Saturday, August 24, 2019

Two Important Issues that Narendra Modi 2.0 should Urgently Address

The incoming Narendra Modi administration is to be commended for earning the trust of the Indian electorate once more after the 2014 general elections. Narendra Modi did very well at the polls. However, there are two vital issues that may need the Government’s attention.  

International Media

In the run-up to the 2019 Indian Elections and since Modi’s re-election on Thursday, there has been an orchestrated and strident campaign in the international English language media to denigrate Narendra Modi and the BJP. The BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time Magazine and The Economist come to mind immediately. These are American or British media houses.

Some of the authors of the aforementioned campaign are foreign citizens temporarily resident in New Delhi on a visa (for example, Joanna Slater of The Washington Post) while others are Indian nationals or permanent residents (for example, Rana Ayyub and Aatish Taseer). Then there are the Indian citizens who reside overseas (for example, Pankaj Mishra). They are united in a campaign of hate mongering and defamation against Narendra Modi. Their writing illustrates loathing and a shameless exaggeration. The objective is to tarnish Modi’s image and reduce his effectiveness in international fora. And it is India that would be the casualty of this orchestrated campaign of anti-Modi slander.

There should be no blanket bans or censorship. The Government could however deny visas to some of these foreign journalists. The denial of visas to select foreign journalists is well within the purview of the Government. This could be on grounds of fear mongering, inciting hate for India and denigrating Hinduism. I would even suggest that, to begin with, India should quietly close down the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian bureau offices in New Delhi. 

At the same time, India should allow other foreign news media houses such as Reuters, Associated Press, Xinhua, Russia Today, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle and Al Jazeera to continue reporting. That would dis-incentivise irresponsible reporting on the part of the Anglo-American media houses. Rewarding other news agencies would ensure that the information flows through the latter instead, thereby penalizing the culprits. Information is power. All this has to be done quietly without much ado. 

Unless this issue is addressed, the Anglo-American media campaign and cacophony could grow to alarming levels, reducing India’s foreign policy effectiveness in international fora. There are foreign policy implications.

Tamil Nadu

The Narendra Modi-led BJP swept the polls in much of India, which is terrific news. In Kerala, the Hindu vote consolidated behind the Congress rather than be fragmented between the Congress and BJP. That was obviously intended to deny the CPI (M) seats. The strategic voting there succeeded. The Congress win in the Punjab is actually a vote for India. The Akali Dal, while a respected party, has traditionally been associated with Sikh particularism. In many ways, there is an element of balance in this particular outcome.

It is Tamil Nadu that is of great concern. The DMK has had a separatist mindset in previous years. It’s not sympathetic to Hinduism. The DMK only won because of the ineptness of the post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK. Tamil Nadu is known for its anti-incumbency swings as in 2004 when the AIADMK drew a complete blank in the Lok Sabha and in 2014 when the DMK drew a complete blank. The AIADMK has once again been booted out with just one seat in the Lok Sabha. It is to be noted that the AIADMK with its present leadership cannot win future elections. 

The Central Government has two options. One would be to help the AIADMK rethink its leadership equations, including a possible re-induction of Dhinakaran of Sasikala fame. While Dhinakaran may be corrupt, he is a street fighter and can lead the AIADMK to victory. He’s at least not anti-Hindu. That said, he did not do well at the polls this time. He would also want to be the sole leader at the expense of the current Chief Minister and his deputy. 

A second option would be to cultivate the DMK, to woo it and to bring it into the NDA fold through policy inducements. Stalin may not be averse to that idea although Kanimozhi would be a hardliner. This has a precedent in 1999 when Vajpayee and Karunanidhi developed a good personal chemistry. Modi will need to cultivate Stalin in the interests of Tamil Nadu’s integration into the Indian mainstream and perhaps reduce its anti-Hindu stance. 

The issue has to be carefully looked at to prevent the resurgence of a church-sponsored Dravidian activism that would distract the Centre’s attention and potentially checkmate it on a number of issues. 

In any case, it’s time for a vibrant, self-confident and expansive Hinduism. We seek to reinvigorate and reaffirm a civilisation and civilisation that is enlightened, liberal, compelling and more importantly, firmly rooted in Sanatana values.

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