Is it time to say goodbye to the Jawaharlal Nehru era? From foreign policy, economy to social mindset, a new era seems to be taking shape under prime minister Narendra Modi.
Crib howsoever you want, but Modi is shaping the contours of a new era. Forget the asphyxiating hype that accompanies every move the India prime minister makes, and the whiff of the unreal it lends to his achievements and persona; there’s something that suggests that under Modi India is moving to a new orbit. It marks a break from the past, specifically the time bracket beginning with Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India.
Take his foreign trips for instance. Ignore that definite gains for the country remain debatable — they always were. The fact remains that global powerhouses such as the US and Israel look at India under Modi with renewed interest.
Modi is not received as the leader of a potential client state or merely a country that offers a huge market but as an equal power with which long-term deep engagement makes sense. It’s not that an Indian leader never received this kind of treatment earlier, however, Modi gives things a different flavour by his confident, purposeful and almost audacious approach. Just notice how many times the word "friend" crops up in his interaction with world leaders and the hugs that happen.
It’s clear from the self-assured body language of Modi that India is not keen appearing as a meek global player anymore. Whether it’s from rallying the Indian diaspora to amplifying noises of support for him or asserting India’s greatness on global platforms, or discussing surgical strikes on Pakistan, abroad, the impression Modi wants to convey is that India has finally arrived as a world power and others must acknowledge it. It is not clear how convinced world leaders are, but they seem happy to play along so long as their interests are served well. It’s a clean break from the past, if not so much in substance, in appearance at least. The era beginning with Modi, India would continue with that appearance.
The passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) may have drawn criticism from several quarters for being half-baked, but it certainly reinforces Modi’s image as someone who is not afraid to take hard calls which have the potential to be hugely unpopular. The idea of ‘One India, One Market’ marks a definitive new beginning in India’s taxation regime. It is going to touch the lives of all Indians in several ways and many won’t be happy. Not many leaders of the earlier era would have the courage to go for the massive demonetisation exercise either despite the need for and the supposed benefits from it.
The fact that Modi and his government are not risk-averse marks a new beginning in the country. No other government earlier had dared to act in such fashion. When the coming generations speak of the passage of GST or demonetisation or surgical strike across the border, all big events and discussion would begin with Narendra Modi. Politically, if Nehru’s era would be identified with the overwhelming presence of Congress in the country, Modi’s would be identified with the preponderance of BJP. The opposition virtually didn’t exist then, it is on the verge of being irrelevant for a long time in this new era.
Eras are defined as much by leaders as the critical interplay of dominant social, economic and ideological forces of the time. Nehru was the helmsman in an era when socialism was the reigning ideology and principles of governance in all areas flowed from it. Modi begins an era where ideology itself has become irrelevant and the popular and the populist aspirations shape the ideas of governance.
After the break from the past in areas of politics, economy and foreign policy, the new era is likely to witness a departure in the social sphere too, with the society assuming clear majoritarian tendencies and pushing the minorities to the margins. This trend is already visible across the country. Interestingly, it is not led by Modi but forces which have come into prominence riding on his popularity and political success. It would not be a surprise if India becomes a Hindu Rashtra, if not officially, then for all practical purposes. This would mean the beginning of a new India, very unlike the earlier one.
The purpose of this article is not to be judgmental about this era or the earlier one. Each era contains its life force and source of destruction too. It only seeks to highlight the fact that from the historical perspective, the Nehru and the post-Nehru era might have ended and a new one has taken shape. It would for the future generations to judge it.
Updated Date: Jul 06, 2017 07:05 AM