Friday, September 13, 2013

Modi’s nomination anything but a US-style Primary….

So Narendra Modi is the BJP’s PM nominee. That should bring down the curtains on a sordid saga of personal egos and ambitions, opaque internal politics, remote controlled decisions and an obvious crushing of dissent. The BJP possibly sees this as a US-style primary, and the forthcoming 2014 General elections as a US-style Presidential election. But honeslty, this internal struggle was hardly anything even remotely similar to a US primary. Here’s why:

First: The US primaries are decided by a secret vote amongst party members held over a period of several months. Primaries are held state by state, with leaders and members of the party in each state getting a chance to vote. The decision on which candidate goes forward is based not on some amorphous “wave” or non-descript “popularity” or some sponsored “poll” but on genuine, secret voting. Out here, no one got to vote, maybe for fear that the real picture may emerge.

Two: Most importantly, there are 3-4 candidates who fight it out in a primary. Out here, while we know there were many in the race, they were simply not there in public view. Maybe no one wants to challenge the “wave”. In that case, this represents a stifling of democracy; not the exemplary practice of democracy. In the US, the ones who lose, lose fairly and squarely, leaving no ill-will. Out here, there is solid ill-will. Forget Advani, who has virtually gone public. Wait for dissent from Swaraj, Joshi, Sinha, Sinha and co.

Third: The US primaries are all about putting forward an agenda. One candidate’s plans and vision compared to the others’. It’s a constructive debate. It’s a squaring off between alternate ideologies. What is Narendra Modi’s ideology? For that matter, what is the BJP’s ideology? While nothing has been spelt out, one can glean out a few patterns a) an aggressive pursuit of hindutva, with concomitant marginalization of muslims/Christians/everyone else. There may be no more riots in the country alright, but that will because of oppression, not joyous integration. And oh yes, there will be many more unreported encounters b) an aggressive relationship with neighbors, with attendant conflagrations at the borders, souring of relations with even peaceful ones like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and the welcome to China to enter them and surround us even more. God forbid, if this style leads to a needless provocation of China, then we’ll be pushed back by a few decades c) More subsidies: Modi prefers more grains to the poor at cheaper prices, hence higher food subsidy. He’s not spoken of cutting any other subsidy, neither fertilizer, nor LPG, kerosene or anything else (even though he has abused the Congress for this!) d) No Lokpal, Anna please note. Or even if there is one, an even more diluted one than that proposed by the Congress. And Lok Ayuktas? Heavens no! Even Gujarat has not had one for the last ten years. Institutions like the RTI will also be given a short shrift e)  Forget inclusiveness. This government will work for industry and industry alone. Land will be given off easily. Environment will be given the go-by. The R&R burden will be light. Dissent in any case will not be tolerated. This is the sole reason why industry is cheering for Modi.

Fourth: The US primaries may be an internal affair of the party but they are fought in the public. Like someone pointed out on TV the other day (was in Pawan Varma, advisor to the JD(U)?), the public comes to know what the differences are within the party. That brings transparency and honesty to the process. The transparency also helps people decide whether they want to vote for that party or not. It may be an internal power struggle, but its also a constant communication with the public. Out here, we have no clue why Modi’s opponents were opposing him. Is it because they are also aspirants to the top job (nothing wrong with that)? Do they have a softer line on Hindutva than Modi (Advani’s Jinnah moment)? Do they disagree with Modi’s growth agenda, if there is one shared internally? No one knows anything. All that we know is that power politics is being played out.

The only commonality if any with the US Presidential system is that the opponent (the “Grand Old Party” as it were) is sitting pretty waiting for the other side to fight it out (and watching in glee!). The Congress has no leadership struggle, no doubt about who the leader is, no public spats, and a proven record of what it stands for – good and bad. The Congress’s poll planks are mainly two as expostulated by Shashi Tharoor in recent times a) a Rights-and-entitlements based focus on the poor and disenfranchised and b) “pluralism” (he prefers this to secularism) of ideas, cultures, religions, viewpoints… opposed to the monochromatic (saffron) hegemony of a single ideology (RSS’s). This pluralism can also be called “inclusiveness”. Or what we were taught in school: Unity in diversity. The Congress’s economic record has been exemplary, inspite of the last two years. Ten years of the highest growth ever recorded by India (8.2%+). It includes retrieving the economy from doom (6 years of NDA rule were those of the lowest growth since 1991), raising India’s stature globally (G-20, BRICS, nuclear/space programs, poverty alleviation, Obama’s repeated references to Bangalore, even making it a verb…..). What I also found refreshing in Tharoor’s points was an acceptance that corruption has become a scourge, but the party was determined to clean it all up. The BJP pretends to be clean and honest, forgetting Karnataka (Modi will tie-up with Yeddy all over again) and the fact that they back-tracked on creating Lok Ayuktas along with the Lokpal in spite of assurances given in Parliament to Anna.

The real truth is that Modi has won the internal battles as was expected. Advani was unceremoniously thrown into the dustbin (Why couldn’t they wait for 2 more months?). Whether Modi’s elevation makes or breaks the party remains to be seen. Whatever happens, please lets not fool ourselves by comparing the BJP’s sordit internal battles with US primaries….

No comments:

Post a Comment