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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 24 New Delhi June 1, 2019

Modi Government Takes Charge

Saturday 1 June 2019, by SC


Less than seven days after the results of the 17th Lok Sabha elections came out handing PM Narendra Modi a handsome victory at the hustings and enabling him to embark on a second term as the head of the Union Government, he and his Cabinet as well as Council of Ministers have been sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at the forecourt of the imposing Rashtrapati Bhavan this evening. The new entrant in the Cabinet is, of course, BJP President Amit Shah who is all set to get a plum portfolio. Also the conspicuous presence of S. Jaishankar, who functioned as India’s Foreign Secretary for a large part of Modi’s first term as the PM, in the Council of Ministers has led to considerable speculation of him handling the External Affairs Ministry.

It is noteworthy that several Ministers who have been sworn-in are not only ardent votaries of Hindutva but have outspokenly supported the anti-Muslim mobs killing minorities and tarnishing the government’s image in Modi’s first five-year tenure.

It is against this backdrop that one has to take due note of what one of the few eminent persons still in our midst in the country, Nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen, has written in a leading newspaper. Observing yesterday that the BJP leadership had grounds to be happy with the election results, he avers:

Narendra Modi, have reasons to be disappointed by global reactions to the BJP victory. There has been widespread criticism in the news media across the world (from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Observer,Le Monde,Die Zeit and Haaretz to the BBC and CNN) of the ways and means of securing BJP’s victory, including instigation of hatred and intolerance of groups of Indian citizens, particularly Muslims, who have every right to be treated with respect (as under the Gandhi-Tagore understanding).

Winning cannot be the only concern in fighting an election. It makes a big difference how the winners are viewed in the post-election world. A well-wisher of the BJP would have had reasons to desire more than just a win for her favourite party.

He also refers to the number of intellectuals who “have been murdered for expressing views that the Hindutva movement finds objectionable” and concludes:

The credit that the ruling party can get for winning the elections is seriously compromised by such repression. The victorious side has to consider what kind of regime it wants to run — and how it is viewed across the world. It is not hard to appreciate that democracy demands more than the counting of votes.

The Modi Government, as is well known, has been adopting a hard line in relation to Pakistan. Following the Modi-led BJP’s landslide victory a leading Pakistani intellectual, well-known journalist and human rights activist, I.A. Rehman, who headed the Pakistan Human Rights Commission for long years, has written a strong article in Dawn highlighting Modi’s “arrogance and belief in his own infallibility” both in 2014 and 2019 and hoping that the “Indian intelligentsia and saner elements in civil society, traditionally seen as a bulwark against the politics of hateful communalism, will have the courage and capacity to frustrate Modi’s plans to push India back to the mediaeval period”.

Modi’s spectacular victory has obviously generated considerable fear and suspicion in the foreign media, including those in our neighbouring countries. He and his associates in the BJP and government cannot ignore these views. If they do so it will only spell more trouble for them in the long run.

May 30 S.C.

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