We all know Narendra Modi as a man driven by ambition. He has a fire burning in his stomach – who gets incinerated in that fire, but that is a different issue. In this case, it is the primitive capitalists – those who accumulate cash and think life would go on cash and carry basis.
It is also those in the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi who believed that despite Modi’s arrival on the scene it would be business as usual. Well, they know now that the rules of the game have changed.
There is always the liberal media which, with every step on his way, dog him with a healthy dose of suspicion. After all, he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 who had to be reminded about raj dharma when Gujarati Hindus were killing Muslims. In fact, tucked away in one corner of this newspaper on Wednesday (yesterday) was a story that said that the RSS honchos in a meeting with some Aligarh Muslim University professors yesterday have stated that 2002 was a mistake!
None of these issues are liable to politics. Though some like the Defence Minister or the Home Minister of this government like all cash-and-carry business, even these issues brought down to the level “bazaaru rajneeti.”
In the intervening night of September 28-29 when the Indian Army’s para commandos crossed the LoC in a shallow raid up to five kilometres and destroyed launchpads and killed terrorists ready to unleash mayhem in this side of the border, a paradigm shifted. No longer could the Pakistan Army’s GHQ can claim that they will keep the cost of their asymmetric battle in India small. Nor could they argue that nuclear weapons that the country had in its growing arsenal can contain an Indian armed response.
This was an issue that was beyond politics – if only Manohar Parrikar or Rajnath Singh understood that. The Congress Party had to respond to the political rhetoric about their “me too” operations of the yore if these Ministers could keep their mouth shut and listened to their boss, Modi and had not done the chest thumping.
On Tuesday, the 14th the Prime Minister struck again. As we all know that the demonetisation of the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would hurt those who do not know how to have six directors (finance) in their company (like Reliance Industries once did) to find every tax loophole and make cash that was clean. Yet, this move has warmed the cockles of the hearts those who do not have such great acquaintance with MK Gandhi – on the currency notes - on a daily basis.
This move cannot be criticised iniquitously in a country like India where otherwise the Gini coefficient of income inequality is close to that matches that of some of the sub-Saharan Africa.
That Modi has a sense of history is not unknown to many like a Teesta Setalvad or a Mallika Sarabhai. Yes, he wants to be in the institutionalised in the pantheon of Indian leaders that has the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Abul Kalam Azad, or a Khan Abdul Wali Khan (Badshah Khan). He is seeking to possibly also reserve a space by the side of the Yamuna when the day of final reckoning arrives, as it will for all of us.
In one stroke, on prime-time television Tuesday, Modi sent a signal about a major item on the RSS agenda – that India is no longer a soft State. For long, many of the people of this country who call and believe themselves to be “nationalists” have felt that had India been a “hard State” much of its problems would be sorted out.
Modi is trying to argue about the country under his watch from that standpoint. Some of us have had experience of that in the mid-1970s when the Gandhi scion of the day (Sanjay Gandhi) had coined some ludicrous slogans like “Work more, Talk less” etc. His mother, the presiding deity unleashed the CRPF on the striking railway workers just to show how hard the State can get.
But the incumbent of the PM’s chair seems to understand that India has changed. He also possibly knows that he cannot remain a hostage of the ghosts of 2002 for much longer. So in far more subtle ways he is letting the citizens know that he is claiming pre-eminence not seeking it. The cross-LOC strike, the demonetisation are all signs of that.
But these are not in the positivist scale. We need some moves that by 2019 makes India a country of $ 3000 annual income per capita. That’s about $ 10 a day – a modest target and an achievable one if yesterday’s move works. And if the bureaucracy can be whipped into shape to deliver the public goods and services are genuinely delivered on target.
Then he will have a claim for the second five, and he can look in the eye and tell Xi Jinping, “I got one too.”
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)