For nearly 70 years now, at election time, every party has been selling to the voter the prospect of better roads, electricity, water supply, education, jobs and healthcare. Now for the first time, a certain ‘Gujarat model of development’ and an economic policy dubbed Modinomics is being used as the bait for seduction. Most of India hasn’t seen this ‘Gujarat model’ but the BJP with the tacit support of corporate India has sold it. There are many lacunae in the idea of a developed Gujarat, many states are ahead of it, not to forget that Gujarat was never a Bihar, but we are intoxicated with a virtual, unreal creation. There being no ‘perfect Gujarat’, we may well be voting for a phantom that can never turn real.
The cultural question. The Modi camp has made its idea of India clear. Modi is ‘Hindu’, and not only in personal practice but also as a public statesman. This country is not a Hindu country, willing to construct a homeless shelter for the outsider—Muslims and Christians. The expression ‘protecting our culture’ is also being used to describe the cultural landscape of India under Modi. But in India there is no Hindu culture without Islam and there is no Islamic culture without the Hindu, there is no Christianity without Hinduism and there is no Hinduism without tribal cultures. A Hindu identity untouched by even a whiff of all other religious identities is a bizarre idea, that will rip apart the threads that make up our fabric, including the bjp’s own precious Hindu identity.
Will there be more bans on books, mobs at exhibitions? Maybe, but I am more concerned about voices becoming silent out of fear, people deciding not to paint, sing or write in protest.
While we armchair commentators continue to wonder about India under a Modi-led government, what we are all missing is that the greatest setback from these elections may be in the new opposition benches. One made up of a corrupt, lost Congress, an intellectually scooped-out Left, a noisy and emotional TMC, an opportunistic BSP and SP, a weakened JD(U), a self-centred DMK and AIADMK and others. We need to be concerned about the Parliament we’re voting in, not just the government. I hope I’m proven wrong on all counts: starting with the premise that Modi will lead the next government.