Modi Machiavellian Politics – Journey of hate & division. Perception or reality? By Dr. Manish Madan

PM Modi by far is one of the most polarizing leaders is perhaps an understatement

As a follow up to Time Magazine cover story on Modi, this article is contextualized in the time lapse of two significant moments that to many will define Modi’s public life.

To understand India’s direction under Modi’s politics, it is critical to use this lens, in my view.

For sake of simplicity, I refer to first one as “Godhra 1.0” and second is what I call alarmingly (and cynically) “Godhra 2.0” – a potential ghost of Godhra 1.0 returning to haunt India, in a more beasty and unforgivable way.

Allow me to elaborate.

Flashback, circa 2002, Modi’s political life came to prominence as a chief minister during #Godhra Gujarat communal riots (estimated official 1000 people killed with 3/4th Muslim fatality).

As a ruling government of the day, he was implicated for his role and then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was set to dismiss him and had decided that Modi should resign as Chief Minister of Gujarat, a decision though opposed by Advani.

In Modi’s defense, the Supreme Court (SC) appointed SIT (in 2012) gave him a clean chit. For what it is worth, the Gujarat High Court upheld that clean chit in 2017, by when Modi was already in power as India’s 14th prime minister.

But if former (late) PM Rajiv Gandhi stands guilty of corruption today in #Bofors scandal, despite his acquittal from the Indian courts then what does it take to stop Modi from being still as guilty for his role in the India’s last major communal violence of 21st century?

The then media was relatively objective, questioned the leaders, was critical of people in position of power and were doing what the fourth pillar of a democracy is supposed to be doing, i.e., keeping our leaders honest and accountable.

Unfortunately, that cannot be said about the same media and the likes in 2019.

Fast forward – So, what has changed in last 17 years?

– First, post 2012 SC acquittal in Godhra riots, started a complete image makeover of Modi, to the extent that he would be projected as prime ministerial candidate over BJP’s patriarch, LK Advani.

– Modi won 2014 elections as the ‘Supreme leader in the making’ (massive public corruption scandals in Congress’s 2nd term primarily (e.g., #commonwealthgames, #2G) did not help its own cause either). I’ll be guilty of chanting Modi, Modi too at the #MaddisonSquare on his maiden US trip, as for the first time, I heard India’s PM *talking*, and talking about development, growth, clean India, skill India, make in India etc. It was a brand-new experience in several years of even my limited political consciousness.

And I suspect many people bought into his agenda, and rightly so. India does want development. But as soon as you recognized the “underlying narrative shift and potential impact to social harmony,” that’s when you’re like, ‘whoa! I did.not.sign.up.for.this – I’m outta here.’

It is critical to understand the new narrative shift and how the Indian society is gradually transitioning into a time:

— where suddenly the Hindu population, its religion, its symbols is under some non-existential threat from some enemy within and hence the cow vigilantism, anti-Romeo squad.

— where India must exert its Hindu culture, traditions, rituals in the name of national pride even if it defies science, and hence the outlandish assertions on cow urine and cancer treatment, associating Lord Shiv statue in front of CERN building with Higgs Boson particle discovery, PM arguing Lord Ganesha as a potential first plastic surgery.

— where Muslim population will take over the country shortly, and hence a caution of love jihad, and

— where India, for the first time has a government of the Hindus, by the Hindus and for the Hindus, dedicated to fan the above fears (for the uninformed, India has 83% Hindu population and 14% Muslims)

— where Hindu nationalism gets legitimized.

Such a narrative shift has implied strong polarization among masses – one group that has bought into this fear, threat of losing their culture, and therefore have overnight become warlords of Hinduism and protector of Hindu culture, and then there’s other group that reject such ‘Moditva narrative shift” – this other group wants India to stay true to its foundation, continue to withhold the secularism promulgated within India’s constitution and communal harmony.

This polarization has also created a furor that being against Modi’s ideological position is next to blasphemy. That trend is a dangerous precedent to the weakening of a democracy and pursuing zealotry.

Several of my friends tell me, it’s all great here and I believe them too, I do – such is the beauty of India vastness!

But those narratives also change when I speak to some of my Muslim friends in India – when they tell you ‘o well, it is not that pretty anymore, and yes chances are you would be beaten up for writing what you do; or I didn’t get the rental house as a Muslim, and that as a Muslim they have Airbnb booking on hold, should they be asked to go to Pakistan as an outcome a Muslim potentially dissenting.’ Well the Airbnb part is stated in a lighter tone (not the Pakistan part), but you do get the point.

Being an academic, I couldn’t care less on the outcome of my critical views of India’s politics. My love for country isn’t diminished by asking the right questions.

I expect people to push for development, growth, economy, education, welfare, communal harmony, health hygiene, women safety, roads, hospitals, ask the leaders where are jobs, smart cities, clean cities, infrastructure rather than polarization … fix the grassroots issues first which are far more important to several Indians over the moot and divisive idea of building a ram mandir, for example.

So, this brings me to last part, contextualizing the cynical view on Godhra 2.0

Since 2015, there have been repeated mob lynchings, increased hate crime, beef related killings, communal clashes at a small but consistent scale, cow vigilantism. Post #Pulwama particularly, communal violence became more prominent. People freedom of expression were linked with sedition, a Muslim actor’s calling out the intolerance meant overnight business loss and social chaos.

In 2017, Modi installs a religious Monk #YogiAdityanath who has a history of creating communal tension, as a Chief Minister, thus empowering yet another ‘Hindu culture’ proprietor to overlook secular foundation of the country.

In 2019, Modi gives electoral ticket to a terrorist attack accused Sadhvi #PragyaThakur who most absurdly claimed the novel use of cow urine to cancer, much to debunking by all scholars and medical scientist around.

Installing a religious leader as political heads of a state is fundamentally contradictory to a secular democracy but Modi has clearly other agenda.

In 2019, BJP party president Amit Shah openly declared anti-Muslim bigotry under the garb of NCR.

Speaking against the government gets you a label of anti-national. Speaking against Modi makes you anti-national or an intellectual terrorist or what, Urban Naxal?

Wrapping this up, the question that people should ask BJP supporters is the following:

He started as a hero of hatred, master of divider by India Today covers in 2002, and now in 2019 ending as India’s Divider in Chief.

Perhaps there’s a legit reason why Modi has not been able to change his image in his high profile public life of nearly 2 decades.

The big question, is India prepared for further regression, communalism, weakening of its democratic structures? Is it prepared to handle the consequences of this pendulum shift to the extreme far right?

I presume most Hindu majority will say yes, but ask the same question to India’s minority population and you’ll hear a different response.

If you liked what you read, if it made you think more critically, give it a comment and share it out.

Dr. Manish Madan
Professor, Criminal Justice

#elections2019#loksabhaelections2019 #bofors #godhra #democracy#secularism

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