Examining Kartavya Kaal: Is It All About Duties And Obligations?

While efforts to incorporate citizen involvement are vital, the BJP strives to enforce its own sets of ideals via citizens' duties, and this repositioning of obligations results in less government.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi

After regaining power for the second time in 2019, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emphasised nationalism to the point that the scope of governance and accountability has been reduced and the altogether burden has been placed on the populace to incorporate nationalism into daily life.

While efforts to incorporate citizen involvement are vital, the BJP strives to enforce its own sets of ideals via citizens' duties, and this repositioning of obligations results in less government. The first Modi Cabinet implemented welfare schemes such as Skill India Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission, PM Mudra Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana, the Smart City Scheme, Ujjwala Yojana, Make in India, etc. The strategic effort by the Modi government is setting the narrative of Kartavya Kaal, formerly known as Amrit Kaal.


In a literal sense, Amrit Kaal is diametrically opposed to Kartavya Kaal—Amrit Kaal means “The Era of Elixir”, whereas Kartavya Kaal means “The Era of Duty”. According to the conventional sense, “The Era of Elixir” should come after “The Era of Duty”, but the political environment has been structured in such a way that inciting emotions and nationalist feelings has become a purposeful attempt to divert attention away from the government's commitments, and the timeframe the entire idea has been put forward is very interesting, at least politically.

Modi stated that “Amrit Kaal will also be Kartavya Kaal for citizens to prioritise their duties” while speaking at an event in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, which will have elections later this year. Indirectly, this conjures the Kartavya (duty) of voting the BJP into power and others out in order to preserve the flow of nationalism and development.


According to Modi, Kartavya should be India's first priority leading to 100 years of independence in 2047. It endorses the duties of citizens as a priority, but indirectly also implies criticism of the administrations after 1952. Kartavya Kaal is an important element of the political strategy tool for 2024. Furthermore, on India’s 75th Independence Day, when his government was in power, Modi presented the concept of Amrit Kaal, and the twenty-five years aiming to 2047 is somewhere an attempt to construct the legacy of nation-building with the BJP's vision.

Modi intends to reshape the Indian economy over the next 25 years through rapid profitable growth, higher living standards for everybody, infrastructure and technological achievements, and reinvigorating global confidence in India. The Panch Pran (five pillars) of Amrit Kaal are inextricably linked and encompass the goals of building India, eradicating residues of the colonial mindset, fostering oneness, and instilling a sense of duty in inhabitants. It is a testament to this idea that the Rajpath in Delhi was renamed Kartavya Path, even though it has little to give in terms of output but effectively makes a mark as the sole administration that is attempting to delink India from its colonial history.

Indeed, the emphasis on responsibilities and duties has been beneficial to the BJP's electoral campaigns under Modi. Starting with ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' in 2014, ahead of the general elections, to the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan (self-reliant India campaign) in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which adversely affected the Indian economy and society, the government attaches a sense of duty to the citizens, which is a unique pathway to nation building. However, the majority of Modi's public-spirited efforts are particularly intriguing since not all members of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its offshoot organisations share the prime minister's ardour. Despite the Sangh's protectionist image contrasting with the BJP's decentralised political approach, the RSS leadership has been content to allow diverse points of view to coexist, preferring to arbitrate policy differences between the BJP and the RSS.


However, in the exquisite picture of things, none of it takes into consideration the necessity for responsibilities to citizens’ commitments. Neither the BJP's populist impulses nor the RSS’ cadre force instils in citizens a feeling of national accountability. If anything is driving it, it is Modi's development index. Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach to poverty, which is a people-focused approach, helps to understand it better.

In an attempt to connect public emotions with the government, Modi stimulates a sense of belonging among the citizenry, implying that they are a part of the policy driver, any success and failure of the policy is directly attached to the duty-bound sentiments of the masses. According to Sen’s philosophy, it focuses on improving people’s well-being through developing their potential. It opposes welfare programmes in favour of empowerment efforts. With the freebies culture contradicting Modi’s public-oriented policy agendas, it is critical that people believe they are accountable for their own lives. It defines development as the process of fostering an enabling environment in which individuals may achieve valuable functioning and look inwardly with accountability. It is undoubtedly individualistic, but in a macroeconomic setup, accountability is strongly held and supported by the population.


As a result, the shuffling and removal of top brass leadership continues to be unseen and unspoken. While Kartavya Kaal exudes a sense of responsibility to the nation, the greater question that remains unanswered is the Cabinet's accountability in the process of nation-building at a time when the country is months away from the general elections.

Ashraf Nehal is a scholar of South Asian Politics at SOAS, University of London

(Views expressed are personal)