A Defence for Change

I have been seeing plenty of posts against the BJP in the social media. Some argue very persuasively, with intellectual clarity, on why we should not allow a right-wing party to gain power. Some appeal to baser instincts by ridiculing the catchphrase ‘Ab Ki Baar, Modi Sarkaar’ in a juvenile relish. Some are genuinely terrified of the possibilities of the destruction that Modi can cast on society.

On the contrary, the Modi supporters compete with those silly juveniles in exhibiting their reverence on their leader. So much so that they are no longer called ‘supporters’, but are derided as ‘Modi Bhakts’, (Modi Worshippers). Their campaign is shrill, noisy, negative and destructive. Some sole, sane voices feebly supporting the BJP aren’t going beyond the tired and old pseudo-secularism campaign. I’m sure even Advani, who coined that phrase would have grown tired of that neologism.

So what I’m trying to do here is to set out my thoughts on what I believe should happen in this election: I think BJP should come to power.

Here’s why I believe so. The Modi-bashers have dissected the Gujarat Model to the extent that a million more statisticians and social scientists have emerged in our country. I don’t think any state’s economic, social and political development is researched as deeply as Gujarat.

Yes, the Gujarat development is not very impressive. But then which other state’s is? Various reports point to the fact that Gujarat has shown development in some departments such as water harvesting, electricity and agricultural production, especially BT Cotton. In some areas it still hasn’t shown any significant change. And so are the other states. Tamil Nadu can show impressive figures on certain Human Development indices, but can falter on agricultural growth and corruption records. Kerala is ahead on healthcare and literacy, but is the worst state for women.  Gujarat came out at #1 on women’s safety in the recent NDTV survey. In a Malayalam movie I saw recently the hero laments, ‘Look at Tamil Nadu, there are so many car factories; in Kerala we can’t even get one cycle factory to set up.’ Chattisgarh scores on PDS system, but suffers from Maoist insurgency.

In effect, Gujarat is not an exceptional state, and nor is it the worst on all counts. It scores on some and is behind on some. Just like any fast-growing state in India.

Some point out Bihar’s impressive GDP growth (10%). Actually a seasoned economist knows that it can’t be compared. A well-developed state’s GDP percent is bound to slow down and a developing state’s is expected to be higher. For instance, India has been growing at an average of 5% to 8% for the past 15 years. At the same time US’ GDP growth has been in the range or 1% to 4%. Does it mean India has overtaken the US? Bihar has been lagging behind for so many years, that when the flood gates have been opened, the growth is unprecedented.

What is apparent is that Modi has genuinely strove to make a difference. He aimed to make a difference on the areas that he knows about. Like a dyed-in-the-wool Gujarati, he believed that business growth will bring in prosperity. He has contained corruption to a large extent. One point to note here: I believe that governments alone cannot contain corruption, because, simply, all of us are corrupt and we would not allow a squeaky clean government to survive for long. At least for now. It would be years before society can become largely scrupulous and begin to admire honest people. Today, we ridicule honest people. At best we pity them. Anyway, we digress.

The only issue still being attributed to Modi is his alleged role in the riots. Now, that is something unpardonable and indefensible. However, again, no riot in the past has been dissected so much and in such a detail. There have been clean chits from the Supreme Court which the BJP is brandishing against the naysayers, but that alone won’t be sufficient. The Modi-bashers would have been content with an apology, but that was not forthcoming and it’s too late now. To counter that, Modi says if he was complicit in the riots, he should be punished and not let off easily with an apology. On the other hand, if he was not complicit, he needn’t apologise. That’s about legal responsibility, but what about moral responsibility. That hasn’t been demonstrated yet.

Again, in terms of the riot-records, other parties haven’t fared better or worse. Congress’ role in the Sikh riots is legendary and is also higher in headcount. Samajwadi Party has Muzzafarnagar to their credit. And none of the so-called secular party is willing to talk about the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, who are living as refugees in their own country. When the Shah Bano case erupted, the Congress government caved into the pressure from fundamentalist Muslim forces and went to the extent of amending the constitution to deny all Muslim women their fundamental rights. To compensate Hindu-fundamentalists, Rajiv Gandhi opened the mosque campus in Ayodhya for the foundation laying ceremony by the VHP.

Gujarat has had hundreds of riots since Independence, but has been riot-free for the past 12 years. The average Muslim per-capita income is higher than the national average. The literacy rate in Gujarat is higher the national average (59%:73%). Gujarat’s percent-to-population ratio of Muslims in government jobs is higher than some of the ‘secular’ states, such as West Bengal, Delhi and Tamil Nadu.

In any case, Modi cannot afford another riot in his life. He has been beaten so much on his first one and every man and woman, urban and rural today remembers it so vividly that he can ill-afford to kindle any future animosity between communities.

Now, Modi has been governing Gujarat for 12 years and the Modi-bashers have had so many questions to ask. Let’s now turn to Congress’ 10 years, how does that compare with, say, Gujarat’s 12 years?

Congress’ 10 years have been the epitome of the worst crony-capitalism one can imagine. No government has ever been indicted so many times by the Supreme Court. No government’s accounts books have been torn so badly by the CAG. No government had this many number of ministers being forced to resign on corruption charges. The 2G Spectrum scam has the international distinction of being called the second worst misappropriation of public funds. Only the Watergate scandal is ahead of it.

There has been record inflation. This government brought down the growth percent shown by the previous regime. Investment sentiments are at the poorest since 1991. This government blatantly tried to protect the criminal legislatures by means of urgent ordinances. This government mishandled Telengana. In its bid for the second tenure, this government promised to act upon the black money within 100 days being elected. And recently the Supreme Court has again indicted them for having done nothing about the black money stashed in the tax havens. This is the government that sold our coal, our airwaves, our minerals, our gas, bauxite, granite and just about every natural and unnatural resource to its cronies and big businesses. The state-central relationships plummeted in this government. All the states ruled by non-Congress parties were meted out step-motherly treatment. States like Tamil Nadu had to beg for even Kerosene supply. And electricity from the central grid was blocked to bring ill-repute to the state government.

Above all, this is the first government that had a Prime Minister and a Super Prime Minster, who had all the power but absolutely no responsibility. Those who clamour for Modi to answer questions on the riots are easily forgetting the fact that Sonia has not given a single interview in the past 10 years, except one harmless session with Barkha Dutt which was nothing but two women gossiping about family, husband and children.

Modi bashers are failing to notice one key point. Any BJP bashing would only strengthen Congress’ prospects. That would mean the continuation of, or worsening of this situation. Our ministers would become even more callous about corruption. Everyone would know that you can indulge in a scam of epic proportion and can still be elected back to office. You can continue to ill-treat centres, stash away thousands of crores of black money, not be answerable to the media, and continue to be a proxy-PM and still can be voted back to office.

That would be a very dangerous signal to give. And that’s not good for our country.

Yes, Modi does not offer a spectacular alternative. He may not be a vikas purush or all that nonsense. At least from what we know he may not be as bad as the incumbent government. Even if he was going to turn out to be as bad as them, would you want to throw the present government and send a clear message that malgovernance and corruption cannot be tolerated or would you like to say ‘Since the alternative doesn’t look promising, let’s give the present corrupt gang a third chance at it’?

The incumbent government MUST go. We may not be able to send the corrupt to jail. We may not be able to get the loot money back. But if we can’t even vote them out of power, we can forget about any semblance of hope or development in this country.

Is there an option for us? Can there be a non-Congress, non-BJP possibility? The answer is a resounding NO. Even the worst critic of Modi would accept that we cannot entrust the country in that hands of Mulayam or Didi or Amma. Nitish may be a good hand, but poll after opinion poll suggests that he may struggle to hold onto Bihar itself, leave alone aiming for the nation. And the less I write about the Aam Aadmis the better.

So, the only formation that has the ability to unseat the Congress is the BJP led NDA. And for that reason alone we need to strengthen its hand. Not because we like Modi, or we agree with BJP’s ideologies. But, simply because we want to show Congress the door. If BJP misbehaves, we’ll teach them a lesson as well, but for now, one lesson is already due. We’ll teach such a lesson to Congress that no government in India would dare repeat those mistakes.

So, to me, this election is not about who should come, but it’s about who should go. No, sorry, it’s about who should be booted out. I’m not very thrilled that its benefits are going to Modi, but we have no choice on that. At least I’m glad that its benefits are not going to Mulayam or Mayavati.