ but not ‘su-raj (governance)’ because of squandered opportunities and resources. He talked of the need for better governance and the importance of ‘making in India’.
The speech was telecast live on most national channels and watched with keen interest in rural India. I only discovered this some weeks later while wandering about villages in Rajasthan to find out if the Bharatiya Janata Party was going to win the Assembly elections due at the end of the year. On this tour what astounded me was the number of young men I met who said they would be voting for Modi. I reminded them that he was not contesting in Rajasthan and they clarified that they meant they would vote for him in the Lok Sabha elections. When I asked why, they said they had heard his speech and liked what they heard. India needs change and development, they said, otherwise people like them could never get proper jobs or hope for a better life.
Many political pundits believe Modi won because of Hindutva. Others because he promised to bring ‘black’ money back from abroad and put Rs 15 lakh in the bank accounts of every Indian. I believe they are wrong. When the campaign began I travelled a lot and did not hear the Ram temple mentioned once or the reckless Rs 15-lakh promise. I believe Modi won because young Indians were tired of the kind of development that Leftist economic policies had bequeathed them.
The embodiment of Leftist economic policies is MGNREGA. It supposedly guarantees jobs but is in fact just dole. It may ‘alleviate’ poverty but can never help poor people rise out of poverty. Modi seemed to know this when he first became Prime Minister. But, instead of replacing MGNREGA with alternative schemes to create real jobs in rural India, he inexplicably invested more and more money in it.
He has continued to ignore his mandate for economic change by investing in other similar schemes. Many started by the Sonia-Manmohan government under the guidance of her extra-constitutional National Advisory Council. The Leftists who constituted it are now back in full fettle. They showed first signs of revival when Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched and his senseless murder so incensed writers, poets and artistes that they returned their awards. But, award-wapsi petered out. Now they are weaponising the ‘urban Naxal’ arrests and they may well succeed in giving us a government in Delhi next year made up of socialist parties, who believe private enterprise is evil and the economy is safest in the hands of officials.
It is my considered opinion that if Modi fails to win another term it is because he forgot his own promise to set a new economic course for India. He forgot that he used to once say that India must start dreaming of more than alleviating poverty. It must start to dream of prosperity. Had he stayed on course I have no doubt that both urban and rural Naxalites would now have been on their way to extinction.