BJP and Narendra Modi: To choose or not to choose? (Opinion Editorial)
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With this series, we wish to bring out a few prevalent opinions within the student community about major political parties contesting for the elections this year. The views expressed by the author are his perspectives alone and should not be construed as facts or opinions endorsed by Insight or IIT Bombay. We only seek to provide the campus community with a platform to engage in constructive debate.
The following article is written by Alankar Jain, a fifth year Undergraduate Student in the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay.
For the first time since its inception, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s second largest political party, is this strongly poised to form the next government in center. Key decisions of elevating Gujarat’s Chief Minister (CM) Narendra Modi to BJP’s Parliamentary Board, as Chairman of the Central Election Campaign Committee and finally, as its Prime Ministerial candidate, appear to have achieved the desired goal of reviving a party whose performance had been steadily deteriorating after its only full-time stint at the center (BJP secured 182, 137 and 112 seats in the 13th, 14th and 15th Lok Sabha elections, respectively).
Narendra Modi: Making of a national leader
BJP’s position today is a result of a host of factors:
1. Narendra Modi’s undeniable charisma and mass appeal in Gujarat fueled by his successive terms as CM (despite facing some very serious allegations)
2. Excessively aggressive political campaign supported by numerous over-enthusiastic, often abusive, Modi supporters (or “Modi-bhakts” as they have been labeled) that has now made it increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction and information from propaganda
3. A shrewdly orchestrated campaign to market Gujarat as an epitome of good governance and development that started off as early as 2003 with Vibrant Gujarat events and that has led to the questionable Gujarat model of development (fact or fiction?), and finally
Modi has been catapulted to the national scene in a rather short span of time to fill the long-standing leadership vacuum in the country.
Modi: The man
Modi is widely perceived to be a decisive leader and a go-getter – qualities that India desperately needs and wants to see in the Prime Minister (PM) of the country. He has been quite successful in bringing a number of influential people to support him and forging key alliances because of his modern pro-development and pro-industry stance. But, he is also seen as an alienating and divisive figure who makes an irresponsible “puppy” remark and refuses to accept a skull cap by a Muslim cleric, indicating that his actions are still shaped (in howsoever tiny ways) by the traditions of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu Nationalist group he was once a part of. He is also seen as an authoritarian bully, who threatens a TV Journalist when asked uncomfortable questions and someone who has failed to give a single no-holds-barred interview till date. But, perhaps, the biggest among all the things that hold him back, is the ghost of Godhra.
Godhra: A possible deal breaker
He has made several failed attempts to apologize for 2002, but it is a catch-22 situation for him, where he can’t afford to look too convincing.
BJP: An alternative to the Congress
Well, no. BJP is not an alternative to the Congress, for me. They are too similar. Both are traditional parties which allow candidates with criminal charges to contest elections and do not disclose their sources of funding. They share a strikingly similar manifesto, with largely well-intentioned and progressive points, but included only to checklist various sections of the society. Imagine what would have happened if Congress had fulfilled its 2009 manifesto? I believe that BJP, if elected, will not prove to be drastically different from Congress (despite a potentially more active PM). While Congress’s life unnecessarily revolves around a single autocratic and undeserving family, BJP’s life revolves around the deeply flawed idea of an erstwhile glorious and pure Bharat. A scan through BJP’s manifesto’s preface will give a glimpse into how BJP is foolishly trying to pursue the idea of a perfect India of olden days by focusing solely on its strengths and disregarding its flaws and failings. BJP, through the preface and the section on cultural heritage, practises politics of erasure by deliberately washing off Mughals from its narrative of Indian history. BJP aims to rewrite India’s history from a very narrow upper caste/ Brahamanical perspective where Ram Mandir, Ram Setu, Ganga and cows hold a sacred position (read their section on cultural heritage). It is unfair to people belonging to the historically oppressed castes (so-called lower castes) and other religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities. It is also against the plural and diverse idea of India. This ideology manifests itself in BJP’s shallow opposition to removal of Section 377 on ill-founded and ill-informed grounds that homosexuality is against Indian culture (which anyone with slightest knowledge of Indian history, can tell you is not correct).
BJP would have been more dangerous than Congress because of its regressive cultural approach, if only it had the guts to pursue its communal designs after coming to power.
Economic Development: For whom?
It’s only seldom that we, as the so-called middle class, while cribbing about first world problems such as lack of an air conditioner in our rooms, even recognize that people only kilometers away starve daily.
The big question: Will I vote for Modi and BJP?
We had crossed that moral line long ago when Rajiv Gandhi was throned PM while Sikhs were being butchered and burnt alive on the streets of Delhi
The same cannot be said about BJP, however. It is a terrible party because of reasons I have enumerated earlier. Probably even worse than Congress. But, I believe, as Ramachandra Guha writes in this article, that Indian democratic institutions (media, judiciary, election commission, etc.) are today strong enough to handle the pressure. Also, BJP is simply too meek to pursue its communal agenda any longer after it mobilizes its target vote bank and comes to power. Thus, I don’t see BJP pose any grave danger to Indian society and democracy. Though, it’s not going to better both in any way whatsoever, either.
India is lucky to have a party and a leader that can provide it a stable government and India is unlucky, that it is BJP and Narendra Modi. Only if we could do better
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