A long year and the deep desire for change
India is about to complete one full year of the second term of the Modi government. It has already felt like the longest political year of the present era.
In September 2018, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry issued a circular that demanded that all education institutes must celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the Indian surgical strike against Pakistan-based terrorists in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack. There was no circular for the same in 2017 on the first anniversary of that surgical strike, nor in 2019, post the Lok Sabha elections. It was obvious that the September 2018 circular was aimed at creating a popular opinion in favour of the Narendra Modi government. This year, no mass-celebrations were organised or ordered on 26th February, on the first anniversary of the Indian surgical strike at Balakot. It makes two things obvious. One, the Modi government was not leaving any stone unturned to win a second term in office. As soon as the party won again, the issues and tactics that served their purpose were kept in cold storage, if not abandoned. Two, the Modi dispensation will do anything to win the election, but consumption of power is considered necessary for the creation of its ideological world. The Modi government, the RSS-BJP, and their supporters zealously worked for the realisation of their dream of creating a Hindu-Rashtra in the first year of their second term in office. Even the complete disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic has not prevented the ruling dispensation from creating further hatred towards Muslims in the country.
The abolition of Triple-Talaq, the near-abrogation of article 370 of the Indian constitution, and the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 were passed in the Parliament and ruthlessly implemented with immediate effect. The Supreme Court pronounced the much-awaited verdict on a disputed site in Ayodhya that overwhelmingly favoured the Hindutva agenda. Those who were disappointed with the Supreme Court judgment in the Ayodhya case firmly believed that such a verdict was pronounced only because of the omnipresent influence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his powerful Home Minister Amit Shah. Those who delighted in the verdict don’t believe otherwise. People and organisations who expressed their reservations on the criminal element in the Triple Talaq abolition bill genuinely felt that it was highly discriminatory, and that it would harm affected women in Muslim society. If husbands could be jailed for issuing Triple Talaq, the chances of wives receiving compensation from the former or being accommodated by their in-laws diminish significantly. Those who supported the bill did not necessarily disagree but felt that it was an act of necessary revenge. According to them, the Hindu men were discriminated against by their inclusion in the Hindu Code Bill and subsequent legislation.
Those who were astonished by the way the government handled the Kashmir issue were disturbed by the highly authoritarian way in which the legislation was passed and the opposition dealt with. Those who were overjoyed by the government’s handling of the Kashmir issue generally approve of the manner in which this government conducts itself in all matters. Secrecy and high-handedness are admired and there is a disregard for consultation. On the CAA, NPR and NRC debate, neither the opposition nor their supporters believe in the government’s assurance of only CAA and no NRC. The opposition and their supporters both believe with conviction that the government is not sincere when they say that the NPR has nothing to do with the NRC, or that they don’t wish to carry forward the NRC process in the whole country. This is the travesty of politics in India today. The ruling dispensation knows this is fully the case as they are the ones who have shaped it, while the opposition is unable to grasp it. The result is evident in the most vindictive and shamelessly authoritarian arrests of intellectuals like Prof. Anand Teltumbade and filing of cases against students opposing the government. Even the pandemic has not deterred the home ministry from filing cases against students and carrying out arrests while the masked attackers in JNU still roam free. The debate is not as to whether the government violates fundamental rights and encourages mobocracy. It is now a fight between those who enjoy the violation of the rule of law and those who believe that democracy is meaningless without the protection of fundamental rights.
But all is not lost for the opposition, nor has the government won it all. The students and common faceless citizens have shown tremendous courage to protest on the streets and oppose the government inch by inch and issue by issue. Neither the supporters of the government nor those who oppose the government are showing signs of fatigue. The government keeps on providing fodder to its supporters with communal politics and ‘whataboutery’ logics. The party-less opposition is determined to fight back by riding on the electoral successes of non-BJP political parties. The political developments post-May 2019, including the results of the assembly elections, are indicative of four phenomena. One, the BJP is not undefeatable but there is no challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s popularity. The second aspect may change due to the massive crisis faced by the migrants which has been caused by the mindless decisions taken by the central government. But there is no evidence of it so far.
Secondly, Prime Minister Modi believes that politics will continue to trump economics as far as the verdict on his performance is concerned. The opposition always gets trapped in political debates vis-à-vis Modi and fails to mobilize the masses on economic issues. Three, the opposition still lacks the narrative on the future of India. They have already lost the debate, at least temporarily, on unresolved issues from the pre-independent era and arising out of independence. The inability to resolve the issues led to the discrediting of their ideological positions. The opposition is yet to retrieve its ideological contours from this setback, but the economic failures of the Modi government has created new opportunities for the opposition parties to speak out against the central government.
Four, the blindness of unreason continues to grip the opponents of political opposition in contemporary India. This is the greatest pillar of strength for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His supporters are unbothered by the inability of the central government and state governments to ensure safe and easy passage for migrant workers. But they are up in arms to attack Priyanka Gandhi’s desperate attempts to arrange buses for migrants so that they can be saved from walking hundreds of miles in the scorching heat. For them, the fact that neither Narendra Modi nor Yogi Adityanath is doing anything is the greatest of performances, while the Congress allegedly failing to arrange all the promised buses by paying for them from their own pockets is a scam.
India is about to complete one full year of the second term of the Modi government with such blind support and unreason getting darker day by day. It has already felt like the longest political year of the present era. On the other hand, a desperate desire for change is deepening as well. This is the state of things as India enters into the 7th year of Narendra Modi’s prime ministership.