Bitter truth of Modi’s performance

Good times never last, particularly in politics. This reality must have by now dawned on the Modi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership. Narendra Modi rode to power in May 2014 on the wave of popular support. The honeymoon period for new governments usually ends after a certain period of time. With the passage of time, however, their failure to fulfill their populist election promises generates an anti-incumbency sentiment.

Ironically, in the case of Modi government, its honeymoon period had unexpectedly started to wear out within six months of assuming power. Since its first year in office has failed to show any tangible and outstanding results, the enthusiasm of a sizable section of people, including one of its biggest supporters -the corporate sector- has also started to wane. Modi’s foreign policy initiatives, which had initially won him much applause, are now showing signs of fatigue.            

Let’s take the foreign policy initiatives as an example. During his 14 months in office, he has visited a number of countries. No doubt, Modi was enthusiastically welcomed by massive crowds of the Indian diaspora. He was also accorded a warm welcome by the top political leaderships of various host countries. However, his foreign policy did not evoke the expected positive response in some of the subcontinent nations. Moreover, the advantageous space India had gained over the years in 
Afghanistan is now being ceded to the Pakistan-China combination.

India’s policy towards Pakistan is best explained by former Congress minister Ashwani Kumar: “Nobody knows what the Pakistan policy of this (Modi) government is. This-I-love-you, I love-you-not…You-love-me, you-love-me-not relationship with Pakistan has no long-term strategic thinking behind it”. (Disclaimer: Ashwani Kumar had to step down as UPA government’s law minister in 2013 amidst pressure from the opposition for having vetted the draft of the CBI probe report on the coal allocation scam.)

During the past 14 months, the already strained relations between India and Pakistan have further nose-dived. This was primarily due to Pakistan’s dilatory tactics in punishing the mastermind of the terrorist attack on Mumbai Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, by making his voice sample an issue of much debate. No doubt, the joint statement of Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at Ufa (Russia) aimed at preparing the people on both sides for a period of detente. However, the Pakistan army’s belligerent opposition and the hostile attitude of the hardliners on both sides of the border are proving to be the main hurdles in the way of normalising relations between the two neighbours.

 One of the important features of Modi’s latest visits, particularly to Central Asian countries, was a unanimous view on the need to fight extremist and terrorist forces that have acquired worldwide dimensions. Modi’s emphasis on fighting terrorist forces was also reflected in his letter to the heads of 193 member states on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. The letter inter alia said that “…..with expanded geographical  spread, vast resources and new instruments to spread its ideology and draw recruits, the menace of terrorism and extremism has acquired a new dimension that requires a comprehensive global strategy”.   

His emphasis on a united fight against terrorism is most relevant in the case of Pakistan, which is now considered the global hub of terrorism. Sponsored and backed by the Pakistani army and ISI, the terrorists have made India their main target. However, when terrorist organisations began playing the role of Frankenstein in their own country, its creators had to launch an onslaught against them. The onslaught became a part of Pakistan’s two-pronged strategy: Army action to eliminate home-borne terrorists but sponsor and support extremists and terrorists for carrying out violent actions in India, particularly Jammu and Kashmir.

As Modi has emphasised in his letter to the UN, the terrorist and extremist elements need to be suppressed by using the same means they use to spread violence. But countering these elements through force alone is not enough. What we need to check is the indoctrination of young children at centres, functioning ostensibly for the propagation of religious doctrines. Such centres include those run by radical Muslim, Hindu and Sikh bodies.

Events in Pakistan had their fallout in India. It did not take long for India’s religious extremists to also become hyperactive particularly after the assumption of power by the Modi government. Some of BJP’s leading figures including a couple of MPs have been making hate speeches. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said that “like the residents of America are called Americans, residents of Hindustan are Hindus (instead of Hindustanis).”    

The worst example of encouraging India’s religious extremists are the reported attempts by some official agencies to save Hindu extremists, who are facing court cases for indulging in violent actions including bomb blasts targeting the Muslim community. The latest case is the charge by Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor of the Malegaon blast case. According to Salian, a National Investigation Agency officer had approached her to go soft on the Malegaon case. She reportedly said that she wanted to seek discharge of nine Muslims, arrested and <g data-gr-id="68">chargesheeted</g> by the Maharashtra ATS and CBI for a 2006 blast in Malegaon, but the NIA did not respond to her repeated suggestion. Likewise, witnesses have turned hostile in other blast cases, the latest being the Samjhauta train blast case in which ten prosecution witnesses have reportedly turned hostile.         

What is more worrying is the saffronisation of education and other cultural and social institutions by inducting non-entities whose only merit is their loyalty to the RSS. One example is the appointment Gajendra Chauhan –whose chief qualification is that he played the role of Yudhishtir in the Mahabharat teleserial - as the new chairperson of India’s premier film and television institute, evoking protests from students, faculty and the film industry. This prompted RSS, not unexpectedly, to dub the protests as “anti-Hindu”.   These developments justify what one of the BJP’s founding fathers L.K. Advani had prophesied “that Emergency could return because of weaknesses of political leadership”. IPA

(The views expressed are personal)
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