How democratic dividend has been a hallmark of Modi-fied India

Contrary to a constant refrain that democracy under the Modi government has been under siege, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has institutionalised meritocracy and development-oriented politics

Sanju Verma January 24, 2022 10:43:32 IST
How democratic dividend has been a hallmark of Modi-fied India

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy Twitter/@PBNS_India

In the last seven years, there has been a constant refrain that democracy under the Modi government has been under siege. This is the biggest lie, peddled by a vested, leftist, international press and a large section of our own Lutyens’ media that survived for decades together on the Congress’ largesse. While nepotism and dynastic politics bereft of merit were the hallmark of the erstwhile Congress regimes, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has institutionalised meritocracy and development-oriented politics, with India jumping 79 places from rank 142 to rank 63 in Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) ranking between 2014 and 2020, in a survey of 190 countries. Similarly, India jumped 35 places to number 46 in 2021, from rank 81 in 2014, in the Global Innovation Index (GII) ranking from a survey of 142 countries.

Before delving deeper into what PM Modi has done, it is essential to grasp how the Congress delegitimised the democratic spirit of the country. The fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution are an integral part of India's democratic ethos, with Article 19 guaranteeing the right to free speech and expression. Article 19(2) provides specific conditions under which the right to free speech can be restricted. These restrictions necessarily have to do with the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, morality or other areas pertaining to contempt of court, defamation or incitement of an offence. The moot point to be noted here is that the right to free speech and the right to dissent are not absolute.

Every freedom comes with checks and balances and Article 19 is no exception. Hence, those who hide hate speech under the pretext of exercising their rights under Article 19 are simply trying to mislead and misinform. Modi has unarguably been the most viciously trolled leader and a virulent Opposition has repeatedly attacked him personally when they failed to take him on electorally. Who can forget the shameful “Chowkidar Chor Hai” jibe that Rahul Gandhi repeatedly used to run down the office of the prime minister? The incompetent Congress scion had to apologise later but he did that only under duress after he was dragged to the Supreme Court for his indiscretions.

Prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress-led UPA government passed an order stating that the cable network rules forbid anything which is not in good taste, decency, slanderous or detrimental to the social/public and moral life of the country. Any television channel which showed the then prime minister (read as Manmohan Singh) in poor light would be liable for adverse action under the Uplinking and Downlinking Regulations as also a penal action under Section 20 of the Cable Network (Regulation) Act. This order was unconstitutional censorship by the erstwhile Congress regime, prompted by nothing but Modi-phobia, as it was clear to political pundits and Congressmen alike that the massive Modi wave was set to uproot the inept and corrupt Congress from South Block.

The notorious cable order said that on days Singh addressed the nation, no other speech should be or would be telecast. Any comment of any Opposition leader would be censored, said this order. Blanket censorship has no place in a democracy, as criticism is a way of life. All individuals in public life must be subjected to scrutiny. Criticism is a part of public accountability. But the cable order restrictions encroached on free speech and the right to dissent. Airwaves are public property and the only use of the airwaves is regulated by the government. Users of the airwaves must not violate constitutional guarantees or the sovereignty and integrity of India or any of the Article 19(2) restrictions. Disagreement with the Prime Minister is not a restriction mentioned in Article 19(2). Then on what grounds did the UPA attempt to foist the draconian cable order?

Why were the self-declared beacons of free speech, also called the 'Award Wapsi' and 'Khan Market Gang', quiet then? Large parts of India's Leftist media, which has repeatedly levelled baseless allegations at the Modi government for curbing free speech, never cared to as much as even whimper once at the fascist cable order by the erstwhile Congress government. Why? The answer is obvious. The politically irrelevant, Leftist media has been unable to stomach the relentless rise in PM Modi's political capital.

Few months back, when stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui was released from Indore prison, India's “Left-liberals” were delirious with joy but this same pseudo-secular brigade has till date not even bothered to shed crocodile tears for the unarmed karsevaks who were brutally gunned down in 1990 on Mulayam Singh Yadav's orders. Jai Shri Ram is a salutation and not a war cry. At a public function in 2021, after being greeted by chants of 'Jai Shri Ram', Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of insulting Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose by raising 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans and refused to give her speech at an event that was attended by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to observe Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's 125th birth anniversary. Instead of questioning Mamata's irresponsible behaviour, large swathes of India's Leftist media endorsed her Hinduphobic bias.

Is free speech and the right to dissent a prerogative only of people from the “other communities” and not Hindus? Don't Hindu lives matter? In fact, the best thing about the BJP is the fact that it believes in “justice for all and appeasement of none”, without feeling apologetic about Hinduism, Hindutva and Hindu culture. For almost six decades, India's Left and the Congress legitimised everything that was anti-Hindu, to the extent that the Congress filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court doubting the veracity of Bhagwan Ram and the Ram Setu. Rahul Gandhi has been talking about how Hinduism is progressive but Hindutva is regressive. The hard truth is that both Hinduism and Hindutva are one and the same thing. What is called Hinduism in English is called Hindutva in Hindi. The moot point is, under the guise of freedom of expression (FoE), for decades together, parties like the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) tried to subjugate Hindu pride.

Those who say FoE of minorities under the Modi government is under threat would do well to know that amidst the Covid pandemic, while Hindus chose to not celebrate Kanwar Yatra and even the Mahasnans at Kumbh Mela were truncated, many Muslims celebrated Eid in large numbers outside the Charminar at Hyderabad. Does FoE mean one community is allowed to flout the law of the land, while the other is expected to always conform? I am not for a moment suggesting that the rulebook should be flouted. All I am saying is that it is not majoritarianism but rabid minoritism which needs to be curtailed.

The first amendment to the Indian Constitution that was brought in by Jawaharlal Nehru, then prime minister, curtailed free speech with 'reasonable restrictions'. It showcases how the Nehruvian model played truant with free speech and subsequent Congress regimes only furthered this agenda. The policy of minority appeasement got a boost in 2012, when Congress under Manmohan Singh made the absurd suggestion that "minorities should have the first right to resources".

In the summer of 2014, the people voted decisively for: Honesty over dynasty, development over vote-bank politics, security over stagnation, opportunities over obstacles. Indians were tired of corruption, cronyism and nepotism. The Modi mandates of 2014 and 2019 were epoch-making, also because for the first time in the history of India a non-dynastic party was blessed with a complete majority. The Modi government works with the spirit of ‘India First’ instead of ‘Family First’, where minorities have as much say and as many opportunities as Hindus. In fact, in some welfare schemes like PM Awaas Yojana, 15 percent is earmarked for minorities, largely Muslims. Also, between 2014 and 2019, more than three crore scholarships were given to minorities, primarily Muslims, and by 2024, an additional five crore scholarships will be handed out by the Modi government to minorities.

Over the last five years, the Indian economy has been the cynosure of the world’s eyes. India has made remarkable achievements in sanitation coverage (from 38 percent in 2014 to 98 percent now), banking the unbanked, financing the un-financed, building futuristic infrastructure, homes for the homeless, providing healthcare for the poor and educating the youth. Reflective of this paradigm shift is the fact that there is a government now that puts institutions above everything else.

The hard truth is, while Congress suppressed dissent with a heavy hand, the Modi government believes in consensus and not confrontation. The Modi government could have easily chosen to put down the farm protests by using the might of the state, but it chose not to. In fact, PM Modi, with folded hands, repealed the farm laws, asking farmers to end the protest. Discretion is the better part of valour and Narendra Modi has showcased on more than one occasion why his government respects institutions and their integrity.

While delivering the keynote address to recognise the role of Brahma Kumaris, on 20 January 2022, Prime Minister Modi said, “We are witnessing the emergence of an India whose thinking and approach are innovative and whose decisions are progressive. Today we are creating a system in which there is no place for discrimination, we are building a society that stands firmly on the foundations of equality and social justice. When the world was in deep darkness and caught in the old thinking about women, India used to worship women as Maatru Shakti and Goddess. Amrit Kaal is not for dreaming while sleeping, but for deliberate fulfilling of our resolutions. The coming 25 years are the period of utmost hard work, sacrifice, and ‘tapasya’. This period of 25 years is for getting back what our society has lost in hundreds of years of slavery. All of us have to light a lamp in the heart of every citizen of the country — the lamp of duty. Together, we will take the country forward on the path of duty, then the evils prevailing in the society will be removed and the country will reach new heights. Today, when we are celebrating the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, it is also our responsibility that the world should know India properly.”

The prime minister stressed that our progress lies with the progress of the nation. “The nation exists from us and we exist through the nation. This realization is becoming the biggest strength of us Indians in the making of a new India,” added Prime Minister Modi.

Truer words have not been said, as India, the third-largest economy globally in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), showcases to the world that growth and spiritual vibrancy are the twin pillars on which a Modi-fied India is powering ahead.

The author is an economist, national spokesperson of the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘The Modi Gambit’. The views expressed are personal.​

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