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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 39 New Delhi September 15, 2018

Has Narendra Modi Lost His Way?

Saturday 15 September 2018, by Amitava Mukherjee

There are now unmistakable signals from the top echelons of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that a section of the organisation is not happy with the way Narendra Modi is going about his administrative and political duties. There are reasons behind it. Even die- hard supporters of the Prime Minister will admit that Modi has failed to show results in three most important areas of administration— law and order, economy and foreign policy. But the most important allegation against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Govern-ment is that it is trying to bypass the second and most important word in its nomenclature. Recent arrests of several human rights activists and respected citizens of the country by the Maharashtra Government prove it. Although it was an act by a State Government, yet it is the BJP which is in power in both Mumbai and Delhi and the shadow of the top BJP leadership certainly looms large over the development.

The Congress sympathised with the rights activists/ intellectuals. But the grand old party cannot shake off its own responsibilities behind the growth of a shortsightedness among the middle class which tries to brand anything Leftist, ultra Left, moderately Left or even Left-of-Centre-as condemnable and ‘therefore anti-national’. This is a direct fall-out of the introduction of a neo-liberal economic order which was championed first by Narasimha Rao and then by Manmohan Singh, the two Prime Ministers from the Congress. Narendra Modi is only carrying forward the cultural stereotypes which the Congress pushed forward at a previous date.

However India’s experience with ultra-Left politics has not been good. It was a tale of near- lunacy in West Bengal in 1970-1971 when the Naxalites under the leadership of Charu Majumder and his CPI-ML let loose a reign of senseless and aimless murders all over the State. Ultimately the Naxalites got what they deserved—a total rejection from the people of the State. In subsequent times some of the Naxalite factions tried to gain acceptance by participating in electoral politics. Successive election results, however, prove that the people of India still cannot repose faith in them.

But the government should not lose sight of one thing. Even in the late 1960s the Naxalite movement had gained momentum cashing in on the terrible plight of peasants, Dalits and Adivasis. The primary base of today’s CPI (Maoist), which is an amalgamation of the Maoist Coordination Committee (MCC) and the People’s War Group, is also the same. So the Indian Government must introspect what is going wrong and where. Why have the Naxalites been able to find their feet again even after their crushing defeat in 1970-1971?

If the NDA Government turns a bit introspective then it will realise that the actual people it should interact with are the poor and tortured Dalits and Adivasis whose cultural moorings and livelihood are now under threat in the face of the unfathomable greed of several multi-nationals and business houses. This is the most serious socio-political issue of the country which successive governments in New Delhi have either failed to understand or have chosen to bypass. If the NDA Government can establish a direct contact with these poor and hapless people then it will be Narendra Modi’s single biggest achievement and no government, either at the Centre or in the States, will need to detain human rights activists some of whom, and certainly not all of them, are rootless and often exhibit indiscretion in their approach.

What has the BJP gained from the drama of these arrests? Practically nothing. It was significant that the press conference in the Delhi Press Club addressed by several intellectuals, including Arundhati Roy, had witnessed a large number of journalists openly fraternising with what Roy and other dignitaries had said castigating the arrests. Even the Supreme Court’s observation had gone against the BJP-led government of Maharashtra. Even after that the Maharashtra Government committed another faux pas as the ADG (Police) made certain comments about the justifiability of the arrests when the issue was sub judice.

India is basically a land of tolerance. That the Naxalite movement had fallen flat in West Bengal was because of the fact that the Naxalite leaders failed to grasp this basic tenet due to their immature and incomplete understanding of the history and philosophy of the country. But every government must keep in mind that objective conditions for a violent social swirl always remain. Dalits and Adivasis, who now form the backbone of the CPI (Maoist) operations, constitute one-fourth of the Indian population. One-third of the global poor live in India and seventyfive per cent of them are in rural areas. So a volatile situation already exists and the government should try to ameliorate the pitiable plight of the marginalised communities rather than chasing human rights activists.

But no corrective action is possible till the country follows the neo-liberal economic order. The reason behind Narendra Modi’s poor performance on all fronts lies here. There is no dearth of brains in our country. But the Central Government must turn away from the mediocre brains trained in business schools and instead rely on real economists.

The author is a senior journalist and commentator.

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