My take on the situation in our country today is that the BJP must decide what it is – bird or beast. It must decide what its core ideology is. I am happy to do a Core Ideology Workshop for them and the RSS if they want. The problem is that they seem to be confused in this respect and that is the fundamental problem.
Whatever be the historical philosophy of the RSS and its imaginary problems with Muslims, the reality is that every theocracy in today’s world has failed. That is because theocracies (no matter what the religion may preach) are based on the principle that people following the state religion are superior human beings and others are inferior. That simply doesn’t work and creates so much internal turmoil that the state’s major attention and resources will become tied down to quelling disturbances. Eventually it fails. Examples abound and so will be the case with a Hindu theocracy, assuming that they can make that happen. I won’t even go into the million reasons why that is a pipe dream, speaking from the point of view of Constitutional Law. I am saying that even if they managed it, it will fail because in today’s world, theocracies are outdated and finished.
As for the way, they are going about it, the fact is that they are out of control. They seem to have let loose forces which are not in their own control. I don’t believe that someone is sitting at the center of his spider’s web directing Operation Lynch. He and others are as clueless about how to control what they have (inadvertently?) started as anyone else. They have to support it as it is being done in their name and so they are supporting it by their silence. But that is a short-term strategy. At some point, very soon they will have to take a public stand on this. Murder remains a crime in this country and can’t be ignored forever. If they take a formal stance supporting it (I don’t think anyone is that insane) we can imagine what will happen.
Meanwhile, farmer suicides, the two major body blows to the economy of demonetization and GST (BJP fought tooth and nail against it at 18% and then brought it in at 28%??), the ongoing Maoist civil war, China and Pakistan and the huge unrest (what a nice word to describe another civil war) in Kashmir are real issues which are setting this country on fire. Only a completely insane person or someone who is an enemy of India will contemplate antagonizing another 20 crore Muslims, four times that number of Dalits as well as all the people with different food habits from the currently ‘approved’, in Goa, North Eastern states, Kerala and AP/Telangana, simultaneously. Remember that all these people were until now living peacefully and many even voted for the BJP. What sense does it make to antagonize them all on something as stupid as what they eat? It is not the job of the government to worry about or try to control what people eat, drink, wear, worship or marry.
It appears to me that this government has fallen into the fatal trap of believing its own PR. It doesn’t want to face the harsh reality that demonetization affected the poor, the housewife, the small trader, the person who saved up for years for a rainy day and overnight made them criminals and black-market hoarders. While the big players of the black-market, flew the coop. I would suggest that our national leaders, walk into the streets of East Delhi in disguise and talk to the small traders and manufacturers there about demonetization and the second surgical strike on the economy, the GST. I don’t say that GST is bad in itself but the way it was implemented has left people shell shocked. Surely that was not so difficult to foresee and mitigate.
I can’t believe that people who are educated and intelligent have become so blind as not to see what this is doing to the nation and to their own political future.The complete lack of opposition in this country today, leaves the BJP free to make history as one of the best parties to have ruled India in terms of economic development and poverty alleviation; provided it does that and doesn’t get side-tracked into a completely negative agenda of religious extremism, crony capitalism and power abuse.
Remember that in a nation that has no Social Security, National Health Service, State Funded Education or Elderly Care, it was these small businesses, which were doing the work of the State at their own expense. Every one of them was taking care of between ten and one hundred people. I am talking about businesses ranging from the Istiri-wala, vegetable vendor, snack carts to one-shop printing presses, lathe machines and cottage industries of all kinds. It is true that many were not under the direct tax umbrella but they all paid taxes in one form or another and what is more important, they took care of their families, relatives, employees and society. They kept the market alive, they fueled commerce, they created a credit flow, they paid for goods and services. They took care of the elderly, the sick, educated their children, paid their bills and were the blood of this nation which keeps the nation alive. These were the people who took the biggest hit in both demonetization and while they were reeling from that blow, the GST. All this while Vijay Mallya still goes to the Oval to watch cricket and Wimbledon to watch tennis.
Individual freedom is the glue that binds a nation. Take that away and the fabric of nationhood unravels. And as the Hindi song goes – even if you join the thread, there will be a knot in it. The job of the government (and the basis of the BJP’s election promise) is economic development of the nation. Nothing else. Add to this the responsibilities of public health and education which result in happier and more productive people which once again results in economic well-being. Any government that loses sight of this, sinks its own ship. America is a classic example today with Trump and his insane policies.
Taxation, money supply, encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship, safety and security of life and property, fair wages and employee benefits and care of children and the elderly must be the focus of the government. This must be visible from every statement made, budget spend, policy formation and implementation and time and energy spend of the leadership; not simply ad-agency inspired PR campaigns. In all these areas, today this government has failed the nation. There is still time to salvage the situation, but it will take above all, political will and a strong leadership stance to do an about-face.
I am aware that allowing the situation to get to where it is today by remaining silent has led to a situation where the leadership is riding a tiger. The longer they stay on its back, the more difficult and costly it will be to get off. Even today, if good sense prevails and the government simply applies the law of the land, reins in the goon squads, punishes the guilty, compensates the aggrieved (difficult though it is to put a price on human life) and makes its position clear both on maintaining law and order as well as economic development, the situation is salvageable. However, we are fast running out of time. And when that happens, then only God can save us. In this case we must ask, ‘Which God?’
In the words of the great MLK, ‘When the truth must be spoken, silence is culpable.’
Mirza Yawar Baig is based in Hyderabad, India and is the founder and President of Yawar Baig & Associates; an international leadership consulting organization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org