Is It Time To Do A Rethink on Mr. Modi And The BJP?

Long before words such as ‘populism’ and ‘majoritarianism’ started dominating public discourse Mark Twain had written: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Today, after what happened in the Maharashtra Assembly yesterday, I am inclined to follow his advice seriously.In July 2013 when Mr. Modi was still the rank outsider in the electoral sweepstakes and was being reviled by the press and the intellectualatti I had written a piece in these columns – WHY I SHALL SUPPORT MODI IN 2014 – laying out the reasons why the country needed him as Prime Minister. Today, he is not only the Prime Minister but also the flavour of the season, sweeping state after state, adulated by frenzied crowds, and fawned upon by the same people who had earlier cosied up to the Gandhis and the Chidambarams. It appears he can do no wrong. And, mindful of Mark Twain’s words, I am worried and inclined to do some deep reflection.

I have not changed my opinion that Mr. Modi is what India needs to pull us out of the morass of the last ten years. He has the vision, energy, commitment and resolution to extract the country out of the quagmire of corruption. cronyism, indecisiveness, breakdown of systems and values that we had become entrapped in. But I still worry.

There are indications – straws in the wind as yet, but they tell us which way the wind is blowing – that Mr. Modi is becoming too powerful and uncaring of the few sane voices stifled in the roar of the hosannas. Consider some of these straws: Far too many senior appointments to government are being made of persons associated with the Vivekananda Foundation, a right wing forum with links to the RSS. I will not name them because those who follow public affairs seriously know who they are.An obscurantist historian trapped in the vedic age, who is unknown even to students of history, is made head of ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research) inspite of across the board protests by his peers.

A man whose life mission is to burn books and propagate a version of history that mocks all scientific progress, Mr. Dinanath Batra, is made Advisor to the Education Department of Haryana and his books prescribed as text in 35000 schools in Gujarat.

An avowed Hindu hard liner who had advised opponents of Mr. Modi (read Muslim) to go to Pakistan and in whose house ten million rupees of unexplained cash was found is made a Minister in the Centre.

Delhi is denied an elected government for ten months and the local BJP cadre given a free hand to purchase MLAs; it is only when the Supreme Court steps in that a thoroughly compromised Lieutenant Governor orders re-elections.

Unexplained communal riots break out in Trilokpuri, Bawana, Babarpur and Okhla – all sensitive areas of Delhi – when it becomes clear that elections are inevitable. The signature on them is obvious. No action is taken against party loyalists who spew poison against minority communities or saffron clad hooligans who attack couples for holding hands or dining together in restaurants.

Hindu supremacy is being reasserted against Pakistan through the doctrine of ‘disproportionate response’ which now appears to have replaced the Gujral doctrine of peaceful engagement with neighbours. Yes, Pakistan had to be taught a lesson for its continual violations of the cease-fire and the ten thousand shells fired by the BSF have effectively conveyed this message. The Pakistan army has learnt its lesson. Shouldn’t the victor now be gracious and take the first step towards restoring normalcy again? Or is this about Hindu supremacy over Muslims again: if so, what message does this convey to the 200 million Muslims in India?

And finally Maharashtra. The vote of confidence in its Assembly yesterday has shamed the nation and set a new benchmark for chicanery and electoral fraud. For the first time in the history of this democracy, we are told, a minority government has established its ‘legitimacy’ by a voice vote and not by a proper process based on Division. This, after committing an even bigger fraud on the voter who elected it – viz. by allying with the party (NCP) against whose corrupt government it had asked for the votes!

These instances make me reflect and suggest to me that the BJP and Mr. Modi are perhaps becoming too imperious and over-bearing with the power they are rapidly acquiring. The issue of concern is not that of a mere appointment or two or of a riot here or there. It is of a trend that appears to be emerging – of a sustained domination of one community, of ramming down the throats of a nation a flawed concept of Hindu values and history, of Mr. Modi himself donning his personal cloak of integrity and high morals while allowing his party to shred ethics and morality to bits (how does that make him any different from Mr. Manmohan Singh then, you may well ask), of playing Russian roulette with two unstable neighbours (don’t forget Afghanistan). Its an ill wind that blows no good and the BJP is fanning it.

We need Mr. Modi, if not the BJP. We need his initiatives in liberalising the economy and manufacturing, in foreign relations, in financial inclusion, in strengthening our defence forces, in rebuilding our failing infrastructure. What we don’t need is a return to the vedic ages, to attempts to re-write history, to packing the higher bureaucracy with persons of a particular ideology, to an unleashing of the dogs of war, to criminal and mercenary politics, to handing over the streets to dogmatist and sectarian bigots.
What we need most of all is a Mr. Modi who is responsive to public opinion, even though it may be that of a minority, a Mr. Modi who respects a contrary point of view, a Mr. Modi who does not consider the press his eternal foe, to be treated with accumulated contempt as a form of vengeance for years of baiting. So far he has not displayed these qualities – he talks, but he does not converse, or respond or answer, and this is not healthy for any democracy.The crux of the problem is that Mr. Modi has no opposition worth the name, and consequently the hubris is building up in his system and, like the hero in a Greek tragedy, he is moving towards his denouement. But this is far more serious than a Greek tragedy, for when (in a metaphorical sense) he falls he will not fall alone but will take the entire nation with him. Mr. Modi is here to stay and the only force which can persuade him to do a course correction is a strong opposition. The entire universe survives on a balance of forces: every yang needs a ying, a thesis an anti-thesis, a point a counter-point. This critical balance is even more crucial for nations and somehow our present political dispensation must find this.

We need Mr. Modi but we also need a strong opposition in Parliament and other parties in power in some critical states. I hope voters of Delhi will bear this in mind in the days to come. This of course is free advice, but as Oscar Wilde said: ” The best thing to do with free advice is to pass it on!”

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at

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  1. says: kgaipal

    These were the precise things I worry everyday. Modi victory has brought along with him the same things which well bring the country down in an extreme right wing way. He needs to at least condemn all undemocratic, riots happening in this country. This country takes pride in multi-religion don’t destroy that. It will destroy a lot with it.

  2. says: kgaipal

    @Avnish Katoch

    While I like that you are postive in your outlook but PM must send some strong signals atleast for riots taking place publicly. If he can take lead in “swathc abhiyan”, technology and speak good on independence da, I will expect same anger to curb this increasing riots stuff.

    And this Mr Batra thing in Gujarat, Harayana is a very dangerous baggage to procastinate!

    1. To all who are expecting so much from a PM, all I want to say how much to expect from the man who just came on board and when mess is created over so many years. I wish we as Indians would have been this vocal or action takers in last 10 years. Religion is tough issue for India and has many implications and if PM is taking his time, I would rather wait than criticize. One mature statement came from his today: “Reject any linkage between religion and terrorism”, during East Asia Summit. Hold on, give the guy at least one year.

      1. says: Pankaj Khullar

        I do not think that Avay has criticized any one in his Blog. Rather he has done some astute analysis of the goings on and thrown a word of caution for all to consider. To quote Lord Acton – “Power corrupts … and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Corruption does not have be only in terms of bribery, licences and black money …. moral corruption is an even bigger form of corruption.

        I agree with Avay … I support Modi (not the BJP, though) and I feel he needs to exercise caution and step tenderly lest he crushes all underfoot.

      2. says: Neeraj

        Dear Sir
        With all humility I reject all the political correctness shown by you and by the author and by Modi himself. “Reject any linkage between religion and terrorism” is most untrue and utter rubbish. There is very close connection between two. Religion inspires the minds to go fanatic. This has happened throughout the history. Do you reject the observation that these terrorists are devout followers of their faith. Do they not have faith in their holy book? Are they not trying to impose vision of their religion on others? You can not isolate India from rest of world. What makes India different from Pakistan is just religion. Otherwise both countries have almost other resembling traits.

        If Palestanians attack jewish women, I dont see any demonstration and anger anywhere but if jewish forces kill palestanians, you can see demonstrations everywhere. Is this all free of religious considerations?
        Do you see same reaction in the world over derogatory depiction of Hindu goddesses and prophet and on derogatory depiction of Gandhi?
        Unless you acknowledge a problem, you will nowhere be close to solution

  3. says: Sandip Madan

    Per the comment above it’s a pity if the Modi (or a state) government cannot utilize the talents of a high caliber independent minded administrator (yes, you Avay, even as you squirm in embarrassment!) There are all too few of them, and what a difference they can make.

    And as you eloquently highlight, there’s a risk that Modi, a la Animal Farm, will become like Manmohan Singh in letting the wrong people run important parts of his government while he remains personally “clean.” We can hope he does an early course correction, steering India towards the open seas of prosperity with vision, good execution and tolerance, instead of ramming into the rocks of communalism.

  4. says: Avay Shukla

    Just a couple of points in response to your comments,Avnish. First, it is not my position that the officers appointed by Modi are not competent or honest: in fact, knowing how the PM functions they probably are-but that is not the point. The point is that preference is being given to officers with a particular ideology or association with an organisation that lurks in the shadows of the government. This is disturbing, as is the fact that an inordinate number of officers are being brought to the centre from Mr. Modi’s Gujarat. This gives the impression that Modi is creating some kind of a Praetorian Guard who will be loyal to him alone. This distorts the ethos of the civil services who are required to be faithful only to the Constitution, and brings back uncomfortable memories of Mrs. Gandhi , the Emergency and her infamous doctrine of a “committed bureaucracy.” We certainly don’t want a return to those days. There is no dearth of competent, honest officers to choose from.
    Second, after Maharashtra Modi has lost his moral moorings and people like me who had thought that the days of political wheeling and dealing were over feel betrayed by him.Fadnavis is now in Pawar’s pocket, like a dirty handkerchief on which he can blow his nose any time he wants, or chuck out when it suits him.
    Finally, its not Modi’s policies that are being questioned here: as I have said these are just the initiatives India needs. What is under a cloud now are his value systems.

    1. Khullar sir not criticizing at all, just putting my viewpoint (bit more optimistic than you experienced hands). Or may be bit patient and contemplating that politics is not about purity or fixing all that’s messed up, that job is for revolution (may be India needs one but only if Mr. Modi messes up beyond repair).

      Shukla sir, totally agree on Maharashtra, it’s again the baggage which BJP is carrying and if it would have not been AAP they would have created some kind of coalition government in Delhi also.

      Had there been AAP in Delhi, they would have kept super pressure and also would have stretched the central government.

      Yes there are enough good men but again lets not confuse ourselves that political parties don’t have agendas.

      I am still optimistic as Mr. Modi has many positive examples in just few months (barring Maharashtra being biggest mistake so far) and I agree that he has a herculean task to fix his own party. Would he do so, I think with time, he would. Somewhere I feel he would rule with iron fist if times comes to that.

      But again going back to my initial optimism, I just want to wait and watch Mr. Modi and hope that there is constant pressure on him whether it’s via intellects like you, via media or young India which is pretty demanding and looking for quick fixes.

    2. says: Vijet Hegde

      Though I am not supporting what Fadnavis did, but I think it is the same thing that Kejriwal did in Delhi a year back. Taking external support from his rival party to avoid the elections and the burden on common man.
      I am not at all happy with all those voice vote thing but speaking like he is Pawar’s pocket is not fair. When Kejriwal takes support from Congress, you were supporting him and when Fadnavis does the same, this cheap comment? It really makes you look biased.
      You agreed on Kejriwal’s decision and called him revolutionary, but when Fadnavis does, you tell Modi lost his moral moorings. Isn’t this Hypocrisy??

  5. says: Anupam Shukla

    In a language embellished in chaste English reminds me of the days when I was told to read Editorials of English news papers to learn the art of penning down essays.Congrats! Sometime back I responded to one of the Write up’s by you that I shall give two years to Mr Modi to prove himself. I still feel he is a Pop Star, forbes magazine also rated him recently.
    He, still, has to deliver. This article may open eyes of those who care for India.

  6. says: Anshul Kaushal

    Couldn’t agree more! While we all longed for a transfer of power, the whole process has unfolded in a rather odd fashion. We believe we voted sensibly, but as much as we deny, we’re supporting this government without a care in the world for any of its flaws. The Prime Minister has spoken times and again about equality but Hindutva has only cemented its roots even further. BJP members continue to come up with anti-secular statements in the media and there’s no voice strong enough to retort. Just a while back, the whole ‘love-jihad’ argument about how Muslim boys convert Hindu girls and threaten our religion was being advocated by the BJP and there hasn’t been a word of remorse from any member . Mr.Modi has repeatedly talked of endless schemes as he markets himself ,while the rest of the party plays its cards only to be covered up by another sanctified PM speech on the radio.

  7. says: Avay Shukla

    You’re right, Mr. Krishna, I’m almost 64, but you can never be in too much of a hurry to want to see ethical, tolerant and moral behaviour in your leaders. I fully support Mr. Modi’s policies and have said as much in the article. What disturbs me is his allowing of things that have nothing to do with governance but everything to do with promoting a dangerous mind set and ensuring a perpetuation of the BJP’s control. He doesn’t need a majority in the Rajya Sabha to repudiate these elements and ideas; he needs control over his party for that and this he has in ample measure.It is my thesis that it is only electoral reverses that will ensure that he follows a more moderate and inclusive line. Consider: after the defeat in the bye-elections which were allowed to be hijacked by the likes of Swami Adityanath and Bajpai, we heard no more of Muslim baiting in the polls in Maharashtra and Haryana, and the BJP won handsomely in both. But now once again Adithyanath has become vocal, Giriraj has become a Minister and sporadic riots have started happening in Delhi just before the elections. Time to teach these hardliners another lesson in my view-till Mr. Modi finally gets the message and purges these pustules from their system altogether. He and only he can do it, but he will not as long as he continues to win one state after another.

  8. says: B Harendran

    Well analysed practical situation India is facing with BJP and Mr. MODI as PM.
    South of India …we do not favour RSS, they do not strenthen Dravidian culture..

  9. says: S.N.Beri

    Mr. Shukla,s analysis of the political situation in India at this point of time is very thought provoking and does make lot of sense. But in my opinion we are judging or expecting a miracle from Mr. Modi far too early. We must give him more time .And i also believe that a man of action and forethought cannot be oblivious of what is going on around him ( Mr. Modi). I tend to believe that he must be monitoring public opinion on a daily basis.It is also a fact that he cannot start taking. corrective action against the errant party men on whose shoulders he has risen to these heights. But it is important that he does take some action against the people who are bringing bad name to his Government and do so before public opinion goes too far against him and the Govt.
    at the same time India has to keep faith in Mr. Modi,s ability to turn things around for the total damage he has inherited cannot be brushed aside in a jiffy. He has shown promise so far .So it is only right that we dwell more on his achievements till now instead of pulling him down for the acts of others. Wish him well.

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