One thing that has significantly marred India’s political model right since the days of its birth as a Republic in 1950 has been the politics of vote banks or sheer populism. The role of vote banks has increased progressively in our polity over the years and since 1990s, or the age of coalition politics, it has almost become a malaise. Not just the vote seekers but even the voters have become an ugly part of it, forgetting their larger role for the greater good of their community and the nation. Demands for separate States like for Telangana are perhaps rooted more in the ambitions of the politicians rather than genuine injustice. Egged on by populist rhetoric and fuelled by political ambitions, the common citizens hitch on to the Statehood bandwagons forgetting the demerits of a weakening federal structure of India, thereby inviting problems in the long run. Vote-bank politics has a deeper, uglier side too. Unabashed appeasement of Hindus, Muslims or Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or of Vokkaliga and Lingayats in Karnataka or of Reddys and Kammas in Andhra Pradesh or of Marathas in Maharashtra is part of a larger strategy of today’s quintessential politician to win elections. By belting the requisite 25 percent of the total vote by targeting large caste and religious groups by holding out narrow, divisive promises as a bait has been a standard tactic of today’s politician. How an average Indian politician thinks is simple: Target and win 25 percent of the total votes in an average voting of 65 percent to capture power. And for this they strike deals with numerically powerful groups by promising specific benefits or preferential treatment in development when they come to power. The free rice schemes of the Governments in the South, the reservation dangle to Muslims in jobs in some of the Northern States, or the promise of giving free power to farmers, made umpteenth times by successive Governments across India, are all part of this narrow agenda of the classic Indian politician based on promise-narrow- benefits-and-win. Therefore when a party comes to power on the strength of these 25 percent voters, its first priority is to accord primacy to those special voters, in development work as well as in day-to-day governance. It is due to this that Yadavs and Muslims become powerful in the power structure in Uttar Pradesh. When a Mulayam Singh comes to power or when a Mayawati takes over, the Dalits and the Brahmins take the place of Yadavs but not the more powerful Muslims who are a permanent vote bank for most parties across India. In other words, this target-25-percent electoral arithmetic means ignoring or giving second priority to the remaining 75 percent. Here is an apt example: The sweeper community or Valmikis, the lowest among the Dalits and by that yardstick among the entire Hindu community for whom Gandhiji coined the slogan ‘Harijan’, should get precedence over other Dalits in governance if one goes by the maxim that the most underprivileged in the society should be the priority of a just Government. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Politicians woo the numerically larger Bunkars (weavers) and Chamars among the Dalits because they possess more number of votes than the negligible. No wonder the Valmikis feel bitter about this stepmotherly treatment spurred by the demands of vote-bank politics. Modi’s brand of Governance based on the slogan ‘Support from all, development of all’ holds out the grand promise to change this model for good. ‘Nation First’ is his counter to calls in the name of secularism and sectarian demands wrapped in one ism or the other. And to give this idea the shape of a movement he has floated the Nation First Foundation (NFF). Modi believes the answer to Hindu-Muslim or Yadav-Kurmi or Vokkaliga-Lingayat or the latest Telangana-Seemandhra divide is the slogan of ‘Nation First’. It is one magic mantra based on even-handed development, which he believes, has the power to bridge all kinds of divides and provide an effective answer to the politics of appeasement that is sapping the nation’s energy. Modi strongly feels ‘Nation First’ has got the power to curb the insatiable hunger of the beneficiaries of appeasement politics who are as much responsible as the politicians for furthering this lopsided vote-bank based model. And there are already strong indications that this new Modi Mantra has begun to strike a chord with the youth, irrespective of their social and religious backgrounds. Interestingly, in coining this slogan, Modi appears to have borrowed from a similar stand adopted by President Barack Obama in the US. Modi’s Governance has more than demonstrated that it has bridged the caste as well as religious fault lines befitting the new slogan which he has coined. The infamous 2013 Durga Shakti Nagpal episode of Uttar Prdaesh in which an honest official was suspended to appease the sand mining mafia on one hand and the Samajwadi Party’s Muslim vote-bank on the other hand just can’t happen in the Modi administration. The benefit of his non- appeasement path is best demonstrated by the fine balance he has maintained between the traditionally opposed Patels and Kshatriyas in Gujarat. Such was the sparring between the Patels and the Kshtariyas for decades that in recent times no Gujarat ruler before Modi had shown the courage to give the Home portfolio to a Patel or a Kshatriya fearing caste backlash. So, the Home Minister in Gujarat was invariably from numerically weak Bania or Brahman castes till recently Modi broke this unwritten rule, thanks to his brand of non-divisive politics, by giving the portfolio to two successive Patels since 2010 without triggering any reaction from the Kshatriyas. Today, even the Muslim areas in many parts of Gujarat like Palej, Navsari, Surat, Gandevi, and Porbandar are appreciative of the development they have seen in the form of roads, drainage, water supply, medical facilities, and even job opportunities. It’s the kind of development they had not experienced in the previous years. Pregnant Muslim women in and around Palej in South Gujarat don’t have to spend Rs 1,000 any more on taxi for going to Bharuch for delivering their child as the Modi Government has revived the local Government hospital at a cost of Rs 2.75 crores. Local Muslim boys have got jobs in the Palej area, thanks to the industries that have hopped on to Gujarat on Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat bandwagon. ‘Enough of politics in the name of appeasement. Anyone who gives Muslims a share in India’s development and nothing else is welcome,’ observes Dr Mihdhat Jussain, 38, a medical practitioner of the Jama Masjid area of Delhi thus echoing the line of a section of Muslims who feel Modi’s straight talk of giving Muslims their due share in the nation’s progress and nothing more should be accepted by the community. In Gandevi, near Valsad, the local Ghanchi Muslims have seen a road, and a cement one at that, in their locality for the first time in history. The monsoon of 2013 was their first ever rainy season when they didn’t have to wade through slush. Same is the feeling in a Muslim-dominated semi-slum locality in Navsari where roads and lights have been provided for the first time. The story is no different in Salaya, a town on the Saurashtra coast where almost the entire population of 45,000 is of Muslim seafarers. The town has pucca roads of a quality not seen before. This has made a deep impact on a section of Muslims who want development and are not driven by radicalism.It comes out in a way that is unimaginable in the words of the bearded Kalimuddin Kazi, a school van owner in Gandevi: ‘True development is coming for the first time in the Muslim areas of Gandevi . I pray Modi becomes the Prime Minister and replicates his model at the national level.’ Kazi is a Sufi Muslim and a section of Sufis are the latest admirers of Modi after his Statement in a Muslim function in the dargah of Sufi saint Sheikh Ahmed Khattu Gunj Baksh in Ahmedabad in 2011 when he said, ‘I respect Muslim Sufi traditions. It is an integral part of Indian culture’. What’s more is that Muslims appreciate the fact that there has been no major Hindu-Muslim riot after 2002 in a State where communal riots were commonplace with curfew being a by-word in many towns known for communal rioting.
This excerpt has been taken from Centrestage: Inside the Narendra Modi Model of Governance, by Uday Mahurkar: http://bit.ly/PblNDb
About the Author
Uday Mahurkar is a senior editor with India Today magazine and a political analyst. Based in Ahmedabad, he has covered Gujarat for the magazine right since 1987. An amateur historian with a good grasp on medieval history including Mughal, Rajput, Maratha and British periods, Uday has seen the rise of the political phemenon called Narendra Modi from the day he entered BJP from the RSS in 1986 – 87 and was the first to predict Modis present rise and transformation as a nation-wide developmental icon in 2007. Over the years, he has studied Modis development vision and programmes in detail and at a close range.
An alumni of the Department of Indian History and Archaeology of the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, Uday is also a very keen researcher on radical Islamic movements and their rise in South Asia and has deep interest in national security issues.