The bjp’s sweeping victory in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly election in which it bagged a three-fourth majority in the 403-strong house, and with the resurgent party forming coalition governments in Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur — Punjab is the sole state in which it failed to win a sizeable vote — the BJP, which wears nationalism and cultural conservatism on its sleeve, has transformed into India’s natural party of governance. This huge electoral victory in India’s most populous (223 million) heartland state two years after the BJP was swept to power at the Centre in General Election 2014 with a two-third majority in the Lok Sabha, means this party has replaced the left-of-centre Congress, which led India to political freedom 70 years ago, as the country’s premier pan-India political formation.
The precipitous fall in electoral fortunes of the Congress is well deserved and overdue. Dominated since independence by the Nehru dynasty which foolishly imposed communist-inspired neta-babu socialism and a notoriously complex licence-permit-quota regimen upon the economy, Congress, which ruled for over half a century at the Centre and in most states, vacuumed and invested national savings into massive, capital-intensive public sector enterprises (PSEs) which have been run into the ground by business-illiterate bureaucrats. And with PSEs unable to generate the surpluses required for investment in infrastructure development and in the social sector (public education and health) even as private industry was denied the ease of doing business, under Congress rule, high-potential post-independence India declined into one of the world’s poorest, unhealthy and illiterate nations.
Unfortunately, prime minister Narendra Modi, who is widely and rightly, acknowledged as the prime architect of the BJP’s stunning electoral victories since 2014, is beginning to sound much like Congress prime minister Indira Gandhi who led her party to an equally impressive victory in the general election of 1971. At the time, she promised to eradicate poverty (garibi hatao) through a series of populist measures including subsidies and loans for the poor. Now with his own pro-poor and anti-rich rhetoric, prime minister Modi is venturing down a similar disastrous path.
Fresh from his recent electoral triumph, this is the appropriate time for the prime minister to remember that the BJP is essentially a pro-business, free markets party which needs to reverse Nehruvian socialism which has beggared post-independence India.
Therefore, he needs to focus on privatising PSEs, improving the ease of doing business for entrepreneurs, investing in police-judiciary reforms and doubling public health and education outlays. In short, he needs to acknowledge that ‘suited-booted’ businessmen are a better bet than bush-shirt/bandh-galla public sector babus for the prosperity of 21st century India.
Magnanimity Deficit in Triumphal Hour
Prime minister narendra modi’s decision — or his acquiescence to the decision — to appoint Yogi Adityanath, a die-hard hindutva champion who has repeatedly proclaimed his intent to transform India into a Hindu rashtra, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, is as dismaying as it is confounding. In his moment of electoral triumph, the prime minister — who it is unanimously acknowledged, played the lead role in the BJP’s astounding triumph in the recently concluded UP election with the party winning 312 of the 403 seats in the assembly — could have afforded to be magnanimous in victory and persuaded the party to choose a more universally acceptable individual as chief minister to apply a healing balm to the shell-shocked minorities of India’s most populous (223 million) state. Instead, he has acquiesced to the choice of perhaps the most polarising and openly anti-Muslim politician in the country, described by liberal intellectual Pratap Bhanu Mehta as “a politician who has, for most of his political career, been the mascot of militant Hindu sectarianism, reactionary ideas, routinised conflict and thuggery in political discourse”.
In the absence of any meaningful explanation from the prime minister or BJP bigwigs except for banal statements that UP’s new chief minister is acceptable to all castes and was a tireless BJP campaigner during the five-phase election process, it’s in the public interest to speculate about the logic of this divisive appointment by a political party which propounds economic development for all as its top priority.
Indeed it’s highly likely that UP’s new chief minister with a huge majority in the state assembly, will insist upon immediate construction of the Ram temple on the disputed Babri Masjid site, which was vandalised by BJP/RSS goons in 1992, as he has repeatedly sworn to do. Surely in this eventuality, religious riots will break out, given the already surcharged environment in the state with a Muslim minority of 40 million, dashing the possibility of economic development for all.
Even if we discount this probability, is foreign or domestic capital — desperately needed to create jobs in a state in which an estimated 11 million youth are unemployed — likely to flow into tension-filled UP? The logical conclusion is that in reality building the Ram temple in Ayodhya is the top priority of the BJP government at the Centre.
Regrettably, the prime minister and the BJP leadership are unaware of the wisdom of the Churchillian advice: in war, resolution; in victory, magnanimity. The Adityanath appointment is tantamount to stoking the insecurities of the country’s minority Muslim community, if not rubbing salt into their wounds.
The expectation of the public which voted the BJP to power at the Centre in 2014 and in Uttar Pradesh last month, is that prime minister Narendra Modi would mature from a stump politician into a statesman. That expectation has been belied with the appointment of a rabble-rouser as chief minister of India’s most populous state.