Indian domestic politics has hit a fresh low

Good times never prove lasting, particularly in politics. This reality must have by now dawned on the Modi government and the BJP leadership. Narendra Modi rode to power in May 2014 securing massive popular support. It usually takes time for new governments to lose their honeymoon period. With the passage of time, their failure to fulfill their populist election promises also starts generating anti-incumbency sentiment which climaxes as the next elections near.

Ironically, in the case of Modi government, its honeymoon period had unexpectedly started wearing out within less than six months of assuming power. Since its first year in office has failed to show sparkling performance, the enthusiasm of a sizable section of people including its one of the biggest supporters -the corporate sector- has also started waning. Modi’s foreign policy initiatives which had initially won him much applause are also showing signs of fatigue.

Take the foreign policy initiatives. During his 14 months in office, the number of countries he visited far outnumbered those any of his predecessor prime ministers had visited. No doubt, Modi was enthusiastically welcomed by massive crowds of Indians settled abroad. He was also accorded warm welcome by the top leaderships of the host countries. But his foreign policy did not evoke the expected enthusiastic positive response in some of the countries of the sub-continent. On the other hand, the advantageous space India had gained over the years in Afghanistan is now being ceded to Pakistan-China combine.

India’s policy towards Pakistan is best explained by former Congress minister Ashwani Kumar: “Nobody knows what the Pakistan policy of this (Modi) government is. This-I-love-you, I love-you-not…You-love-me, you-love-me-not relationship with Pakistan has no strategic thinking behind it”. (Ashwani Kumar had to step down as UPA government’s law minister in 2013 amid pressure from the opposition for having vetted the draft of the CBI probe report on the coal allocation scam.)

During the past 14 months, the already strained relations between India and Pakistan have further nose-dived. This was primarily due to Pakistan’s dilatory tactics in punishing the mastermind of the terrorist attack on Mumbai Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi by making his voice sample as the issue. No doubt, the joint statement of PM Modi and Pakistan PM Sharif at Ufa (Russia) aimed at preparing the people on both sides for a detente. But the Pakistan army’s belligerent opposition and the hostile attitude of the hardliners on both sides of the border is becoming the main hurdle in the way of normalizing relations between the two neighbours.

One of the important features of Modi’s latest visits, particularly to Central Asian countries, was the unanimity on the need to fight the extremist and terrorist forces which have acquired world-wide dimensions. Modi’s emphasis on fighting terrorist forces was also reflected in his letter to the heads of 193 member states on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. The letter inter alia said that “…with expanded geographical spread, vast resources and new instruments to spread its ideology and draw recruits, the menace of terrorism and extremism has acquired a new dimension that requires a comprehensive global strategy…”

His emphasis on united fight against terrorism is most relevant in the case of Pakistan which is now considered global capital of terrorism. Sponsored and backed by the Pakistani army and ISI, the terrorists made India their main target. But when the terrorist organisations started playing the role of Frankenstein in their own country, its creators had to launch an onslaught against them. The onslaught became a part of Pakistan’s two-pronged strategy: Army action to eliminate the home-borne terrorists but sponsor and support extremists and terrorists for carrying out violent actions in India, particularly making Jammu and Kashmir as their main target.

As Modi has emphasized in his letter to the UN that “the menace of terrorism and extremism has acquired a new dimension that requires a comprehensive global strategy”, the terrorist and extremist elements need to be suppressed by using the same means they use to spread violence. But countering these elements through force alone is not enough. What is needed more is to check indoctrination of the youth in the centres functioning ostensibly for propagation of religious doctrines. Such centres include those run by radical Muslim, Hindu and Sikh bodies.

Pakistan happenings had their fallout in India. It did not take long for India’s religious extremists also becoming hyperactive particularly after the assumption of power by the Modi government. Some of BJP’s leading figures including a couple of MPs started making hate speeches. The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that “like the residents of America are called Americans, residents of Hindustan are Hindus (instead of Hindustanis).”

The worst example of encouraging India’s religious extremists is the reported attempts by some official agencies to save the Hindu extremists who are facing court cases for indulging in violent actions including bomb blasts targeting Muslims. The latest case is the charge by Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor of the Malegaon blast case that a National Investigation Agency officer had approached her to go soft on the Malegaon case. She reportedly said that she wanted to seek discharge of nine Muslims, arrested and chargesheeted by the Maharashtra ATS and CBI for a 2006 blast in Malegaon, but the NIA did not respond to her suggestion. Likewise witnesses have turned hostile in other blast cases, the latest being the Samjhauta train blast case in which ten prosecution witnesses have reportedly turned hostile.

What is more worrying is the saffronising of education and other cultural and social institutions by inducting non-entities whose only merit is their RSS loyalty. One example is foisting of Gajendra Chauhan –whose chief qualification is that he played the role of Yudhishtir in the Mahabharat teleserial – as the new chairperson of India’s premier film institute FTII, evoking protests from students, faculty and the film industry. This prompted RSS, not unexpectedly, to dub the protests as “anti-Hindu”.

These developments justify what one of the BJP’s founding fathers L.K. Advani had prophesied “that Emergency could return because of weaknesses of political leadership”. (IPA Service)

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