Can Modi really change the Secularist paradigm?
Modi yesterday completed his three day fast with a stirring speech that offered a preview of his vision and priorities. It is an indicator of the extent to which the man ensures his feet are firmly on the ground that he has promised a district level reach out programme in Gujarat. Modi may have national ambitions but he isn't blind to the arduous path he will have to take in order to reach New Delhi. By ensuring a district level reach out and by tweaking his message to explicitly demonstrate a degree of inclusiveness Modi wants to ensure he does not become victim of the all too familiar pitfall of governments: anti-incumbency.
To political observers what was most intriguing about the three day fast and indeed even the entire Sadbhavana mission is the extent to which Modi would go to demonstrate 'inclusiveness'. The cacophony emanating from the coterie of Left-liberal establishment is that no reach out is a good enough reach out unless Modi apologizes for his errors of omission or commission in 2002. Modi has not yet offered an explicit apology to the Muslim community for the 2002 riots. But it is not as if Modi would not express regret or a desire for harmony it is just that there is a certain line Modi draws between expressing regret and groveling. To his detractors Modi's refusal to cross that line is indication of his communal mindset.
Perhaps as a result of the run up to partition, the various attempts from Congress to assuage minorities to stay with the idea of united India or a result of Nehru's delusional generosity the broad contours of Nehruvian secularism are such that the minority communities must be mollycoddled at any rate. Reforms in personal law, minority educational institutions and even in the case of choosing the national anthem the post-independence Nehruvian establishment was particularly generous to the point of mortgaging the enlightened interest of minorities into the hands of the regressive and competitively-communal political leadership. In the ensuing decades of Congress dominance this principle has been fully internalized to the point that Rajiv Gandhi in considered it right and 'secular' to close the doors on a potential opportunity to emancipate Muslim women from the clutches of the clergy.
The Nehruvian secularist paradigm is thus defined almost exclusively by appeasement.
Today, when Modi stubbornly(so far!) refuses to explicitly name a community and offer a groveling apology like the one our alleged incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered to the Sikh community he is rebelling against the Nehruvian secularist paradigm of mere unthinking appeasement. Yes, like everybody else he expresses the need for communal harmony, he agrees India is a diverse nation and that its diversity needs to be protected. But that is where he stops. He refuses to be an appeaser.
And Modi does not stop from merely rebelling against a patently regressive, competitively communal paradigm of secularism. He offers an alternative. If he is to be believed the well being of every Gujarati, every Indian – each individual irrespective of caste, community, religion and ethnic background – is sacrosanct. He refuses to name any particular community in interviews and declares that his government neither works for minority nor for majority. His government works for Gujaratis. Modi intends to treat citizens on an individual and non discriminatory basis.
Modi, either advertently or inadvertently, has offered an alternative paradigm of secularism – an arrangement of State where development and the benefits of good governance are to be guaranteed to every citizen – the religious identity of the citizen being a secondary detail.
Where the Nehruvian perspective offers only appeasement the Gujarat Chief Minister offers development, prosperity and governance to all. There is no doubting that for India to grow and prosper this conflict between the two paradigms needs to end in favor of individualism, in favor of competent non-discriminatory governance and in favor of Narendra Modi.
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