Dear Narendrabhai: Hearty congratulations on becoming the 14th prime minister of India. And many more for creating history by leading your party to absolute majority on its own in the Lok Sabha. It’s a feat no other leader—not even Atal Behari Vajpayee—and no other party has been able to achieve since 1984. In achieving this, you have also achieved something unimaginable: you have brought the coalition era to an end at the Centre. The fact that you have still chosen to lead a government of the NDA is reassuring: Indian democracy and centre-state relations are strengthened when smaller, regional parties have a share in governance at the national level.
No less towering than your electoral achievement has been the mountain of hope and expectations, comparable only to Mount Everest, which your victory has created. It’s a good thing. A nation living on low levels of hope gets habituated to low levels of achievement. And even though India’s achievements since Independence have been impressive, they still constitute only a hillock in comparison to the Himalayan needs, as well as potential, of our nation.
Our youth, especially those belonging to underdeveloped regions and underprivileged sections of society, are impatient for opportunities that match their soaring aspirations. No political leader recognised this better than you did. However, mere recognition of this reality was never enough. You alone were able to convince a large number of first-time voters, and many older voters too, that your slogan of development and good governance, backed by your own impressive track record of leadership in Gujarat, was capable of making India a high-achieving nation. In politics, performance always speaks louder than promises. This is where you scored over your opponents, making voters see in you a ‘strong leader’ who can deliver faster economic growth, more jobs, more and better educational opportunities, less corruption and so on. The big surge in the BJP’s vote share in this election— from 18.5 per cent in 2009 to 31.4 per cent in 2014—is irrefutable proof of this.
The authoritative manner in which you conducted the campaign and the resounding results that it has produced is irrefutable proof of another truth: that this is essentially a mandate for you, for Narendra Modi; much less so for the BJP; and far less does it amount to support for the Sangh parivar. One hopes the Sangh parivar recognises this and does not give in to the temptation of overreach. Your leadership will be tested on the willingness of your government not to be dictated to by the RSS, even though it would do well for the government to seek the cooperation of all patriotic and service-oriented organisations, including the RSS, in a non-discriminatory way.
This brings me to certain reservations I had—and which I still have, to some extent—about your leadership and the party you lead. (It’s a party I served for a long time.) At one level, these reservations do not matter now, because once a majority of the people have given their verdict in a democracy, it must be accepted by all, including those like me who did not vote for the winning party. Nevertheless, I am mentioning my reservations in the belief that a good leader never ignores criticism. Many leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, have been harmed when they allowed themselves to be surrounded only by yes men and sycophants, whose tribe grows exponentially in times of victory and shrinks quickly in the wake of defeat.
Being a democrat does not mean suffering fools or pandering to indefensible social and political interests. Nevertheless, the nation expects Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonstrate that he respects constructive criticism both in Parliament (especially when the opposition has become so numerically weak and fragmented) and outside it; that he respects the independence of constitutional bodies; that he deals fairly with state governments run by non-NDA parties; and that, above all, he respects the freedom of the media.
A large number of Indians have reservations on another important score. They have serious doubts about your commitment to secularism. Indeed, many of your vocal supporters derisively dismiss secularism as “sickularism”. On the one hand, you have repeatedly stated that you regard the Constitution of India as a sacred text, which is greatly reassuring. On the other hand, you have largely remained silent on secularism, which is an idea enshrined in the very preamble to the Constitution. If it is your view that secularism has often been distorted and misused by your political opponents for electoral benefits, you are right. But the BJP is also guilty of practicing anti-secular and polarising politics for electoral gain. Some of this, sadly, was also evident in the recently concluded elections. You strengthened this impression by not visiting Muzaffarnagar, where horrific communal violence took place last year, or Assam, where innocent Muslims were massacred by Bodo militants more recently.
Vote For Me: It was a Modi campaign, not a BJP campaign
I agree that wearing the Muslim skullcap or visiting the Gyanvyapi mosque while in Kashi for performing the Ganga aarti is not the real test of secularism. The real test lies in your own conscience. And what is in one’s conscience necessarily gets mirrored in one’s actions. As far as the people of India are concerned, you, as their prime minister, are undoubtedly called upon to show, in whatever substantive as well as symbolic ways that you deem right, that you have equal respect for all faiths, which is what secularism at its core means. If your governance remains secular, you will surely rise to great heights of success and take India to greater heights of glory. If you err on secularism, your downfall will begin. Unfailingly.
Let me conclude by forwarding to you a congratulatory message, along with a pearl of wisdom, which one of your admirers asked me to convey to you. (This person, like many others, still thinks I am with the BJP.) He is K.T. Pandurangi, a 96-year-old Bangalore-based Sanskrit scholar of great eminence, whom I have had the honour of knowing. He asked me to send you the following simple but profound subhashita: praja hite hitam rajnah, praja sukhey sukham rajnah (The ruler has no interests other than the interests of his people; the ruler has no happiness other than the happiness of his people).
Dear Narendrabhai, the people of India have placed on your shoulders a heavy burden of responsibility. If you discharge it with wisdom, hindsight and foresight, history will remember you as a leader who did a lot of good to India.
Sudheendra Kulkarni’s piece (How Not to Bely the Mt Everest of Hope, June 2) is good advice for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though it comes from an L.K. Advani loyalist. And, need we say it, Advani’s chances at becoming prime minister have evaporated. The congratulatory note from Sanskrit scholar Prof Pandurangi—praja hite hitam rajnah, praja sukhey sukham rajnah—that Kulkarni conveys to Modi through this piece is indeed most appropriate. This is because the impression is that the minorities aren’t part of the praja, according to the RSS-BJP’s definition of that word.
Narendra M. Apte, Pune
The BJP fielded seven Muslims, but they all lost despite the party’s spectacular performance. If the BJP has no Muslim MPs in Parliament, it’s only because Muslims hate all BJP candidates, however good or efficient they be and whatever their religious belief.
Dipto, on e-mail
One cardinal fact is being missed in numerous articles being written on Modi: we need to give him time before judging him. His chief ministership in Gujarat is only a minor index of his capabilities. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to scale it up to the national level. And international relations are another domain altogether.
Rohan Pandey, Pune
Prof Pandurangi’s advice to Modi embodies in a single phrase Hinduism’s great ideas on how to rule.
T. Nayak, Washington
Wasn’t Kulkarni one of those who said he’d leave India if Modi were elected prime minister? Maybe I’m mistaken. My God! So much advice for Modi from the sad and the beaten.
Ram Lala, Kavutaram
Advani and company must be ruing the day this ex-communist Trojan horse was welcomed into the BJP.
Suresh Jois, Bangalore
Wasn’t Mr Kulkarni absolutely sure that the BJP would not get more than 35 seats in Uttar Pradesh?
Ajay, Troy, US
Having given Advani advice that kept the BJP down for years, Kulkarni now wants to give Modi advice! Can’t he see Modi has done well enough without his help? And don’t readers just love the part where he claims that he’s a well-wisher of Modi?
Krupakar Kolbatla, on e-mail
Is this fossil called Sudheendra Kulkarni still around? I thought that after Advani’s decline, he had disappeared. So now he wants Modi to do as he says? Advani tried to follow his advice and the result was there for all to see.
Alakshyendra, on e-mail
A perennial bore is misusing freedom of expression to inflict his “advice to the PM” on hapless readers.
S.V. Acharya, Bangalore
May I take the liberty to say it was a blunder on Advani’s part to induct Kulkarni into the BJP? His piece betrays his absolute disbelief at the BJP’s massive victory.
Dr Vinay Kumar, Delhi
The people of India have given a resounding victory. We want clean governance and our poor to be taken care of. Let’s support his good initiatives and question his wrong ones.
Shankar Narayanan Ram, Chennai
Muslims- the liberals and conservatives alike -do not vote for BJP. They do not like BJP. And they are obsessed with Modi . Read Anwaar's posts or Saba's articles...There will only be Modi bashing and BJP bashing for relevant or irrelevant issues
BJP fielded 7 Muslim candidates, they all lost despite spectacular electoral victory of the party. If BJP has no Muslim MPs, it is because Muslims hate all BJP candidates and they do not vote for them. Should BJP compete with other political parties to promise special privileges for Muslims to get their votes?
This herd mentality of the Muslim voters led to the most destructive votebank politics of non-BJP political parties. BJP would not have the electoral success of this proportion had the secular politicians and the Muslims not continued to rake up the issue of Hindu fanaticism to trash Modi/BJP. Indian voters will be more polarized if this trend continues. More fence sitters will accept BJP if the Muslims' dislike for BJP is passed on as the test of secularism.
(1) This is good piece of advice for newly appointed Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi even though it is from a loyalist of Shri L K Advani, who as we all know may not easily forgive Mr. Modi for the fact that his (Shri Advani’s ) chance of becoming Prime Minister of the country has vanished permanently as Mr. Modi has become the unconquerable king in BJP, at least during this term of 16th Lok Sabha. (2) The congratulatory message of the Sanskrit scholar quoted by the writer in his article is very appropriate. Only difficulty is with definition of praja. Whether someone likes it or not, fact is that BJP has not been able to erase an impression that given a choice, BJP would like to exclude a chunk of minorities from definition of “praja”. (3) The biggest challenge before Mr. Modi will be in the form of establishing cordial relations with the heads of State governments in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala, Bihar and Karnataka, all non-BJP governments. Considering (a) the hard-headed nature of some chief ministers, (b) an acrimonious Lok Sabha election campaign in all these states when Mr. Modi and the chief ministers exchanged some unpleasant remarks, my fear is that Mr. Modi will have difficult days ahead with chief ministers like Ms Mamata, Ms Jayalalithaa and Shri Biju Patnaik. Let us hope that all of them show maturity to move forward.
Mr Kulkarni writes .... "that you have equal respect for all faiths, which is what secularism at its core means."
Secularism is a matter of State. The only definition that stands on a flat ground rather than a slippery slope is "separation of church and state". "Equal respect for all faiths" is a matter of individuals and society as a collective of individuals. Each might help the other but they are not subset of each other nor are they strictly necessary for each other.
We have confused ourselves about secularism and made a hash of it. Today we are neother heading towards being truly secular and fast loosing tolerance too (BTW, I am one of those who also believes that the famous Hindu tolerance of others was not built on an ever improving understanding of the other but a disinterest of the other which is one reason in todays modern world it is being tested unlike earlier times and losing the test more often).
The question really is "Can an extremely religious people (doesn't matter what the flavor is), even if tolerant people, lead to a Secular State or we will not be able to separate our State from the Church?".
Secularism has lost its shine because of sick mind people in India who always correlated secularism with MUSLIMS for creating a vote bank to suit their nefarious agenda. These sick mind people, we call them 'sickularist' have been using secularism to cover their ineptness, corruption, and all ills of governance. When confronted on these issues these 'sickularists' take defense in the name of secularism.
Leftist self styled intellectuals, Mr. Kulkarni is one of them, have used this word to the best of their advantage to reap rich harvest from government of the day. Now the establishment is changed, they are finding it difficult to adjust in this changed situation.
As long as u remain prisoner of certain thought (leftist & Sickular) you will remain debating on this line of arguments.
Mr. Kulkarni will u dare to answer a simple question: "Was India not secular before 42nd Amendment of our Constitution?"
I am sure u do not understand the meaning of word secular of you are knowingly distorting its meaning to suit your own vested interest. You are commenting about RSS. How much do you know about RSS and its services rendered for welfare of society in India?
Faking intellectualism with other fake intellectuals like Vinod Mehta, Arnav Goswami and some NDTV anchors does not prove that you are authority on the subject you talk about.
Your essay/letter is just reflection of your mind set that is full of disbelief you are harboring about BJP, RSS and NAMO.
I take liberty to say that it was blunder of Shri L K Advani ji to induct you in BJP. I am one of those nationalist who work for the nation without expecting anything for personal gain, not even name. Nation First.
Freedom speech misused by a perennial Bore nad papers which inlict the stuff on their hapless readers!
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