Modi’s First Year As PM!

A year has passed since Narendra Modi took over as prime minister of India. The hype raised about Modi-wave that had apparently swept Lok Sabha polls appears to be fading way. Modi seems to be more in news for his foreign travels and various designs as well as colours and material used by him for his bespoke dresses and less for his achievements. Certainly, just as any other Indian, Modi has the right to be as conscientious as he wants to be about his appearance, including his glasses, hair-style, beard, dresses and his footwear. It may not be wrong to view this as a part of his image-making exercise. Yes, Modi would rather have people take note of his dress than deliberate over his past tainted with Gujarat carnage or even deliberate about the degree of his success in political and diplomatic activities he appears to be engaged in. And perhaps this prompted him to wear the suit, exclusively designed with his name embroidered as stripes, during his meeting with United States’ President Barack Obama, who visited India as Republic Day chief guest.

Whatever be Modi’s agenda for his dress-style, that is his personal, to quite a degree individualistic, trait. Nevertheless, one is tempted to wonder whether he has deliberated on conditions of numerous poor Indians, who do not have adequate food to eat and are dressed literally in rags? Maybe he has or maybe he has not. If he has, how many impoverished people have benefitted from whatever his action has been? In the same vein, without elaborating on whatever his role was during Gujarat-carnage, what measures have been taken to rehabilitate Muslims targeted during that period? Since taking over as prime minister, Modi has tried indicating that he should not be assumed to be an anti-Muslim communal politician. Please note, when his political domain was confined to Gujarat and to his party, he hardly lost any opportunity to display his bias against Muslims. During an interview last year to a representative of American media, he even highlighted patriotism of Indian Muslims.

Irrespective of whether Modi personally remains communally biased towards Muslims or not, politically and diplomatically, he has apparently understood that he has to display a secular image before India and rest of the world. Yet, it cannot be ignored that with Modi at the helm, certain extremist elements linked with Sangh Parivar have been emboldened to display their bias against Indian Muslims. True, Modi has not echoed them of late. Nor has he appreciated them, at least in public, for indulging in such communal behaviour. But then, there also have not been reports of his taking strict note of their anti-Muslim, communal rhetoric and initiating measures that may prevent them from reiterating such moves. What does this suggest? Should one understand that Modi’s political face, with its secular mask, is only for public in India and abroad? Behind the mask, Modi apparently cares little for what Sangh Parivar members say about Muslims. And if this is the case, Modi’s secular mask may not carry much appeal for secular Indians for too long.

It still cannot be forgotten that Delhi assembly polls spelt a landslide victory for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to a considerable extent because residents were alarmed by certain political elements trying to spread communal tension in several areas including Delhi. From this angle, a number of diehard Congress supporters also voted for AAP to prevent BJP from coming to power in Delhi. Modi has partly understood this message. This is indicated by recent past not being witness to the kind of communal tension that repeatedly gripped Delhi and its residents last year. But then it may be remembered that citizens of Delhi acted wisely in not allowing themselves to be swept by communal frenzy which certain elements were trying to provoke. They understood that it was more of a political game being engineered for political purposes. If, during his year in office, Modi has not understood this message of common Indians, it is time he started it giving greater importance.

At present, some importance is also being given to whether over the past year Modi has taken any action in the interest of minorities. Modi has occasionally expressed a few lines trying to display that he is interested in their affairs. But this is not enough. An occasional conversation with a few clerics representing different religions is not going to play any major role in his trying to present himself as a secular prime minister.

Maybe, Modi is still not too sure of how to reach out to minorities. Or perhaps he is still not keen on reaching out too much to them. Just as he has certain specific reasons to maintain a distance from media representatives, perhaps he also prefers not interacting with minorities. If Modi has no hang-ups about interacting actively with leaders and people of other countries, during his foreign tours, from now onwards he needs to pay serious attention to displaying similar attitude towards Indians from different walks of life.      

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2015 on page no. 11

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