Modi seems to have lost whatever he had gained in his first term. The worldwide acclaim and the cheers that he received in various Western countries, all now seem to be well in the past. He is no longer the colossus he had become soon after being elected in 2014. Squirming in his prime ministerial seat, he has lost all that verve and spirit that he had displayed before going down with the CAA.
It is a very harsh world – the world of international politics. One mistake is enough to do one in. That is precisely what happened and Modi was brought down to earth from the rarified atmosphere of international politics – by only one mistake. If only he had been a little more circumspect, he would have thought twice before making religion the basis of the new Citizenship Law.
There are enough examples from history which indicate there are more subtle ways of keeping the ones who prove to be undesirable out of the country. I recall some years ago the Australian administration had kind of a run in with Muslim immigrants. They were told in clear and unambiguous terms that it was a Christian country and would remain so in the foreseeable future. If Muslims had any issue with it they were free to look for other countries that provided more conducive environment for them. Similar sentiments were expressed by a minister in Netherlands a few years ago.
To keep out a community on account of its faith or allow in communities on the basis of theirs was somewhat jarring to the senses. I recall having written in my blog ‘Random thoughts on CAA’ that ”One feels certain that there must have been other options available to the government to achieve its objectives but these were not availed of”. True enough the next day it was in papers that constitutional/legal experts had suggested use of the word “persecuted” instead of naming faiths. And that, to my mind, would not have given rise to the kind of furore inside the country or outside. The one little mistake has caused such an awful lot of damage.
Looks like Modi’s luck has run out - at least for the time being. The entire world came into the grip of an economic slowdown. India could not have remained immune to it. The GDP figures took a nose dive and till the time of writing these have not shown any signs of recovery. Economists, and we have too many of them including two Nobel Laureates, feel the fall has bottomed out and soon signs of recovery would be noticeable. One feels it is all rubbish. With the hordes of them around how did they forget whatever they had learnt for avoiding a copping-out GDP in the first place? Looking around, one finds numerous Asian countries are doing better than us though they do not have the advice of as many trained economists from Oxford or Cambridge or Boston as we have. Or is it a matter of too many cooks? Barring a very short duration in post-liberalisation India, our economy has never been of the “neighbour’s envy” - type.
Even as Modi is grappling with the sit-ins, riots and demonstrations thrown up by the bad decision of CAA and a never-rising GDP out of the blue came the much-maligned corona virus which is showing signs of becoming pandemic in this rapidly shrinking planet of ours. Taking birth in one corner of the world in China it quickly assumed massive proportions to spread right round the world threatening to fell many innocents as it sweeps through continents.
No wonder Modi, forgetting the promises that he happened to make when days were not so bleak, is engaged full time in fighting away the adversities that befell him. The problems are so overwhelming he seems to have totally forgotten about the economy which many assert is in immediate need of tending.
In his “Ushering in a new era” Shiv Vishwanathan, a public intellectual, in The Hindu OpEd of 16th August 2014 lavishing extravagant praise on Modi’s first Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort he wrote ”It is a perfect performance, crafted in ease, delivered with confidence… As a semiotic act, it is difficult to beat. The success is almost matter-of-fact. Lutyens’ Delhi smells a new regime as India senses the new era. Looking back, if politics is performance, the Oscar goes to Mr. Modi. Even Bollywood could not have done it better.”
But that was in the first term. He is currently almost a year unto his second. Much water has flowed down the Ganges in these 70-odd months. Indian politics, vicious as it is, has given him a harsh detergent wash and peeled off those layers that he had donned in 2014. Though he won a thumping second mandate, that one mistake reduced him to the level of the ordinary – a pedestrian. Coming with so much promise and assurance he seems to have withered in the unbearably hot draught of the dog-eat-dog politics of India. Even a rousing reception to the chief of the first world at the world’s largest cricket stadium failed to lift his stock in 2020.
And that is a misfortune for India. Many of us did not care for BJP but found in Modi that mettle that could take India forward. Alas, that was not to be! Too soon fate intervened to undo whatever little was done leaving an enormous lot undone. Sometimes one cannot but pity the fate of this country that has remained a developing country despite all its huge potentials.