Today is the swearing-in ceremony of the man who was constantly sworn at by his critics (of course, he repaid them all with compound interest). This is the next logical step in the evolution of Narendra Modi from being the BJP’s, and NDA’s, prime ministerial candidate to becoming the Republic of India’s Prime Minister. It was a long journey. Tough and often hazardous. But the fact that he completed this journey successfully goes to the man’s grit and, yes, vision. The two qualities that were missing in his rivals. However, before proceeding further one must make one’s worries clear on the media reports concerning non-attendance by the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Karnataka and Kerala, who have declined to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Apart from sheer churlishness, this is bad politics. The war drums have fallen silent with the announcement of the general election results. BJP has emerged triumphant. Decency demands that egos should be set aside and the nation’s prime minister be welcomed in a dignified manner.
Now, coming to the main point, the BJP’s unprecedented victory has pushed the secular parties into such straits that none of them is capable of staking claim to the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Now that they have hit the rock bottom they have only two alternatives left – either they disintegrate or make a concerted, enlightened, effort to initiate recovery. Secularism is to democracy what communism has been to capitalist countries – a humanizing force. Most of the reforms like providing social security to the vulnerable, worker friendly employment laws, subsidized housing and healthcare etc in western capitalist countries owe their genesis to socialistic influence. Similarly, secularism has enabled a more vibrant functioning of democratic institutions, especially in pluralistic societies, where a majority could easily turn oppressive, which might well result in insurgencies by various minority groups, thus causing perennial destability. India would not have emerged as a cohesive and powerful political entity if it had not adopted secularism as one of its essential ingredients. No government in India can afford to ignore this fact, even while the predominance of Hindus is acknowledged. Let us not forget that the NDA has come to power because of about one third of those who voted in the 2014 polls. In other words two thirds of the voters did not vote for Modi. And a majority of these two third naysayers has to be Hindus. However, this does not take anything away from Narendra Modi’s legitimacy as the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world. Nor should there be any doubt that he heads the most powerful and stable government in the last about three decades.
There has been a lot of negative talk about Modi’s capacity to deliver what he had promised during his election campaigns. There is also talk of how his regime might prove calamitous for the country’s secular-democratic-pluralistic ethos. All this talk is not only premature but also a lot of waffle. He has yet to form the cabinet (he will be sworn in today evening) and already we are writing report cards on his government! There should be patience enough to wait for at least three years before forming initial impressions of the Modi government’s intentions and capabilities. Nobody, least of all Narendra Modi, has a magic wand to transform the country’s structures and systems pertaining to its economy and governance. He is already showing signs of doing things right. His foreign policy opening gambit is brilliant, to say the least. He is not prepared to be a captive of his and his party’s rhetoric vis-à-vis Pakistan and Bangladesh, nor is he prepared to let any state government decide India’s equations with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or any other country. Similarly, the reports of a small cabinet and attempts at “minimum government and maximum governance” need to given due attention. It is here that Modi’s policies might prove to be path breaking as far as the country’s governance is concerned.
Already some Muslim groups are showing signs of thawing towards Modi. This is a good sign. Although the Constitution of India is the best guarantee against any attempts at persecution of minorities, every minority group may feel assured that the new regime will not be as demonic as has been made out to be in some quarters. At the same time, those who want to retain strangleholds on their respective communities might feel marginalized; therefore, laws may be made uniform, wherein no community – minority or majority – may feel that it is entitled to certain special considerations. Yes, there will understandably be a tinge of saffron in certain fields like education, culture and entertainment, but there will be no obliteration of India’s pluralism. This is where the relevance of secular parties needs to be underscored.
India’s leftist parties have been steadily losing their hold on the masses. The reason is very simple. They still stick to the “dictatorship of the proletariat” shibboleth when the proletariat has moved on to aspirations that are more practical. They are not interested in wiping out the capitalists, but are aspiring to rise in a liberal, capitalist and competitive environment. The Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party need to realize that jaded leaders can only provide outdated ideas. They both need fresh ideas that would be in tune with today’s aspirating India, and have a vision for the country’s future. Unfortunately, their present leaders do not appear to have such capabilities. If these two parties want to survive, and flourish, they need to have a fresh set of leaders with better and more practicable ideas. Otherwise, they might as well step into the history’s dustbin.