Modi Sarkar: Where does it stand at half term?

As Modi Sarkar completed half of its term recently (November 2016), how do we see the major features of this Government? There are some commentators who feel that he is a leader who has given hope and who is capable of taking bold steps and that he has got a mandate to refashion the country. While this is one part of the perception; the reality as seen by large sections of population is very different. This Government came on the promise of Acche Din and fifteen lakhs rupees being deposited in everyone’s account. On the contrary, the country has never seen such a steep rise in the prices as indicated by the price of pulses and as reflected in the pain and torture inflicted by demonetisation. The latter remains a major attack on ordinary people with over a hundred people dying, while standing in queues outside banks and ATMs, and a large section of daily wage-workers and farmers in far off places suffering deprivation as never before.

Image and Substance: Modi's First Year in Office

The major point of difference in the functioning of this government has been centralization of power and creation of a halo around one single person, the prime minister. The Cabinet has been reduced to merely a committee to implement the decisions and whims of the Prime Minister, demonetisation being one of these whims. The foreign policy began with a bang of friendship with Pakistan and a pro-active policy of relating to the world as manifested by innumerable trips abroad by Mr. Modi. At the end of nearly two and a half years, India stands two notches below in its relations to Pakistan and Nepal in particular, with no significant change in our global standing despite Modi’s visiting most of the known and less known countries of the world.

Along with the centralization of power began the intensification of ‘Hate speech’ by the leaders of BJP, and its associates, the RSS combine. They went on to intimidate the religious minorities. One Central cabinet minister went on to use the word Haramjade (illegitimate) for those who were not with the ruling Government. The government started meddling in the affairs of the universities, the low points being the appointment of incompetent people to head institutions of national importance, the appointment of low calibre Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of FTII. Similarly the vice chancellors of various universities came to be headed by those not very able but committed to the RSS ideology. ABVP became very active on campuses and tried to suppress democratic student bodies like in JNU and Hyderabad Central University. In JNU, attempt was made to frame Kanhaiyya Kumar and his colleagues on the basis of a doctored CD and in HCU, Rohith Vemula was pushed to the corner leading to his committing suicide.

RSS affiliates intensified their campaign against religious minorities in the form of “Love Jihad” and “Ghar Wapasi” (Conversion to Hinduism). As if that was not divisive enough, they began campaigning over beef and cow. One glaring incidence was the mass lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, UP. This later culminated into flogging of dalits in Una. As the practitioners of blind faith felt more emboldened due to this Government at the Centre, murder of Dabholkar was followed by the killing of Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi. These incidents put together led to massive protests by eminent people returning their awards as they protested against the growing intolerance in the society. The authoritarian streaks from the top and the deeds of RSS associates at the social level are leading to a situation where the former ally of BJP, Arun Shouries, is labeling the present situation as a ‘Decentralized Emergency…A Pyramidal Mafia state.”

The government did try to appropriate the land of farmers but somehow the popular resistance held it back. The workers have been affected by the labor reforms, and the protective provisions of the small factories and medium-scale factories have been totally withdrawn. The parallel rise of the power of the Corporate World is very discernible. The banks have written off large amount of bad loans of industrialists, some like Vijay Mallya have fled away with all the debts on their head. A barrage of schemes has been launched, mostly on paper and not really empowering average people, poor farmers or workers. In an attempt to suppress the opposition and dissent, NGOs which had been struggling for the protection of environment and for minority and civil rights are being harassed and their FCRA permits have been revoked, leading to stifling of the voices and demands of the vast masses.

Freedom of expression has been the hallmark of our democracy. Now any opinion against the government is being labeled as anti-national. Identity-based politics is being constructed around Bharat Mata Ki Jai and singing of Jan Gana Mana in the cinema theatres.

The divisive politics of Hindutva promoted by Modi has led to an increase in the below-radar violence. An increase in the incidents of violence has been recorded. While tall claims are being made about setting right the corruption of the past, the very demonetisation has shown how new mechanisms of black money generation have come into operation. Currency has been targeted as the source of black money. All this is just a small part of the black money in circulation and as it is well known that the large chunk of black money has been stashed abroad and the other part is in the form of real estate and jewelry etc.

In these times, irrespective of the claims of the ruling party and its affiliates, people are grossly unhappy. The response to the suppression of students in universities has resulted in massive protests around youth leaders like Kanhaiyya Kumar. The protests of dalits are becoming articulated around young leaders like Jignesh Mevani. These democratic protests are the hope of future. At electoral level, other parties are realizing the need for alliances to save democracy, the hope is that a broad alliance of secular forces will come up in future. 

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