Narendra Modi with Muslim supporters during his Sadbhavna Mission fast in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district last month. PTI
By Madhav Nalapat
All politics may be local, but business is global, and the business of Narendra Modi's Gujarat is business. An approach that has enabled Modi to ensure that practically all households in his state have access to (uninterrupted) electricity and power. A change from Gurgaon, where the (Haryana) state and Central treasuries get mounds of taxes that get repaid in the form of crater-filled roads, power shortages, water disruptions and an administration unbothered about anything other than raising cash for itself and for its political masters. Gurgaon shows better than anything else the disconnect between public administration and private in India, with skyscrapers needing huge dollops of diesel for power, and employees spilling over onto streets that war-ridden Afghanistan would be ashamed of.
Gurgaon represents Nehruvian India, a state where the sole purpose of the administration is self-perpetuation and the squeezing of surplus from citizens not privileged to be "New British", i.e. officials or politicians. It is a construct that has been embraced by both these groups, for the power it gives them over the lives of ordinary citizens. Just as British apologists for colonial loot talked of the "civilising" effects of the Raj, claiming that everything from railways to roads would never have come about but for them, India's post-1947 New British chatter incessantly about "democracy", a system whereby less than a dozen families rule over three-fourths of those elected to state and national legislatures. Talking to those whose workplace is atop Raisina Hill, it is difficult not to imagine that they consider themselves to be the rulers of a vast colony, which is the rest of India. That they, and they alone, have the right to decide matters that affect any state, any district. Indeed, that the rest of the country is simply incapable of self-governance.
Although India has gone the opposite way of Pakistan, where the share of minorities in the total population has fallen to less than a tenth of what it was pre-1947, this country has had its ethos shamed by repeated pogroms, whether of Dalits or of Sikhs or of Muslims, or even of "caste" Hindus. Delhi 1984 or Mumbai 1993 were inexcusable, as much so as the violence that stained Gujarat after the massacre of karsevaks in Godhra. None of the high-level policymakers involved in incidents previous to (or after) the Godhra riots of 2002 have faced the criticisms focused on Narendra Modi. The crescendo of hate that daily crests towards Modi may be partly based on the fact that Nehruvians are aware that the Gujarat Chief Minister represents their antithesis, in a way that Atal Behari Vajpayee or Jyoti Basu never could be. The only periods when a genuine non-Nehruvian became PM was when Morarji Desai and P.V. Narasimha Rao occupied that post. Both were subjected to vitriol by overt and covert defenders of the Nehru ethos, whether these be in politics or in academe or in the media.
Nehruvian ideology and methods are based on the implicit belief that the Raj was the best thing that ever happened to India, and that therefore its institutions, mindset and laws ought to be retained in their entirety. That the people of India are not mature enough to be trusted with superintending their own destinies, and therefore need to constantly check back with some minion or the other of the administration before being allowed to do even simple tasks. Simply put, the politico-administrative elite that replaced the British in 1947 are the only adults in the country, and the rest are just children. Small wonder that Indians have not been given the access to the internet bandwidth that others in Asia enjoy, or while Japan has 5G, India still crawls along with 3G, where that service is available at all. The choke points that the British erected succeeded in emasculating the Indian economy. The continuation of the colonial policy of excessive regulation ensures that India grows at a speed less than half of the 15% that the genius of its people would easily achieve, if only they were given the same conditions that are enjoyed by counterparts in other countries.
Enter Narendra Modi. All of him is Indian, none of him owes anything to Raj influences. Were he to ever become Prime Minister, he would be unlikely to go the Vajpayee way, accepting the Nehru model of governance, including in foreign and education policy, rather than ensuring that the country move on from the shadow of the British occupation. Modi wants the English language to spread in India, but not British attitudes. He trusts domestic industry and wants it to expand to foreign shores, rather than dwarf them in favour of foreign companies. Only in Nehruvian India can the civil servant who crafted the laws and regulations that enabled Vodafone to avoid paying nearly $4 billion in taxes on a wholly India-based transaction continue to enjoy his or her retirement. In a country less enslaved by its colonial past, the person would have been brought to account. In Gujarat, Modi has not followed the model of the man responsible for ensuring that Jawaharlal Nehru got anointed to continue the legacy of the Raj, but Vallabbhai Patel. Those who want to know what India would have looked like under 17 years of Patel need only go to Modi's Gujarat.
These days, internet fora gush venom on Narendra Modi, not by Muslim or Christian voices but by those who claim to be "pure" Hindutva followers. His destruction of roadside temples irks them, as does his refusal to give them a voice in administrative matters, the way Nehruvians always do. The post-Godhra riots were a huge blot, but thereafter, there has not been a single death due to communal — or caste — violence in Gujarat. As Chief Minister, Modi is now stressing the neutrality of the administration in matters of faith, which of course is very different from the Nehruvian polity, which incessantly tells the Muslim community — the strongest single group in the country and a force with powerful international resonance — that they are helpless victims rather than masters of their own fate. The Indian people are one, and deserve better than to be always told that each is different from the other. Ten years after Godhra, the state seems to have moved on, the way Mumbai did after the 1993 horror or Delhi after the genocidal attack on Sikhs in 1984. Should Narendra Modi ever become PM, he would consign to history the Nehruvian system as surely as Deng Xiaoping took China away from Mao Thought in the 1980s. Small wonder that Nehruvians across the world have united against him.