Post Mortem

Modi’s India: The path ahead

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 4/9/2019 12:39:55 PM IST

 Even as we sit at the threshold of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that will determine at least for the next five years the direction of the political life of India, the world’s largest democracy, I ponder about the future of our prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Politicians elected by the people stand responsible for the country not only on every action taken by the government but also for everything that happens in the country during their leadership. The prime minister or the president of the land is more than symbolically linked with every success and failure of the country, so that they end up either being praised or blamed. For example, in spite of the enormous complexity of Brexit, history will remember Theresa May and hold her responsible for its outcomes. ‘What did May’s Britain do with Europe?’ would be a genuine question asked by many for years to come. Similarly, ‘What did Trump’s America do with its borders?’ is another question already being asked. Even in our part of the world we have had Gandhi’s India, Nehru’s India and Indira’s India, each being remembered for their accomplishments and failures. Although the destiny of a nation is shaped by many complex factors and by many different people and events, it is, however, the person with the top job at that time who is required to lend her name to the country. Looking back, we say Gandhi’s India secured her freedom and independence, Nehru’s India was much more socialist but laid India’s foundations, and Indira’s India faced the slog overs before the liberalization of India’s economy in 1991.

The last five years we have been experiencing Modi’s India. We are too close to the data and therefore to get an overview or a distilled theme would be difficult. But it is pertinent that we do the work of distilling so that perhaps we can get a picture of Modi’s India that will inform the nation as it prepares itself for elections. It is precisely the aim of painting a picture of Modi’s India that inspires this reflection.

Although the BJP had a resounding victory in the 2014 general elections and vanquished its arch-rival, the Congress party, it was with a lot of bad press that Modi took over as prime minister. The 2002 Gujrat riots continued haunting the Indian imagination as well as the unspoken fear of the possibility of RSS’ Hindutva ideology taking firmer root was seen as disturbing. While, on the one hand, there were these fears, on the other hand, there was excitement about what his strong leadership might accomplish in and for India.

So, it is only fair that, before India goes to the polls again, it has some idea on how Modi has fared over the past five years in Modi’s India. We have already said that it is the fate of those holding the top job to be ascribed both the failures and successes of their government irrespective of their personal commitments and involvement. So, it will be impossible to evaluate how Modi has performed without reference to the performance of his government. Furthermore, what else do we mean when we talk about Modi’s performance – is it not the performance of his government that we seek to know? What I aim to do is offer an ‘aam aadmi’ Indian’s perception of Modi in Modi’s India.

But before I do so, I must lay bare my prejudice with which I do this analysis. Now don’t dismiss me yet because I say that I come with prejudice. The fact is, all of us see and perceive the world around us with our prejudices. Prejudice is not a bad word as it has often been made out to be. Prejudice or pre-judice (pre-judgement) refers to what we already think, beforehand, on a subject before we begin an analysis. Actually, it is good to be open about our prejudices, so that our audience is aware of our starting point. Being open about it is intellectual honesty. Those who claim to have no prejudices and that their opinion is purely objective are in fact smuggling in their prejudices and keeping hidden what really drives their analysis. The German philosopher Gadamer has even argued that it is only our prejudices that open us to understanding and knowledge. He states that it is impossible to get away from prejudices and that those who are against prejudices have a ‘prejudice against prejudice’ and thus still have prejudice.

So, what is my prejudice in putting forward my perception of Modi in Modi’s India? As someone who has spent many years studying Aurobindo’s works, who was one of thepioneers in imagining the Indian State, I am of the view that India will not achieve greatness by imitating the West or blindly following America or Europe in imagining India as a State. Unfortunately, under the garb of secularism, that is what has precisely happened in India. Indian intellectuals, followed by their politicians, have understood ‘secularism’ and ‘being secular’ to be good for India and her progress, without realizing that ‘secularism’ is a ‘religion of the West’ which is built on the prototype of protestant Christianity and has Latin Christianity as its forebear. So, I am bewildered when I hear India swearing allegiance to secularism and secular ways of living without any understanding of what secularism entails. Unfortunately, many secular political visionaries of India, with their allegiance to secularism, do not possess the intellectual resources required to imagine an India that is true to her heritage and traditions. Being children of secularism, they are unable to see India in her multifaceted historical context. So, my prejudice is that I want to see an India that is true to its historical situations which gives it its unique flavour and take on the world. We need to preserve the ‘Indianness’ of India even as we stride forward to grow and have success in the technological world. Forgetting our past will leave us as orphans. A strong self-identity is important for engaging with the world. Unfortunately, in this mad rush for ‘progress’ many have forgotten our roots and it has become fashionable to adorn a bad imitation of the West. So, who can imagine India’s future through the lens of her past? Of all the political parties in the fray, perhaps the BJP, with its nationalist vision, is most suited for this task.

But let me clarify what I mean by India and her past. It would be ridiculous to take any single vision to capture the rich plurality of India’s past. But that indeed has been the power and prestige of India – to be able to hold together multiple diverse visions within the Indian gaze. India is a land full of rich traditions which continually give birth to new traditions and ways of life. So, no single tradition or way of life can have primacy or supremacy in this land. For example, the Mar Thoma Christian tradition of Kerala, which traces its history to the first century, is far more ancient than the eighth-century Sankara’s Advaitic tradition.

(To be concluded)

Brainerd Prince

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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