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Aatish Taseer’s Time essay is part of known agenda: Prop up Rahul, discredit Modi, undermine wisdom of Indian voter

Take loads of hatred for Prime Minster Narendra Modi, add dollops of dislike for anything that can be remotely connected to the Hindu civilisation, shake it with a liberal dose of allergy for India, add a of dressing of pseudo secularism and western liberal values to camouflage your love for Islam and political dynasties and mix them well. The resultant mixture makes for the best “Indian cocktail of 2019” to western customers.

This, in a nutshell is Aatish Taseer’s article in the latest issue of the Time magazine entitled Can the World's Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government?

As he starts sipping this heady cocktail, the first thing that jars is his total disregard for all Indian institutions. That’s why he compares India with Turkey; notwithstanding the fact India has well established constitutional institutions such as the Election Commission and an independent judiciary.

He also has total contempt for the wisdom of Indian electorate.

No wonder he describes the (expected) victory of Narendra Modi as a “calamity for India”. If he indeed respects democratic, free and fair mandate by Indians, his first argument that India under Modi is following Turkey-like populism crumbles. India is too complex to be carried away by a single populist idea, however attractive it may be. Else, the Congress would be poised for a two-thirds majority only on the basis of “NYAY,” which is not likely to happen as per his own admission.

He then argues that the 2014 victory of Modi is an expression of distrust in Indian institutions and of its founding principles. His main complaint is that Modi did not spare even the “unassailable” Jawaharlal Nehru, as if Nehru can do no wrong.

 Aatish Taseer’s Time essay is part of known agenda: Prop up Rahul, discredit Modi, undermine wisdom of Indian voter

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his interview with Network18. News18

He ignores the fact that proponents of Nehruvian secularism neutralised the Supreme Court’s judgment in favour of Shah Bano and Dr Manmohan Singh said that minorities had the first right on the resources of the country. This is in direct contrast to his assertion that “…beneath the surface of…liberal syncretic culture, India was indeed a cauldron of religious nationalism, anti-Muslim sentiment and deep-seated caste bigotry”.

If anything, during the rule of the Congress it was a cauldron of overt minority-ism and appeasement with a topping of liberalism. No wonder that his article finds no mention of post-partition pogrom of Hindus in Pakistan or any anti-Muslim riots under the long rule of the Congress.

Under the intoxication of this cocktail, Taseer then turns to the state of the economy. Again he makes sweeping judgments, without taking into account of the high GDP growth rate under the Modi government, establishment of efficient and transparent systems for direct transfer of benefits the poor and infrastructure development, to list just a few measures taken over the last five years.

On religious conflicts too, he ignores the fact that there were no major incidents in India in last five years and instances of mob lynching were not only condemned by this government but also culprits arrested. His claim that the government’s response to these instances is “virtual silence” is nothing but falsehood. On women’s issues, he conveniently ignores the various government initiatives for women empowerment, right for enhanced paid maternity leave, toilets at home, separate toilets in schools for girl students, free schooling, cooking gas connections, micro-financing for women entrepreneurs, etc.

The centrepiece of his arguments can be divided into two parts. First is his presumption that anything that can even remotely be connected with India’s past is against modernity. On the contrary, overwhelming majority of Indians, most of the political parties (with the exception of the ultra-lefts) view India as a continuum, from past, via present, to the future, deeply rooted on the ancient culture such as praying for the happiness and good health of all (not just self), care for the environment and respect for even inanimate objects. That is why Dr BR Ambedkar famously said in 1954,

“Positively my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words — liberty, equality and fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha.” If Dr Ambedkar had thought like Taseer, he would not have adapted to Buddhism.

Of course, everything that is old is not gold. Needless to say that our society has yet to overcome evils like discrimination on the basis of caste or gender. We also need to throw out many outdated rituals and traditions. But it does not mean we should follow the ill-advice of Taseer and cut our umbilical cord with the rich heritage and values our ancestors have left for us.

Taseer has now joined elite club of Modi baiters in India and editors of The Economist.

No wonder he did not find even one initiative of the Modi government worth appreciating. Thankfully, he is acutely aware of the limitations of current dynastic leadership of Congress. But he is not against dynasty per se. He is just worried about the incompetence of Rahul and Priyanka. Had they been a little smarter, he would have been the first person to do “aarti” in favour of the Gandhi dynasts in Varanasi, rather than for Maa Ganga, because according to him, Ganga represents “Hindu theocracy, the medieval Indian past, mired in superstition and magic” and those who perform Ganga Aarti are “…people clinging to the past, ill-equipped for the modern world”. Corollary to this is that any corrupt, caste-based, unethical, inefficient or incompetent person is better suited to lead India as long as he/she dissociates themselves from the past.

The biggest pain point for the likes of Taseer is that they are at last seeing the inevitable; the victory of Modi. Their desperate attempts of fear mongering are driven by three distinct but inter-connected objectives. First, discredit wisdom of the Indian electorate (also seen in the latest editorial of The Economist), somehow try to raise the stature of the Congress and Rahul (in spite of knowing how challenging the task is) and third discredit Modi before the western audience.

Like their failed logic and shattered wishful thinking, these objectives are unlikely to see the light of the day come 23 May.

The author is in-charge of the foreign affairs department of the Bharatiya Janata Party

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Updated Date: May 12, 2019 17:36:34 IST