On Narendra Modi and the hottest place in hell..
This post has been a long time coming. What finally triggered it was a call I had with Rajesh Jain last week.. Rajesh quoted Dante to me, while asking where do I stand on Sh Narendra Modi. He recalled these lines from the Inferno..
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
A lot has been written by numerous commentators on why Modi deserves support. These commentators span the spectrum from economists (Arvind Panagariya) to spiritual leaders with mass following (Swami Ramdev) and include political leaders, journalists & of course, bloggers. One of them, particularly articulate (& forthright), is Dr Atanu Dey. This is what he wrote on why people should support Modi:
Anyone who wants India to change tack and progress..recognizes that the best we have is Modi. Of course, Modi is not perfect. No mortal is. But he is the best we have got.. I am convinced that no one else in India has what it takes to bring about the change that India needs.
By the way, Atanu is anything but a blind BJP-Bhakta. Here is his damning indictment of the BJP, from an article written barely a few weeks back:
I claim that the BJP and the Congress are colluding. Which means that they are not in competition. Another way to state that is to say that they are mostly indistinguishable.
Congress has been making major messes (to put it mildly) and still is in business. Why? Because the BJP does not provide it with any incentive to be any better. Ergo, it is because the BJP is bad that the Congress is bad. If the BJP had been good, the first scam by the Congress and it would have been history. But instead, we have scams by the dozens and yet the Congress does not die.
The Congress survives because the BJP lets it.
Almost three years ago, a close friend (and a BJP member) had asked me my views on Modi. This was early 2010 & the BJP was still recovering from its loss in the elections. I said to him the BJP desperately needs someone like Modi. But the old guard will oppose him tooth-and-nail. The-powers-that-be will never let him lead from the front. I had hinted at such opposition as recently as last year in a couple of tweets and had a bet against such a possibility with another friend (& ardent Modi supporter). This opposition to Modi within the BJP was usually the clincher in any argument on why most of us fighting for reform/change could not support the BJP. I lost that bet.
Today, Modi not only heads the BJP’s campaign committee, he is “the” leader of the party in all but name. Is that something that should prompt a re-think? I believe so. Why? Because, as Atanu puts it (emphasis added),
..Modi is the joker in the pack. He is a BJP party guy but really he is the party-pooper. He is the spoiler in the nice little game that the BJP leaders are playing with the leaders of the Congress. They want him to come and spoil the game as much as they want a hole in their heads. In other words, the Congress and the BJP have an interest in colluding to torpedo Modi.
Modi will end the cosy relationship between the BJP and the Congress.
Unsurprisingly, many of Modi’s policies – and the ideas he stands for – find only lukewarm support in the BJP. As Shekhar Gupta mentioned in a recent column:
..his (Modi) economics is the opposite of what the Nagpur Gurukul of Swadeshi, Xenophobia and Frugalism preaches. In the BJP today, he is the only leader willing to say anything modern or entrepreneurial: less government and more governance is now his slogan, and refreshing
…A lot of urban middle class and entrepreneurial India adores him because of his Gujarat model of economics. That hasn’t been his party’s larger view lately.
It thus seems entirely plausible that one might support Modi and oppose the BJP. In fact, it would be quite natural, precisely because most of the BJP is quite unlike Modi.
But still, how do I reconcile my support to Modi with my publicly stated opposition to the BJP & its “collusion” with the rotten system, so eloquently described by Atanu?
Here I go back to Rajesh Jain’s quote and the apt phrase: “..times of great moral crisis“. I believe we are suffering the worst government India has ever had since 1947. I believe a UPA-III would be untold disaster for India. A disaster for each of us who believes in freedoms, liberty and equality of opportunities. A disaster for everyone who opposes socialism and the politics of entitlements, built on narratives of victim-hood. A disaster which might push India to a point of no-return.
UPA’s policies are an existential threat to India. The UPA must go. That is the only way the rest of us (fighting for systemic reform and change) will survive. And if we don’t win this battle, I am not sure we will be around for the “Long War“. We need to therefore re-group and consolidate around an alternative that appears to have the best chance of winning. We need to align around this alternative and offer support (which could be conditional), while maintaining our independence.
Only time will tell whether we were right or wrong. But there is only one man today who has a fighting chance of making Congress history. And I think it is time to give this man a chance. It is time to support this man. Time to say, NaMo for PM!
P.S. By the way, I am hardly alone among activists facing this dilemma. Here’s Sanjeev Sabhlok:
…When the choice is between two evils, pick the better. Congress is utterly hopeless, BJP is terrible, AAP is unproven, advised by India’s greatest socialist – and wants to create anarchy through not paying bills. I pick Modi’s BJP with the hope that he will deliver some improvements. Not good enough at all for India, but far better than (others)..
As Sanjeev wrote (and I endorse): “Modi is..a FAR BETTER option for India today than Kejriwal in terms of proven ability to deliver results as well as broadly liberal economic ideas”. AAP is an uncertain bet at best – particularly so given their socialist leanings – and tendency to lapse into vote-bank politics (e.g. read Arvind’s “Appeal to Muslims“; large 7MB download). As for the Congress, let me repeat what Sanjeev wrote:
The Congress party is, in my view, the GREATEST ENEMY of India. It has betrayed India repeatedly, it has harmed India in every possible way. It is a fiefdom of a family where entry to the top is PERMANENTLY BLOCKED. It doesn’t matter if you are half-Italian. It does matter that you are remotely connected to Nehru – the good man who ruined India through bad policy.