The purpose of democratic elections in a country is to choose a government, supposed to administer the country, enforce state policies and ensure the betterment of the country’s citizens as a whole. Recent sparring between the UPA government and the opposition NDA seems to point in a different direction altogether. If anyone sitting outside India glances through our newspapers and through the debates that have been going on in the media, to them it would seem that India is divided into only three factions: Hindus, Muslims and secularists. Hindus vote for the BJP, secularists for the Congress and Muslims just hang around in the middle somewhere, like the child in the story of King Solomon’s judgment, who is being pulled from both sides.
On one side we have Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat and seemingly leader extraordinaire. The saying, “love me or hate me but you cannot ignore me” seems tailor made for him. Associated with three Gs. - Gujarat, Godhra and governance in the country, there is a tug of war between the last two in the minds of most of the voters. Everyone has an opinion regarding his role after the 2002 incident in Godhra, when Gujarat burned in the fire of communal riots. Whether he was a silent spectator or an active participant seems to be a question which is never going to be answered definitively. The SIT panel appointed by the Supreme court to investigate cleared him of all charges: but Modi’s adversaries try their best to make this uncertainty about his innocence or guilt the focal point of his political career.
By contrast, Modi tries his best to promote the Gujarat growth story. Throughout his reign, Gujarat has grown as an investment destination and as an agricultural economy. There has been an increase of almost 10.16% in the literacy rate from 2001 to 2011, one of the highest in the country. And the state’s double digit real GDP growth rate in 10 years has been compared to that of South East Asia. So yes, work has been done.
But ruling a state is different from ruling a whole country. Modi is not the sole proprietor of the development in Gujarat. He has a team of people who have supported him and worked under him efficiently. But at the centre, Modi will be faced by coalition politics, and different parties having different demands and ambitions. Will he be able to impose his will there too? As the elections grow nearer, the BJP has withdrawn all its other leaders into the background and has been projecting Modi as its sole leader and representative. Once it gets into power, will this dedication to Modi be retained?
There has already been internal conflict within the NDA coalition as Nitish Kumar, JDU leader, has quit over the PM candidacy and relations have turned sour. Meanwhile, the Congress party continues to dissect Modi’s statements and reinforce his anti-secular, anti-Muslim image. And Modi has made some controversial comments. When asked about his regrets regarding the post-Godhra riots, he responds about feeling sad even when he sees a puppy run over by a car. He has accused the Congress of hiding behind a ‘burqa’ of secularism. All this creates waves in the media. The Congress has been crying itself hoarse over it and dirty word play has been going on. The debates have been centering on who said what instead of who did what. Is this a smart tactic by the Congress who know that their secular image might be the only path which can lead to their electoral success? Or are they falling into a trap made by Modi so that he can superimpose his image as a development-oriented leader?
What all of our leaders need to realize is that India is not a country like the USA, that can be ruled by policies alone. It is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual country with an overflowing population. If people get the feeling that they are involved in the process of policy-making even in the minutest degree – this will lead to a better democracy on all sides. The nation should be promoted as one single entity. Time is past when religion- and caste- based politics were the only means which could be employed to get a majority.
There is no doubt that Indian politics is like the Augean stables nowadays: filthy with corruption, scandals, stagnancy and indifference on the part of the people in power. With rising prices and a failing economy the common man feels helpless in this situation. It does seem that a Herculean power is needed to clean up this mess and push India on the path of development. Will Modi be able to play this Herculean role? Or will the UPA government be able to use the force of good governance to wipe its corrupt image clean and retain power? As the 2014 elections draw near, the country enjoys the power tussle between the country’s leaders. But also hopes fervently that it will get to see a better government at the centre, which can lead India towards an utopian dream. Till then, let the games begin!