His vision puts national self-interest first—an India no longer divorced from the Bharatvarsha it sprang from.
Despite the name-calling and Opposition thunder, there is a great energy about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his alter ego, BJP president Amit Shah. The latter is credited, at least partially, for the NDA’s still impressive electoral footprint after five years in power. Modi, a loner, who is a consummate contact politician at the same time, is popular as ever with the people. He has grown in confidence, stature, tone and tenor.
National security is a priority with the Modi government that the promulgation of the long pending OROP demonstrated quite early in the administration. Today, it is probably the main poll plank of the BJP. Modi, who sometimes sits on issues, can also be very decisive as recent events with regard to Pakistani terrorism have shown. But now, having crossed the Rubicon, not once but twice, the matter of integrating J&K into India, and putting paid to separatist ambitions, has become urgent.
This election of 2019, which Modi expects to win, promises to be a watershed. There are signals that he wants to reboot and redefine the BJP.
The avuncular ways of the A.B. Vajpayee era are truly over. Having run through five years with a number of signal successes like the advent of GST and redefinition of relations with bugbear Pakistan and bête noir China, Modi now wants to assert the BJP in brighter saffron hues.
There will be no further truck with the Nehruvian “Idea of India”, with its anti-majority bias, imported economic ideas and broken secularism. In its place, Modi’s “New India” will project a more authentic vision, one that puts national self-interest first and is no longer divorced from the Bharatvarsha it sprang from. This confidence to make a break with the past has come with familiarisation of the ways at Raisina Hill, as well as from a long list of tactical, strategic, political, economic, diplomatic, governance and electoral successes. Modi also senses the aspirations of India’s young electorate to a remarkable degree. The fact that he is incorruptible is probably his individual best suit. Narendra Modi today is an influential man, grown in international stature to the first rank of global politicians.
There is going to be a sea-change in Modi 2.0 from all present indications.
One major item has already been announced. Articles 35A and 370 that regulate the relationship with J&K will be removed. The Kashmir Valley politicians are in a lather. But Modi knows the special status must go. It has never really worked as intended. The Centre pours in 10% of its funds for J&K, which has 1% of the population. India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, with 13% of the population, only gets 8% from the Centre. The 15 lakh mostly Sunni Muslims that live in the Valley, deeply affected by Pakistani instigated separatism, have to be subdued with a half million troops as well. This is because of the askew demography of the Valley, the unhealthy restrictions of 35A and 370, and the forced exodus of the native Pandits. The Valley political parties, including the National Conference (NC), and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have threatened all kinds of blue murder. Pakistan has also made bold to say it will not accept abrogation of Article 370. But, notwithstanding these intemperate rantings, Modi, who will most likely appoint Shah as Union Home Minister after the election, has made up his mind.
There will be a big challenge, both internal and external, to overcome when this is done. The Congress Party is sure to raise a hue and cry, and has already made common cause also with the NC and the PDP. Shah has said Article 370 will go once the NDA has a majority in both Houses—expected by 2020. The matter has been brought up the list and given priority in BJP’s Sankalp Patra too.
This integration of J&K, a very old demand, will probably lead to the updating of views at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This could see a fresh thrust towards implementation of a Uniform Civil Code, after pushing through the Triple Talaq Law in the Rajya Sabha. The Ram Mandir at Ayodhya also could see a favourable verdict from the Supreme Court early in the new term, and the commencement of construction at last.
All this put together, will tackle most of the key aspirations of the Sangh Parivar and set the stage for an NDA win in 2024 as well.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s routine nuclear threats occasioning the policy of “strategic restraint” have been thrown over. India has hit back after significant cross-border terrorist strikes, using Indian Army Special Forces at Uri in 2016. And repeated it, with the Balakot airstrikes of 2019. To make sure that the Pakistan is left in no doubt as to the future uselessness of nuclear threats, Modi has issued a nuclear threat of his own. This may have scrapped another Vajpayee era shibboleth; that of no-first-use.
What is certain is that India has vowed to retaliate against all large future terrorist attacks. And for the first time, its diplomacy has rendered it the support of the world.
In addition, to raise Pakistan’s costs further, India is pushing hard for its blacklisting by FATF where it is already on the grey list. The matter of Masood Azhar being declared an international terrorist has been taken up now by the US, Britain and France, in addition to most of the 15 member Security Council at the UN, flying in the face of China’s veto. The IMF, being asked for a big bail-out loan by Pakistan, has also received a cautionary note from India.
Elsewhere too BJP has taken a tough line. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Bill waiting to become a full fledged Act, some think will cost the NDA seats in the Northeast. Others hold the opposite view, particularly since the demographics of the Northeast have been systematically and deliberately eroded with the importation of Bangladeshi Muslims. Nevertheless, the Modi government has taken its calculated risk, and asserted that it will implement the NRC and the Citizenship Act as soon as possible.
The accelerated militarisation and modernisation of the armed forces and its weaponry is a top priority for the Modi government. The military is to be of sufficient heft to defend against both Pakistan and China—simultaneously if necessary. Training, equipment, infrastructure, connectivity, cyber intelligence, are all going into it, along with India’s own superior military surveillance via its satellites and other friendly state inputs.
Much work, involving investment of billions of dollars, is in the pipeline, both in terms of outright foreign purchases and domestic military manufacture.
In the ensuing national debate after J&K is integrated, attention is likely to be focused on the subversion of the broader Indian republic by the misuse of the term “Secular”. This was quietly inserted into the Preamble to the Constitution during the Emergency, along with the word “Socialist”. While Socialism has been dismantled to a great extent since 1991, removing “Secular” from the Preamble now will prevent further mischief. It will also de facto give the majority Hindus a level playing field without having to adopt a state religion. There will be existing constitutionally guaranteed state protection for well-behaved minorities of course. But incitement and terrorism will not be tolerated. A much tougher sedition law too is coming up as per current Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Nominally however, deletion of this one word will restore the balance to the original Indian Constitution of 1950, drafted by Bhimrao Ambedkar and the Constituent Assembly. This envisaged India as a Sovereign, Democratic, Republic—no more, no less.
Modi’s “New India” will go boldly into the 21st century into areas like space and high technology in an altogether unprecedented manner. It will shed its emerging economy tag. China as India’s main frenemy and Pakistan’s all-weather friend, already knows this is inevitable.
The next 10-15 years will see India into the top three economies of the world, turning over more than $10 trillion, with all its attendant global responsibilities.
Extreme poverty as we know it, will be gone. The bulk of the Indian people will be in the middle-class. Per capita incomes, even for nearly 2 billion people, particularly on a PPP basis, will be respectable. Rural-Urban economic divides and disparities will be bridged.
The high table of the world is beckoning, and India will claim a seat at it.