On Thursday, 30th May 2019, revered guests seated in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and enfranchised citizens glued to their television monitors witnessed the much-discussed swearing-in ceremony of freshly elected legislators to the Indian Parliament. In the period leading up to this occasion of oath-taking, multifaceted conjectures by psephologists, salaried commentators, political savants and pedestrian analysts characterized the election discourse in the country. With the signatories ready to assume office, questioning minds previously divided on a variety of issues promptly converged on a matter commanding urgent ascendancy– What will India under Modi 2.0 look like?
The year 2014 delivered India’s Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) a sound victory, aided by its vision of a New India based on development. Having secured the majority, the party’s electoral one-upmanship left its adversaries groveling in the dust. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the poster boy of this campaign towered above his contending compatriots, and was perceived as the no-nonsense, driven and decisive leader that India needed. But if in 2014 India voted for change, in 2019 India voted for the illusion of change.
Without intending to dull the much-deserved victory of the statesman par excellence in Mr. Modi, who understands the political demography of the country like no other (perchance the exception of Mr. Amit Shah)– India has regressed in the half a decade of his direction. The bureaucracy under ‘Modiji’ has since then danced to the tunes of a ‘Modi’fied India, well-marketed and palpably served to voters frustrated by decades of mismanagement at the hands of the Congress. The merit of the Modi brand lies not in avoiding reneging its promises, but in skillfully covering it up through both modern and traditional channels of propaganda.
Cosmetic change seems to have been the preoccupation of the saffron brigade, who lured young Indian voters with dreams of “smart cities”: facsimiles of Seoul and Singapore in the Deccan Plateau and the Northern plains. The Union Home Ministry’s go-ahead to rename Allahabad as Prayagraj and the Mughalsarai station as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya ought not to have been the priority at a time the already surcharged Kashmir Valley was being fomented by repeated military engagement in the area. It is worth underlining that India still lacks a full-proof policy here. This is alarming, to put it rather charitably, especially in a region that is of late prone to upheavals caused by the part-aggrieved and part-brainwashed local populace.
Incompetent macroeconomic moves with undesirable ramifications in the long run have been hailed as landmark policies by tinkering at the root level and glossing over stark realities documented in bona fide reports. Demonetization, for instance, threw the residents into the throes of chaos. Embittered people battled each other in ATM queues like their life depended on it, farmers operating on a per-day cash basis suddenly found their means to procure daily bread disqualified and banks complained of insufficient funds, blaming the elusive administrators. Despite the shortcomings in implementation which almost brought daily activities to a halt, one narrative diffused itself in the air like an indisputable truism: “Mr. Modi is fighting the menace of black money by nullifying the high-value legal tender, i.e, the 500 and 1000 rupee notes”. Whether India’s black money is back in the RBI’s kitty is anyone’s guess (financial experts believe Demonetization to be a miscalculated and failed overture for reasons in addition to the fact that the currency assumed to have been disqualified as illegal, is back in circulation). While the Prime Minister’s intention could still be perceived as commendable, the hasty nature of the national declaration and its faulty implementation merits scrutiny.
Volumes can be written about religious prejudice that has entrenched itself on Indian soil since right-wing nationalists have been allowed a free hand by Mr. Modi. One shudders to think that a Gujarat of 2002 might repeat itself, this time on a national scale, unrestrained once again by Mr Modi’s fissiparous silence. As noted by an eminent columnist in The Guardian’s editorial section:
“Sectarian prejudice has always existed in India. The room for giving it homicidal expression has expanded exponentially under Modi.”
Nevertheless, in the absence of a viable alternative to challenge the Hindutva behemoth and subsequently uphold the ethos of India’s secular democracy, the mandate has tilted in Mr Modi’s favour, by a greater margin this time. The verdict appears to be that the notion of transformation still hangs loosely in the air, with hopeful citizens labouring under this illusion of change. For now, the people of the country believe him to be the right man to oversee India’s transformation into a powerful country, one holding its own with the venerable superpowers. To them, he is one who has taught the country to dream, irrespective of whether or not the dream is attained. For now, he is here to stay.
Picture Courtesy- DNA India