Chetan Bhagat, the popular novelist, has emerged as a journalist of note. His pieces are often featured as leading articles in Times of India which is a widely circulated English language daily. Obviously he writes well and his writings carry lots of common sense. While his communicating skills are improving by the day one does remember that this very man, having written his first novel a few years ago, confessed that he did not know the English language very well.
Recently Bhagat wrote an advisory for the Indian National Congress regarding the way it should combat Modi and his BJP at the next General Elections in 2019. Suggesting as many as ten points that needed to be taken care of, Bhgat said that among them was a very vital point relating to Modi’s failures in achieving what he had promised while campaigning before the last elections. He thought if the Congress concentrated on this angle the battle would be more than half won.
According to Bhagat, it should be hard to counter a man like Modi who has worked hard and is certainly not corrupt. Though his plans schemes were well-intentioned he could not deliver on them. There are many areas where Modi has failed to deliver as much as he had promised during his campaign speeches. Among his failures are not silencing the divisive elements and/or allowing an environment where the countrymen do not feel free. Perhaps in saying that, Bhagat meant the progressive loss of the freedom of speech and expression. Bhagat adds that Modi has “choked the economy” and has been unable to create jobs. Besides, he has increasingly added to the tax burden of tax payers.
It is true that there is not much that can be said against Modi but what Bhagat has delineated are issues that are serious enough. The rising fear of intolerant behavior as was evident right through Modi’s tenure and especially during the recent “Padmavati” agitation is something which is dreadful. Never ever were threats like beheading of a producer of a mere cinematic film and cutting off of the nose of an actor in a film based on a story of a supposedly fictional queen were witnessed in this country. It was quite difficult to distinguish such discourses from those of Taliban or ISIS. These failures were more serious than those on the side of the economy as the economy could be made to pick itself up but the damage done to the psyche of people is irreparable.
The cow vigilantism and instant capital punishment for those who were suspected to have been carting beef also told heavily on the acceptability of Modi and his party. Consumption of beef is banned only in few states but the effort of all the vigilante groups was to impose it almost all over the country. These groups, as it were, took upon themselves to decide what one should eat, thus denying the freedom of the people at large to choose the food of their choice. Strangely, Modi’s reactions to these unchecked despicable instances of curtailment of freedom were tardy and not quite adequate.
Quite rightly, therefore, Bhagat has suggested to the Congress to concentrate on these failures that stand out in a country which not too long ago enjoyed greater freedom. At the same time, it should become incumbent on Modi to initiate steps that affirm the traditional pluralism of the country. We have been a pluralistic nation all through and everyone was free to hold his opinion, act according to his conscience and express his opinion in whichever way he wanted subject to its being in conformity with Constitution. Besides, the religious divide was seldom made use of. Even today stories are recounted where Hindus and Muslims work together in various industries contributing, of all the things, to each other’s religious festivals. A division on religious lines is not only a manufactured division, it would also seem to be artificial and, hence, ephemeral.
While the Congress will do well to use the failures of Modi as sticks to beat him and the BJP Modi also has to reassure the people about a safe and sure environment for people to live in and survive in the country. Time is running out for Modi with only 18 months available for initiation of remedial steps. This term was an opportunity for his party but quite wittingly it has blown it. This country can never be converted into a Hindu Rashtra as it is made of several different strains each thriving under an umbrella of an emancipated, magnanimous, humane and enlightened Hinduism.