This is an emotional, intellectual and philosophical reflection on the state of the Indian elections – on the clear possibility that Nardendra Modi will be the next Indian Prime Minister. And my reflection is a positive one, rather than pessimistic. As the BJP’s popular slogan goes, “Aap ki baar, Modi Sarkar.”
I am fully aware that I like Narendra Modi instinctively; even as a loyal Pakistani and a staunch believer in my faith as a Muslim. For a social scientist, Modi is the perfect subject to focus on in order to understand the political conduct of political actors and political leaders and, for an analyst of human behavior, Narendra Modi is fascinating as an individual - a phenomenon and a phantom at the same time who is going to be the next Indian Prime Minister. I like Modi’s simplicity, the way he dresses up in a white kurta pajama, his white hair and matching beard, and his plain talk. As a political analyst, I even like what Modi says on a daily basis, his personal life history and his vision as a political leader. I know Modi’s Prime Ministership will be good for India’s relationship with Pakistan, and I visualize improved interstate relationships between the two countries. Of course, although my complete optimism about this “maverick” is based on a gut feeling, it is not without adequate intellectual analysis.
The still “untouchable” chai-wallah (tea seller) who used to sell tea at a Railway Station platform, endowed with dynamic magical powers of personal determination and a single-minded obsession to make things happen the way he wants, Narendra Modi is all set to be the 17th Indian Prime Minister.
Depending on which side you are on, Modi’s staunch supporters claim that the next Indian Prime Minister is pragmatic in his approach to political management and ideological doctrine. They claim Modi is singularly focused on transforming the Indian economy and set on a transformational change in India’s social structure, getting rid of the vested interest oligarchic and dynastic political power edifice. They say Modi is ultra-nationalistic to the core of his soul, admires Indian history, and steadfastly believes in Indian multiculturalism, ethnic religious and linguistic diversity, and its multi-polar racial political forces as an integral part of the Indian polity.
Ravi Menon, at India Talks in Dubai, says, “The man is invested with magical powers and will set India free. No surprise for a nation that believes in such men and miracle workers… he (Modi) is the Lok Purush - the new Iron Man - brushing aside falsehood and venality in politics; willing to risk everything to pull this nation out of the morass it has fallen into and he will do all this single handedly!” Good for India if Modi truly stands for all of this.
On the other hand, Modi’s opponents claim that he is dangerously racist, conclusively a diehard Hindu devoted to Hindu domination in India at the expense of minorities, specifically of the vast Muslim population. Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP convener and Modi’s opponent in the Varansari polls says, “Modi represents the ideology of corruption, sectarianism - this is not a fight between two parties or individuals, this time it’s a fight of two ideologies - Modi is an ideology (of racial hatred, corruption, crony capitalism and Hindu domination).” Then Modi is accused of not stopping the riots against Muslims at the time of the Babri Masjid episode and refusing to apologize for it. But if at all the Hindutva concept that “India is a Hindu country and Hinduism is the very touchstone of tolerance and, therefore, they - the Hindus - will not be doing anything to harm India” is true, and Modi subscribes to this notion, then obviously as the Prime Minister, he will have to prove the truth of this ideological stance, not only to Indian Muslims and other minorities, but to the entire international community. Failing that, Modi’s stature and India’s place in global politics would diminish as India would turn into a modern day “apartheid” regime. Would Modi choose to let that happen? I would think not.
However, James Traub at the Centre on International Cooperation, says, “Modi shares the Hindutva outlook, which every once in a while sneaks through on the stump, as when he accused India’s Defense Minister, A.K. Antony, of being one of the ‘agents of Pakistan and enemies of India,” at the time of a border skirmish between Pakistani and Indian troops. But such common incidents and routine political statements ought not to be a matter of serious concern to Pakistan. In fact, India’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric helps keep the Pakistani armed forces in full preparedness to respond to any kind of Indian military adventure and should be considered as a positive strategic input to improve our defense programs. In addition, India’s anti-Pakistan military and political posture will assist in maintaining the Pakistani military establishment’s traditional “India-Centric” strategic foreign policy view. Also, it makes no sense that a future Indian Prime Minister would prefer a conventional or nuclear confrontation with Pakistan over an established and decades- long well-maintained nuclear and conventional detente that has served the interests of both the nations for a considerable period of time. Why would Narendra Modi want to destabilize an established “balance of power” between the two nations? Indeed, Modi would not want to be remembered in India’s history as the architect of a nation humiliated and destroyed by Pakistan’s army, in a mutually self-destructive nuclear confrontation that was of Modi’s making.
There is a real threat to Pakistan’s political establishment, however, from the incoming Indian Prime Minister’s socio-economic-political agenda for impoverished Indian masses. He promises good governance and a moderate foreign policy; he has plans to restore caste equalities and to narrow the income inequalities – and to establish the level of progress and prosperity attained in India before the advent of Europeans; he offers a modern democratic approach to political management with Modi’s own dynamic personality and proven track record of getting things done to bring abundance, prosperity, and affluence, and purposely plans to turn India into a land of sharing and caring. Modi is a modern political manager who knows how to move forward, discarding the traditional political culture and enacting necessary political-economic-social dynamics. His personal ascendance to political power is, in itself, a testament to this progressive political correctness and awareness as to what needs to be done to fix India’s problem of massive poverty and socio-economic inequalities.
On the other hand, in today’s Pakistan, economic development models are backwards, plans to narrow down socio-economic inequalities are nonexistent, the economic-socio ideological parameters are non-egalitarian in substance, and the six year democratic dispensation has been entirely dominated by status-quo political forces and right wing demagogues. Traditional political culture is steadfastly intact and the vested ruling elite is wholly and solely determined to consolidate oligarchic political and economic structures in the country.
Amazingly and ironically, the vested interest ruling elite in Pakistan is whole-heartedly busy in promoting a dynastic political framework for the future of this country, while in the neighboring country, revolutionary socio-economic-political transformations are taking place.
We don’t have to fear Modi; we have to fear ourselves!
“Aap ki baar, Modi Sarkar.” Hopefully you will prove your confessed tolerance for all, dispense justice to all of your people, including eventual justice for Kashmiri Muslims, show kindness to all of humanity, and respect the sovereignty, solidarity and mutual friendship of your immediate neighbor, Pakistan.
The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.