India needs Pakistan as the enemy if it is to stay together

By: Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Yasmeen Aftab AliBJP is in with a landslide victory of 283 seats. It is the first time in nearly 30 years that any party has swept in with such an awesome majority as a single party. BJP walked away with 66 seats in Uttar Pradesh allowing Samajwadi party only nine seats. BJP bagged all of 26 seats in Gujarat, which is Modi’s home turf. His party also bagged all seats in Rajasthan; 26 in number. In Bihar too, the BJP won 24 seats upsetting Janata Dal United party which only managed to scrape together four seats. Congress faced the biggest defeat in elections 2014.

“President Obama on Friday telephoned prime minister-designate Narendra Modi and invited him to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries”. (The Times of India May 17, 2014) All this and more will come. The BJP’s sweep into power may be reason for celebrations — but it points towards one clear factor; expectations of Indians from the incoming dispensation. K Hussan Zia, author of “Pakistan: Roots, Perspective and Genesis” and “Muslims and the West: A Muslim Perspective” in a mail to me wrote, “There is a reality about India that is generally not appreciated. Internally it is an unholy mess. The administrative set up that kept the country together under the British is now in tatters. By some estimates government writ no longer prevails in 40 per cent of India where Naxalites and other such outfits hold sway. More than that, her regional diversity made worse by such ruthless actions as the killing of hundreds of thousands of Sikhs and Kashmiris is taking its toll in pulling the country apart. Add to all this the fact that two thirds of its 1.3 billion population lives below the poverty line and you have a powder keg ready to explode. The only way Mr Modi can buy some time is by using the tested method of keeping the attention of the people diverted towards an outside threat. For that purpose Pakistan must be the obvious choice. India needs Pakistan as the enemy if it is to stay together. Mr Modi, like his predecessors, will gladly accept whatever concessions Pakistan may make but the basic situation will not change. We also must remember that Mr Modi owes his success to his Hindu communalist agenda. There are seven million trained RSS cadres totally committed to ‘purifying’ India. They see Muslims, Christians and even Sikhs as an abomination. Modi has neither a way of ignoring this nor probably any desire to do so either. We must not entertain any unrealistic hopes. There is rough weather lying ahead. It is time to batten down hatches and prepare for the worse to come. This will save us from nasty surprises that may be in store otherwise.”

Modi and his party needs to look inwards towards trying to address the issues faced by India. Turning the direction of fire towards Pakistan will only take him that far before back firing.

In a moving piece, Ira Trivedi writes, “It is in Varanasi that I meet Ram Paswan. He runs a shop selling materials for cremating dead bodies. (Varanasi is also where Hindus go to die, so his is a lucrative business). Paswan, who has long been a supporter of the Hindu-nationalist BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP), is thrilled that Modi, the future prime minister, ran from his city. His neighbour, Alam Khan, who runs a barbershop, is not. Khan belongs to the 19 percent of Varanasi’s population that is Muslim and which sees Modi, who has been charged with complicity in the 2002 riots and pogroms against Muslims in Gujarat, as dangerous. Hindus and Muslims have co-existed peacefully in Varanasi for centuries. But Modi’s campaign there has changed things, creating a rift between Paswan and Khan — and between many others. ‘My religion comes before my friendship,’ Alam tells me. ‘We don’t have too many options in this election, but Modi is not the right choice for our people’”. She goes on to say, “But in this election, Modi’s economic track record is almost beside the point. He might have emphasised growth, development, and industrialisation, but the BJP, at its base, is a Hindu-nationalist party”. (Foreign Affairs May 15, 2014)

An overwhelmingly clear mandate means a higher graph of expectations. The Hindu Business Line writes, “The landslide victory for the BJP has raised the hopes of the industry honchos who are hoping that the mandate will be used by the new government to push through tough economic reforms”. The paper shares view by Vineet Nayar, Founder, Sampark Foundation & Former CEO, HCL Technologies,“As 800 million Indians exercised their vote in the largest democracy of the world, debates, comments and opinions have been simmering in every kitchen this past month… In my view, the new leadership needs to focus on three broad areas. First, deliver efficient governance at the bottom of the pyramid so that every Indian feels the change which he or she has voted for. Two, drive effectiveness in executing programs and policies already in place so that the wheels of the government move much, much faster and we see a sense of urgency to get things done… Three, define and execute on a bigger, bolder vision for the country that gives India a competitive advantage in the global markets of trade, commerce and share of voice in key decisions that impact the world. Lastly, our young population is the biggest mass of our national identity and competitiveness and the focus of our nation should be around enabling, enthusing and empowering them. If we can build their knowledge and skills, they will become tremendous economic assets otherwise they will be relegated as cheap labour and consumers for the west’s production engine and we will continue to be an ‘emerging nation’ forever.”

The point I’m trying to make here is an interesting contradiction between what the Indians expect of their new leadership and the core approach of Modi — here; there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. Varghese K George says, “The BJP had put its hardcore Hindutva agenda on the backburner when it began alliance building in 1996, but with absolute numbers on its side, the demand from within to bring these up may rise”. (The Hindu) Though Modi had assured the Indians against such an event happening let us not forget that was before the elections.

Focusing on religion based agenda will not work. It was not just Hindus that voted for Modi. That much is obvious.

Modi and his party needs to look inwards towards trying to address the issues faced by India. Turning the direction of fire towards Pakistan will only take him that far before back firing. The information explosion bringing down the geographical boundaries has taken care of that. Ram Mashru, writing for The Diplomat, states, “A major survey carried out by the University of Pennsylvania, serialised by The Times of India in March, found that economic growth was the issue at the heart of India’s elections. More than half of India’s populations are below the age of 26, GDP growth has stagnated at the five per cent mark, and India’s central bank has failed to tie a leash around inflation. Disappointing economic conditions, coupled with widespread anger at the incumbent left-wing coalition’s failure to revive the country’s economy, have boosted Modi’s stock”. (May 15, 2014) The view is supported by William Dalrymple, “A series of voter surveys has shown that concern over the collapse of the Indian economy is the single most important factor in this election for almost all voters, of all religions, whether urban and rural”. (The Guardian, 12 MAY, 2014)

Focusing on religion based agenda will not work. It was not just Hindus that voted for Modi. That much is obvious. The voters converged from a cross spectrum of religious beliefs to stand together for a better future. The plans have to be fairly basic, notwithstanding the Bollywood glitz which is not a true reflection of India by any standards; people hanker after economic development that filters down to their lives. With such a heavy mandate; the buck cannot be passed on.

Can Modi deliver?

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