Opinions

Modi at Crossroads!

The return of the BJP-led government with Narendra Modi again as Prime Minister has led to speculations about the dismal fate of Indian democracy and of course, secularism. What can be said about such apprehensions? The opinion about prospects of Indian Constitution being revised in keeping with dictates of the saffron brigade has also been voiced. Yes, the hard reality of saffronisation of Indian institutions and revision of academic literature to promote what is desired by the saffron brigade cannot be ignored. Certainly, these steps cannot be dismissed lightly. It would not be wrong to view them as serious and direct moves directed at puncturing constitutional and other dictates of Indian secularism as well as democracy. But to what degree can these steps really erase the basic democratic and secular concepts ingrained in the cultural ethics of a majority of country’s citizens and the nation as a whole?

Now, can the saffron drive prevent people of various faiths from gathering as they do regularly at various Sufi places, spread across different parts of the country, particularly at Ajmer (Rajasthan) and Hazrat Nizamuddin (New Delhi)? Is it possible for the saffron drive to prevent non-Hindus from offering their religious services at their respective places of worship? These include Muslims at mosques, Sikhs at hurdwaras, Christians at churches and so forth, including Buddhists, Jains and other religious communities. In all probability, even the most extremist saffron activist is least likely to consider any such move. However communal various saffron activists’ attitude be towards non-Hindus, they cannot afford to tarnish their government’s image across the world.

The explanation is simple. Diplomatically, a communal approach towards Indian minorities is least likely to be welcomed globally. Considering the importance Modi accords to his diplomatic image, the question of his taking moves at home which are likely to only spell negative coverage of his governance may be viewed as quite restricted. Of course, this does not mean that his saffron cadre may be expected to cease its communal moves, including lynching incidents in the name of cow protection. The difference between what saffron cadres indulge in and that which is pursued officially by the central government cannot be sidelined. Certainly, the hard reality of the minimal importance being giving to ensuring punishment for communal hardliners cannot be ignored. Similarly, political elevation of communal elements with criminal background stands out markedly.

At the same time, the fact that Modi is a shrewd strategist, diplomatically and politically, cannot be missed. His political rise literally from grassroots, as a committed saffron brigade activist to hold the premier’s post, is definitely a pointer to his being a master-strategist. Diplomatically, the importance Modi has accorded to both the occasions of his oath-taking ceremonies in 2014 and in 2019 stand out markedly. He has gone overboard in letting the world know of his being secular and democratic India’s prime minister. Clearly, this is also suggestive of his taking every possible step to try and enhance his diplomatic image globally.

Yes, his political elevation to this level may not have been possible without the support of campaigning indulged in by saffron brigade activists. The possible tampering of EVMs cannot also be ignored. But till the second point is proved, democratic and diplomatic ethics’ command of his being the country’s premier cannot be overlooked. As mentioned earlier, the diplomatic importance accorded by Modi to his premiership bears its own significance. In this context, Modi’s media team has probably not ignored negative criticism earned by the saffron brigade’s communal activities in the international media. Modi and his team can certainly take every possible step to ensure positive media coverage for him and his policies within the country where he has almost total control over media. However, the question of their achieving similar success in other parts of the world does not exist since media outside India is free from his influence.

In all probability, the diplomatic image desired by Modi is likely to limit the degree to which hardliners supporting him indulge in communal activities. The question of their putting a full stop to the same may not prevail. But yes, the reality is that communal activities of any nature, targeting minorities, in this age of communication boom, cannot be expected to be ignored by international media. The fact that international media tends to give greater importance to negative news than to positive news regarding India (and non-Western world) is a hard reality which cannot be sidelined. This has always been the case irrespective of which party or leader has been heading the Central government in India. So, prospects of Modi’s policies spelling “development” are least likely to hit international headlines. However, “news” regarding communal tension, riots, lynchings, love jihad cases or similar incidents is likely to be accorded substantial coverage by global media.

Against this backdrop, it is not without reason that in the recent past “news” regarding Modi-wave has failed to click. Rather, greater attention has been given to prospects of negative impact of Modi’s return to power. Modi’s hug-diplomacy, clicking selfies abroad and other diplomatic moves have not helped his 2019-victory gain positive image in the global media. The latter has been overshadowed by communal politicking targeting minorities. Now, it is to be seen whether, caught at crossroads, Modi the diplomat exercises political wisdom in checking the spread of such negative image! 

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