The Central Hall of the Parliament of India has been a mute witness to numerous historic events, both pre-Independence and post-Independence. On Saturday evening, it saw a new chapter in its history unfold, something that will serve as a vital point of reference to all those analysing the changing course of polity under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
For the first time since Independence, a party, the BJP — which has a very comfortable majority of 303 in the 543-member Lok Sabha — committed itself to the philosophy of a coalition dharma, inviting leaders and elected members of all pre-poll allies to attend the ceremonial process of electing Modi the leader of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This is in contrast to the May 2014 meeting at Central Hall, which was an exclusive BJP affair, with other NDA members kept out of it.
In his address, the prime minister-elect spoke at length about the significance of the occasion. He mentioned the numbers his party won in the 17th Lok Sabha election and then went on to speak about what his coalition partners mean to him and his politics. His thrust was that no matter how big a party becomes, or how big it grows and how big a majority it gets on its own, it can't satisfy regional aspirations and can't have an all India spread solo.
The BJP now has 36 regional allies.
On Saturday, Modi coined a new acronym 'NaRa', clubbing the 'national ambitions' of the national party and the 'regional aspirations' of regional parties. The seating arrangements on the dais and in the front rows were made with this thought in mind. On the dais with Modi were bigger allies Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP), Nitish Kumar (JD-U), Prakash Singh Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal), Uddhav Thackeray (Shiv Sena) and Edappadi K Palaniswami (AIADMK), as well as BJP stalwarts Amit Shah, LK Advani, MM Joshi, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari. Smaller allies from the North East and other parts of the country occupied the front rows.
After winning an even bigger mandate this year than in 2014, Modi added two new words to his 2014 catchphrase for politics and governance — 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas'. He asserted that this and 'NaRa' had helped the BJP, the coalition as well as the government win the confidence of minority communities, particularly Muslims.
During his first landing at Parliament House, he had appeared conscious of the fact that his party did not have the vishwas of around one fifth of India's total population — the support of Muslims and sections of Christians. Now, as a leader of a party that is the first in 48 years to secure a successive term with full majority, he would not be pleased with a situation wherein they did not have the support of this section of the population a second time around. Therefore, moments after he was declared the prime minister-elect for the next five years, Modi took the initiative of appealing to the minority communities.
Rather than asking the minority communities to trust them, Modi urged his own party men, his own alliance partners — 353 NDA MPs in the Lok Sabha, around 120 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, the chief ministers of 16 BJP-ruled states, Opposition leaders from NDA ranks in other states and other important coalition leaders — to start working to bust the Opposition-inspired misbelief of fear and distrust among the minorities against the BJP and NDA.
"Jinhone hume vote diya woh bhi hamare hain. Aur jo harae ghur viroid hain, woh bhi hamare hain (those who voted for us are ours, and those who have been our virulent opponents are also ours)," Modi declared.
His message was that as a ruling party and government, no one should make any distinction between 'us and them', and all concerned must take this up as priority.
Neither talking about tokenism, nor indulging in any symbolism, Modi, with his speech, only aimed to instil a sense responsibility among his people, making their task for the next five years clear. His argument was that the way they had succeeded in delivering to the poorer sections of society and succeeded in "chhal me chhed" (punching a hole in deceit), they will succeed in similar endeavor for minorities.
"Unfortunately, the way they (Congress and its allied parties) played politics of deceit with the poor over poverty, they played similar politics of deceit with minorities. Instead of giving them the status of an equal in socio-economic development, they used minorities as a vote bank, played politics of chicanery and deviousness, created a false sense of fear among them, created an imaginary sense of fear psychosis (against the BJP), made them live in an atmosphere of fear, put their lives under constant pressure and threat and kept them away from development. Why couldn't they provide minorities education and other means to move ahead? Their belief in vote-bank politics didn't let them do anything tangible for the community," Modi said.
To add a sense of sincerity to his appeal, he likened his new endeavor with India's first war of Independence in 1857, when people from all castes and communities came forward with the belief of oneness against British colonialism. Modi called to have the spirit of 1857 revived.
Towards the end of his term as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi had organised a 'Sadbhawana' fast and yatra. His model of governance had ultimately succeeded in winning the support of a section of the Muslim community, which was evident in the results of several municipal polls and Assembly elections post 2007 when sections of Muslims voted and supported the BJP.
Modi is keen to bring that community support to the national level within the folds of inclusiveness. In the past five years, his social schemes and their on-ground delivery made no distinction between castes and communities. For instance, the Modi government first tried to win the support of Muslim women through the triple talaq legislation and other measures, such as making a provision for single women to embark on Haj.
Now, Modi wants to address the concerns of entire minority community. "Hume chhal me chhed (punching holes in deceit) karna hai; hume unka vishwas jitna hai (we have to win their confidence)," he said, putting the onus on his elected representatives at the Centre and in states.
The minority communities must be listening to him intently.
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Updated Date: May 26, 2019 11:06:43 IST