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NaMo: Only a Corner of India

NaMo: Only a Corner of India

by Sazzad Hussain
July 30, 2013

For his admirers and Facebook followers he is the most efficient political leader that can steer the troubled state of India. He is the role model for economic growth and infrastructure development. For the business houses and the corporate world he is the darling for providing hassle free bureaucratic clearances and tax heavens. And for the right wing supremacists he is the mascot of “Hindu” political ideology. On the contrary, for the minority Indians, particularly the Muslims of post-Godhra Gujarat, he is the symbol of injustice and a Chief Minister that by-passes them in the “Vibrant Gujarat” development landscape. For his critics, from economists to sociologist and activist, he is a person who resorts to stereotype profiling for his ideology and a smart PR stunt who hypnotizes a euphoric followers to swell frenzy for support. By taking account everything from the either side of the divide it is clear that Narendra Modi, is not what India is—diverse, pluralistic, inclusive. All his public utterances and actions ever since he has been elevated as the core leader of the BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha Polls, reveals his identity to be an exclusive, polarized and hegemonic leader—an entity that does not fit to lead a country like India. NaMo, the popular nickname given to Narendra Modi in the social networking space, represents only a part of India—not the whole.

NaMo has been the lover boy for the business and industry since the very beginning and likewise has done a lot to the corporate world that any other sector of the state. For big business infrastructures like super highways, flyovers, glass-chromed buildings housing malls and multiplexes are developed at a faster pace changing the urbanscape of many Gujarati cities. Undeniably, a number of people are benefited by these developments. But on the agriculture, health and education sector the indexes are dismal in Gujarat. The continuous drought in the Saurashtra region and its poor management by the Gujarat government tell a different story of “Vibrant Gujarat” of NaMo.

In his political rhetoric, NaMo always stresses on development than any other things, even the talk of secularism in Indian society and politics is unimportant for him. But whenever the election comes, it is he who returns to the secular vs. communal discourse again and again. If secularism is obsolete for his type of politics NaMo also should have shun the verbosity emotive issues centered around religion intended to target a particular religious community. He should have asked his followers about the irrelevance of the religious identity in Indian politics. But in 2002 December assembly polls he campaigned that voting for Congress would mean voting “Miyan Musharaf”. In 2012 polls he again resorted to “Miyan Ahmed Patel” rhetoric to polarize the voters on communal sentiments despite his stated comfortable position of the development plank. Since that poll result NaMo has been showing his gestures of vying for the highest office at Delhi and for that he launched “India First” campaign. It is very encouraging that NaMo envisages the nation first and religious faith to the backyard in that campaign aimed at the youth of the country. But very soon he diluted his nationalism with religion while giving the interview to Reuters. Here we find echoes of European xenophobic far right groups like National Front where nationalism is defined in terms of Christianity and colour of the skin (in fact the interview was given to the prospective western audiences). Then he unnecessarily dragged “burqa” to attack secularism. Thus, by his selective use of words and terms like “Miyan” and “burqa” NaMo always create controversy and meaningless public debates on the issue of secularism vs. communalism divide. Though he tries to make secularism irrelevant in Indian politics, he himself creates controversies by his select words and ambiguity that bears a communal undertone.

Besides the corporate moghuls NaMo enjoys supports from many Bollywood stars, celebrities and yoga guru Baba Ramdev. Writer Chetan Bhagat and one man Janata Party supremo Dr. Subrahmaniam Swami also are die hard fans of him. For a long time these figures have endorsed NaMo as India’s would be chief executive—to replicate the development of Gujarat in the entire country. But the critics have been apprehensive of him since the beginning. Economist like Lord Meghnad Desai and historian Rama Chandra Guha has been dismissing the form of governance and development of NaMo. Presently Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen has also disapproved NaMo to lead a pluralistic country like India. For NaMo the seventeen years old bonhomie between BJP and Janata Dal (U), the main block of the NDA, is over. It is unlikely that Mamata Banerjee’s TMC or Jayalalitha’s AIADMK would be in NDA if Modi is made to lead it. That means NDA is left only to Shiv Sena of Maharastra, a party which does not have any existence outside that state for its xenophobic policies, and the SAD in Punjab or the almost extinct AGP in Assam. The rest of the dominant political parties like the BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh, BJD in Odisha, Telegu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, NCP will also not join the NDA if NaMo is there. All these parties and their support base, their issues and agendas and ideologies differ greatly with the stated objectives of Narendra Modi. Even without leaving side the issue of secularism, an allergy for NaMo, all these political parties do not share his views and ideologies. These constituencies represent the larger picture of India, the majority view of the country that does not endorse a policy which is based on bellicose jibe and hatred and intolerance (look the way Chandan Mitra snubbed Prof. Amartya Sen for his anti-Modi remarks). Even within his own party Narendra Modi’s hurried climb to the ladder of elevation is not liked by equally successful Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan, LK Advani and Sudhanshu Kulkarni. Likewise Modi will not be sent to Karnataka for his party’s campaign after its rout in the recently concluded assembly polls. We must not forget that NaMo was also kept away from campaigning in Bihar when JD (U) was with the NDA. Therefore, long before Narendra Modi was brought to the national team of BJP for the 2014 polls, he was neither an all India leader nor the current political landscape indicates such a possibility. Besides the Congress—all the other political parties, barring the Shiv Sena and IMUL are representing the secular credentials of the Indian society albeit in different forms and expressions and they reflect the majority’s view.

But the way NaMo speaks acts and idealizes represents only a fringe element of India, a corner of the vast Indian space. The success of the traditionally business doing Gujaratis with a two century old diaspora in a globalized neo-liberal economy and a corporate friendly policy attracting investments does not represent whole India which has so many geographical, climatic terrain related adversities with people with so many different problems and issues. Earlier Andhra Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu, whom President Clinton also came to meet, lost polls despite transforming Hyderabad to a silicon valley. That is not the whole India.

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Sazzad Hussain is a freelancer based in Assam, India.

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