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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 8 New Delhi February 8, 2020

A Critical Review of the Modi 1.0 Regime in India

Sunday 9 February 2020

BOOK REVIEW

by Astha Ahuja

India: the Wrong Transition by Anand K. Sahay; Aakar Books, New Delhi; 2019; pp. 288; Hard Cover: Rs 595.

The book, India: the Wrong Transition, by senior journalist Anand K. Sahay is a collection of his monthly columns in various news-papers. There are 69 articles which have been divided into three sections. The articles range from the political situation in India after the general elections of 2014 and the one following the general elections of 2019 to the political scenario and situation in Kashmir and India’s relations with its neighbours, particularly China and Pakistan.

The first section, ‘Second Republic and other stories’, has 44 articles. These articles give us an insight into Modi’s idea of politics and his handling of economic and social issues.

The second section on Kashmir consists of 11 articles. These convey how the issue of Kashmir has been dealt with by the policy-makers.

The third section—titled, ‘India and the World’—consists of 14 articles. The discussion here is about relations with our neighbouring countries since the Modi Government came to power.

The author is of the view (p. 14) that supremacy of Hinduism or Hindu Rashtra, as envisioned by the RSS-BJP, can be brought about only by denigration of the core values of India’s present Constitution.

In the 2014 General Elections Modi coined the term “New India” in which he promised jobs for all youth and “Achche Din”. This enabled him to get the support of the youth and other marginalised groups like, the OBCs and Dalits. Of course, he continued to get the support of the traditional upper-caste citizens.

However, the author points out that most of these slogans turned out to be mere rhetoric as there was increased violence against the Dalits and certain religious minority groups. (p. 16)

The author rightly points out that the electronic media played a major role in establishing brand Modi. (p. 17) He also points to the misuse of social media to create communal tensions.

In first article, the author draws a comparison between how the general elections of 2014 were fought and how the general elections of 2019 were being fought by the BJP. He shows how the narrative completely changed from ‘Achche Din’ to ‘Rashtrabhakti’.

The author also mentions (p. 31) that externally-induced terrorism and its foreign patron have not been dealt with properly so that the security situation in Kashmir has deteriorated. This is of course before the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 which has again changed the situation in the Kashmir Valley. We are yet to know what impact this will have on the security situation there.

The article “Rahul Alone gives the BJP Sleepless Nights” (p. 35) points out how Rahul Gandhi became the BJP’s most feared opponent. For creating a ‘Congress-mukt’ Bharat, the Congress leadership had to be demolished and the best way of doing so was to attack its top leadership.

The author argues (p. 54) that the BJP used the Ayodhya issue to cover up the economic failures by diverting attention of the public to an emotional issue. The moot point is now that the Supreme Court judgment has come and the issue has been settled, whether the issue will continue to retain its emotive appeal. Alternatively, will the BJP now use new issues like Article 370, CAB and NRC to divert attention from a deteriorating economy which some have called an economy in the ICU?

In the article ‘Silence and Mayhem Cannot go Together’, he also points to the silence of the government on women’s issues. It is mentioned that the government has reacted with delay, almost reluctantly, to serious crimes again women which shook the nation. He cites the cases of M.J. Akbar, Kathua rape case and BJP MLA’s rape case in UP.

The author compares the actions of the Central Government with those of Naxalites and argues that if the government had gone into the hand of Naxalite bands, it is unlikely that greater chaos may have prevailed. (p. 72) This is indeed a very strong indictment of the government and the ruling party.

The article, ‘Modi’s Depleted Moral Capital’, mentions that institutions hardly seem to matter to Mr Modi—no press conferences were held from 2014 to 2019 and there was one-sided communication by the PM through his Mann-ki-Baat. Increasingly there was the political misuse of the armed forces by the government to push its narrative. As many have argued, the interviews that were given to the press seem to have been fixed. One can also mention that when very big decisions were announced like, demonetisation, the PM did not given any reply in Parliament. He said that the pain would be over in 50 days and if not he could be given any punishment on any cross road but this was also a false promise, devaluing the PM’s word and his credibility.

In the article ‘Second Republic in India’, the author mentions that the BJP wants to destroy the democratic structure of India to build a Hindu Rashtra. He points to the grave threat to the ‘Idea of India’ which has prevailed since Independence.

In article ‘India in 2017—Almost Orwellian’, the author also questions the methodology of calculating national income. He expresses doubts about other data as well and wonders if the government would forge data to present a rosy picture of its performance. It is clear that of late various adverse data on the economy has been sought to be suppressed or denied as have been the case with employment data or consumption data.

The comparison of Demonetisation with Emergency is an interesting aspect of one article. Both created a huge crisis in the life of the common citizens.

The articles on foreign policy in the last section, point out that the Modi Government had failed many times in dealing appropriately with the neighbouring countries, especially, China, thus creating diplomatic difficulties for the nation. He cited the Dokhlam incident as a case in point. When it happened Mr Modi was hosting the Chinese president in Ahmedabad. (p. 247) The long run foreign policy was damaged by taking many decisions in the PMO rather than in the Ministry of External Affairs. This also points to the over-centralisation of power in the PMO. This is not good for a vast country like, India which has long-term interests globally and in its neighbourhood.

All in all the book points to the difficulties being created for the nation as a result of the actions of the Modi Government. These will have a long-term impact on the nation and not just in the short-run. It is a book that any concerned citizen can read with profit.

The reviewer is an Assistant Professor, Aryabhatta College, Delhi University.

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