The most inspiring dimension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first year of his second term is the speed and determination with which he has sought to settle some of the most unsettled facts of postIndependence India’s political history and evolution.
In the last one year of Modi’s second term, one discerns a distinct unfurling of India’s civilisational aspirations. It was such an aspiration which, despite often being referred to in the last seven decades of freedom, had remained neglected, suppressed often facing ridicule and disdain. While we were told of India’s civilisational greatness, pragmatically on the field, in the theatre of global transactions and dealings, we often witnessed India’s shrinking footprints, we were recalcitrant and satisfied with being part satellite, part balancer, part disseminator of others’ narratives and interests.
Neither were our collective aspirations of an improved material existence, ease of living, of rising opportunities, of an empowered existence met, nor could we fulfil our civilisational aspiration and express it in concrete terms of deftly protecting and perpetuating our global interests. We were fed on theories and isms which bred class conflict, gave rise to a false sense of aversion towards certain terms and sections. We were papered over with a hypocritical crust of self-denial and simplicity, while cronyism, political patronage and extortion thrived. Unequal and unfair distribution of state resources became the order of the day. Our latent potential and skills were never tapped or given scope, our age-old slogan of being self-reliant remained just a slogan. Similarly, “Garibi Hatao” remained just a slogan, meant to be broadcast only when national attention needed to be deflected from certain acute governance failures, or when an election was in the offing. In the last six years that Modi leads India, a perceptible reversal of all these trends, mindsets and approaches is discernible.
India’s adversaries — ideological, civilisational and political — have been more vocal in these last six years and especially in the last one year precisely because our march towards evolving into a civilisational power status is gathering pace. Despite attempts to prevent it, the Modi government has displayed a consistent and unshakable conviction to settle unsettled facts of history. This has not only strengthened and further cemented India’s unity, freedom and integrity but it has also subdued and also eliminated forces inimical to India which have operated with impunity since decades. The abrogation of Article 370 has not only introduced an era of openness, equity and opportunity for the people of the region, it has also ensured the ideational and physical unity of India was now completed and firmly cemented.
India’s adversaries work to deconstruct India and, therefore, they have been vociferous in trying to stymie this move. They have displayed a desperation both nationally and internationally to prevent or obstruct it. Prevent they could not, because, unlike other governments, the Modi government does not swing or move to opinions and pressures. To obstruct they failed, since the abrogation of Article 370, like all fundamental — major or even minor — moves of the Modi government, has been initiated and achieved through a parliamentary and constitutional process. What decades of Congress rule had failed, what decades of dithering and pandering to separatism and to the politics of blackmail and terrorism had prevented, what decades of prevarication because those in powers were beholden to international opinion and did not know the manner in which the international community would react to such a move, delayed, what years of weak and hollow political will held-back, was achieved in a flash. Modi is driven by the will to create, rectify and reshape history.
The passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was a rectification of history too. It bulldozed through the artificial barriers of a false politics of appeasement, and demonstrated India’s will to sort out a political and humanitarian baggage of seven decades. The party and the government in power for decades since Independence —the Congress and its successive governments — had only made promises since Partition, of safeguarding minorities in Pakistan, and of providing them a life of dignity and opportunity in India in case they were compelled to leave their homes and forsake the land of their ancestors because of religious persecution. It did little to fulfil that promise. Embroiled in the politics of appeasement, cowered by international opinion, waylaid by the political and ideological Left in India, it never had the will or the vision to settle these unsettled facts of history, which were the creation of its politics. The Jana Sangh and BJP and its successive leaders starting from Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, to Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and others kept the issue alive, kept it afloat on the surface of our collective conscience; they did not allow it to sink, they made sure that it did not degenerate into mere political posturing and empty promise. Modi fulfilled it at once, when the opportunity presented itself, cutting through the knot, mindless of what the world said or thought; he fulfilled a historic promise made to these neglected, oppressed, stateless entities who have always believed in India as their motherland and had never supported her vivisection. The passing of CAA symbolised India’s rising civilisational consciousness. It manifested an India, conscious of her civilisational commitments and responsibilities.
The strength of an elected government is expressed through the manner in which it goes about fulfilling its promises made while seeking a mandate. A genuinely democratic government’s will to empower the people and the nation is judged by how it reaches out to the people, especially to the marginalised section among them, and the manner in which it works to economically empower and liberate them.
A government which bases itself on an active people’s power — Jan Shakti — always displays a will to protect and promote its country’s national interest on the global scene. This dynamic perpetuation of national interest is exercised through a sturdy, strategic and pragmatic effort, which is sustained, flexible and undeterred by coercion or pressures. Modi’s governance and government, seen against such a rubric of assessment, come across as most genuinely democratic, people-based, centred and connected government since Independence. A government which is led by a leader who exudes a sense of history, has been connected to the grassroots and can feel the pulse of the vast majority, is one which can take decisive decisions and displays the will to cut through the Gordian knot of history’s leftovers. Modi’s government has displayed such a will and has also not lost the grassroots touch.
A leader who can genuinely feel the pulse of the people, is one who has come up the arduous way and has, over decades, been in the thick of public life and action. Modi has always come across as such a leader. Through relentless peregrinations, as an unknown worker, as a seeker incognito, then as an activist on a genuine voyage of discovering India, which enabled him to internalise the complex mosaic of India’s aspirations, not merely an intellectual understanding of it, but an absorption or internalisation of them, Narendra Modi’s aspirations for India has the flavour of — and reflects — India’s collective aspirations. In the last six years that aspect of his remains undiminished.
The writer is the Director of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi.