Interpreting our official right turn
Referendum 2014 is India’s redesignation as a rightwing nation, in clear and unorthodox terms. It has been made out to be a mandate on economic freedom, on choosing the right to prosperity over the drubbings of conscience, on the mass ambition of coming out of poverty boobytraps and create new swathes of affluence. Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has scored a historic win not only because the margin has been phenomenally high, but also because this victory will rewrite the contours of India’s economic trajectory in ways unseen since the opening up of Indian economy in 1991 by PV Narasimha Rao-led Congress government at the centre.
The realities then and the realities now don’t exactly mirror each other, but have striking similarities. The underlining of economic freedom, at least the dream of monetary parity not as a matter of governmental grant but civic right, has been Narendra Modi’s unique selling point.
The 284 seat share in 16th Lok Sabha means the economic agenda of the NDA, under Modi, will move full speed towards a direction that is, in all likelihood, at a tangent to UPA’s decade-long experiment will slow capitalism. It is ironical that the Congress party, responsible for ushering in political and economic reorientations, by liberalising trade and investment, has lost its hold on the growth and development plank, and has handed it over, lock stock and barrel, to Narendra Modi.
The paradigm shift in the polity indicates that in 21st century, voters are moving towards an unexpected ideological homogeneity. Call it globalisation or numbing effects of mass media, identity politics, kept alive by those simmering at the margins, has been left behind in pursuit of happiness, or whatever the dream merchants or New India want us to believe in.
Since the electoral trouncing is an incontrovertible fact, perhaps it is important to understand that India now, also overwhelmingly India young, has chosen to discard cultural memory for mercantile mammary. It is an explosive experiment, but it is the mood of the moment. While the economic contingencies might put a lid on socio-political fault lines, even weld them together and push to surface new tectonic plates of trade routes, leaving the issues unaddressed might create an underbelly of deep regret.
Modi’s vision of big business holding India’s hand to help it cross over to the new horizon must not mean those who are working for ideas beyond individual prosperity and towards collective, inclusive, environmentally-sustainable, non-discriminatory modes of development, are sidelined. In other words, majoritarianism, despite Modi’s distancing of himself from the ideology, must be completely done away with.
Secularism, not the sporadic bouts of opportunistic appeasement that Congress party indulged in, but the constitutionally-guaranteed bedrock of the nation, is an idea that shouldn’t die with an electoral decision impacting the next five years. Let Modi create his story and refurbish the sagging virtues of a fundamental principle behind the idea of India.