The advent of a non-Congress government with a comfortable majority of its own, some 64 years after the Indian Republic had been constitutionally established, has, in a period of mere 24 months, invited criticism of a type that looks more like the rant of politicians still not reconciled to the regime change than anything constructive. It’s funny that the question on which they are finding fault with the Narendra Modi government is: why haven’t the crooks who had looted taxpayers’ money been sent to jail yet?
The biggest transformation that the 2014 general elections came to be associated with was the installation of a political executive led by Narendra Modi. People were able to vote out a regime replete with corruption only because they found in Modi a leader whose credentials as a person of unimpeachable financial honesty could not be challenged and who could also be relied upon to run the country with a strong hand as promised by him.
Over long years India had become a land of scams and ineffective governance where the Vohra committee’s prognosis of a politician-bureaucratic-criminal nexus was proving right every single day and there was nothing that the hapless citizen could do about it. With no fear of law existing for them, those who wielded power directly or from behind, allegedly made money using the pliant administrative machinery and advisors who were only too willing to sign on the dotted line. The subterranean network of money laundering was intricate enough to make normal probe into the money trail difficult. And if there were collusive elements in the concerned agencies the probe would never even get started. The filth of high level corruption would naturally take months and years to clean up. An initial period was legitimately needed by the new rulers to put the right kind of people in place in crucial administrative positions. Augusta Westland scam is a typical illustration of how the plea of a slow start in the probe is by itself being used as a defence of the high ups behind this somewhat visible conspiracy for money-making.
The Modi government should pursue those behind the scams on a note of priority. The scams should be projected as what they really are, a crime against the nation, since every penny stolen was from the kitty that was to be there for development and security. People are willing to wait for the clean-up drive being taken to its logical conclusion, provided there was a demonstrative pace in investigation.
It is somewhat premature to charge the government with unfulfilled promises. Infrastructure development, power, access to banking, cleaning up the clogs in the delivery of subsidies to the needy and austerity as well as inter-ministerial coordination in governance are a few segments where improvement is in evidence. Employment position is unhappy, however, and it is not clear if the skill development programmes are taking off speedily enough. The Centre’s rural outreach must become more effective as the prevention of farmers’ suicides is a national challenge.
Also the Centre should appear to be responding more meaningfully to the unsatisfactory law and order situation in the country, notwithstanding the fact that this is entirely a sphere of responsibility of the states. The law and order issue is bringing down the image of India. Ways have to be found to make an upward shift of accountability for serious failures of our police stations. The Ministry of Home Affairs should be in a position to seek a report from the DGP of the state in a case where a crime committed was of a magnitude that impacted internal stability of the country. Law and order in our Constitution is deemed to be above politics and the Centre’s role in taking cognisance of serious failures on that count cannot be misinterpreted by the Opposition.
An interesting feature of the critique built in certain sections against the performance of the present regime revolves round nebulous points like lack of freedom of speech, socio-political intolerance and position of minorities, all based on standalone events and statements. The leadership that took over the rule in India after the country had been partitioned in the name of religion, developed a narrative in which, for reasons that are still a mystery, talk of nationalism would be considered a negation of secularism. A Hindu-Muslim divide was allowed to creep into politics and a notion of special place of minorities was created perhaps to look good in any comparison with the new Islamic entity called Pakistan. Indian democracy, in the process, did not develop on the healthy base of “one man one vote” and the two instruments of secularism, development and law enforcement, did not come into full play. Today when Prime Minister Modi calls for sabka sath sabka vikas and talks of “India first” there is unease amongst those who have been benefiting from identity politics. How can any reference to the ancient heritage of India be unpalatable to anybody? Did India not have anything to offer to the world more than 1,500 years ago? All citizens in a democratic republic live in three planes: personal, social and political. Freedom of worship exists at the personal level. Social traditions have to conform to the code of dos and don’ts defined legally. And the political role of the citizen emerges out of the concept of all Indians being part of the same nationhood.
India’s pluralism underscores personal and social freedoms. It does not support the subversive idea of India being a land of “sub-nationalities”. Some sections of the elite, seeking community-based leadership, have talked of a share in decision-making at the national level. This is a language that the leaders of this line of thought used before Partition. In a democratic dispensation it is the elected political executive that exercises sovereign power in the name of all citizens.
If the Modi government uses nationalism to establish India as an integral political entity for all Indians this cannot be faulted. It does not encroach on personal and social freedoms. Strengthening nationalism is in fact as important as creating an economically prosperous and secure India.
D.C. Pathak is a former Director, Intelligence Bureau