Modi generates fear and hope
One obvious impact of Narendra Modi’s ascent will be to boost investor confidence. But, it will be wrong to believe that the moneybags will arrive with overflowing satchels from Day One to court the new dispensation. Instead, they will like to wait and see how the social scene pans out.
The first item on their watch list will be to see how the Muslims are reacting to the arrival of the perceived ogre in the corridors of power at the centre. As of now, they have made no secret of their aversion to the man. As the Shia cleric, Maulana Kalbe Jawaad, has said, the Muslims are so scared of Modi that they will not mind if the uncharismatic Rajnath Singh, who was once described as a provincial by Jaswant Singh, rises to the top.
This is probably the first time in the country’s history that a community is afraid of a prime ministerial candidate because of his suspected communalism – a belief which one of Modi’s brothers has tried to dispel by saying that he played with Muslim kids when he was a child. That such an assertion has to be made at all when it is common for almost every Indian child to play with members of different communities is a revealing commentary on the prevailing fears.
Similarly, Modi’s pledge on the occasion of the release of the BJP manifesto that he will not take any step out of ‘evil intentions’ – bad erada – is a promise which does not normally have to be made since it is taken for granted. In Modi’s case, however, an extra assurance is needed presumably because of the Supreme Court’s castigation of the chief minister as a ‘modern-day Nero’ during the 2002 riots.
Notwithstanding the impression of Modi, therefore, as business-friendly, an investor is likely to take his time before putting his money where his mouth is. The caution may be all the more warranted since there is little doubt that the radical elements in the Sangh parivar will be enthused by the BJP’s performance.
A sign of their ‘enthusiasm’ even before the results are out is evident from the VHP leader, Pravin Togadia’s advice in favour of segregating Hindu and Muslim localities by stopping Muslims from buying property in Hindu areas. Even more drastic is the travel advisory issued by the BJP candidate from Nawada in Bihar, Giriraj Singh, to Modi’s critics, threatening them with deportation to Pakistan.
Similarly, the description of Muslims as traitors – deshadrohi – by a Shiv Sena MLA in Maharashtra, Ramdas Kadam, in Modi’s presence suggests that at least a section of the saffron brotherhood is expecting a return to the days of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.
Although Modi has dismissed these observations as petty and irresponsible, it is patent enough that the dream of ushering a Hindu rashtra, the longstanding hope of the RSS, has been rekindled in the hearts of the Hindutva parivar.
It is evidently as a concession to this section that the three keys issues which Atal Behari Vajpayee had put in cold storage – the Ram temple, Article 370 and uniform civil code – have found their place in the manifesto.
Even if Modi’s emphasis remains on development, his reference to the export of cows shows that he hasn’t forgotten the concern of the RSS for cow protection. In course of time, the other fetishes of the parivar are also likely to come to the fore.
These will include the conversions undertaken by Christian missionaries, the immigration from Bangladesh (to which Modi referred during his visit to Assam) and the imbalance in India’s demographic profile with Muslims outstripping Hindus. The RSS wants Hindus to correct this ‘distortion’ by disregarding family planning norms and having more children.
With such a pro-Hindu agenda, the possibility of a single incident taking a fateful turn cannot be ruled out, not least because the Muslim fundamentalist organizations like SIMI and Indian Mujahideen will be there to stoke the fears of the community.
The flashpoint may well come if the BJP tries to implement its promise of ‘modernising’ madrasa education, as promised in the manifesto. If Murli Manohar Joshi’s effort towards the saffronisation of textbooks during the Vajpayee regime is recalled, then it is possible that the BJP’s ‘cultural’ game plan will be the spark.
It will not only be those peddling the saffron interpretation of history and society who can derail or at least delay Modi’s development plans, but also the protectionist Swadeshi Jagran Manch which is in favour of a closed economy. In this respect, Modi has already given in to the BJP’s opposition to foreign investment in the retail sector although he did say that the traders must prepare to face a global challenge.
But, whatever the economic model – closed or open – no development can take place in the absence of communal peace. Modi has achieved a measure of success in this respect in Gujarat where no riots have taken place for more than a decade. But, to say that there is ‘peace’ will be a misnomer. Instead, there is a sullen acceptance by the Muslims of the kind of segregation which is preferred by Togadia. IPA