It was May 16, 2014. The BJP-led NDA had won the general election and Shri Narendra Modi was to be the 16th Prime Minister of India. Congress was completely defeated. The pompous roadshows, the Gujarat model, multiple calls to recover the black money stacked abroad were some of the highlights of the campaign led by Modi.
3 years and 7 months have passed. Make in India, Start up India, UDAN, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Digital India, Skill India, Mission Indradhanush, Smart City mission and many more similar plans that have been evaluated not only by the nation’s grassroots but also internationally. On the other hand, demonetization, the implementation of the mandate of GST and Aadhar, has also provoked strong criticism of the Center.
Although the opposition, which here is the great party of India-INC, is not convinced that even one of the government’s plans and policies is in favor of the poor and accused it of strategies of name change and credit hoarding , the ruling BJP maintains that it is the government of the marginalized and the two consecutive UPA regimes were a complete sequel.
As we watch every day on the news channels the inconclusive debates, the fulminations and slander that these parties press against each other, and we read in the newspapers the scathing speeches of the Argus-eyed political-socio-economic columnists in the Prime Minister’s office, we miss an important question. What are our options?
India is a democracy. The biggest in the world. And the essence of democracy lies in the fact that it always offers options. And sometimes too many. India had a choice in the summer of 2014. Either bring to power a man, who had proven his worth as the three-time Chief Minister of Gujarat, but was also accused of a Muslim massacre, OR vote for a party of more than a century . whose leadership hung in balance. India chose the first. The issue to be explored here is what level of options were offered to us. Narendra Modidantless, rhetorician, visionary, a nationalist through and through, but also a faithful believer in Hindutva ideology and therefore considered anti-Muslim. However, Rahul Gandhi, who was not the official face of Congress in the last general election but was an obvious contender, was inexperienced, politically drab, but free of charges of corruption or embezzlement. Neither NaMo nor RaGa can be considered the perfect fit for the highest office in the country. Both are positive and both are negative. However, we choose. We do not choose between a God and a Satan, nor between the virtuous and the libertines, we choose between Scylla and Charybdis.
Yes! Between Scylla and Charybdis. Because in a democracy we never have “the best” and rarely “the good”, we can find the “best”, but what we have in abundance is the “worst.” It is this best that we must look for among the many worst. Democracy never presents us with a choice between the good and the ugly. To quote George Orwell, politics is choosing between the lesser of the two evils. And for us Indians that lesser evil turned out to be Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi.
Since he acquired the prime minister’s office, he has been attacked not only by Congress but also by many other minor parties for his anomalous decision-making. While his DBT and Jan Dhan Yojna were praised globally, demonetization and GST brought the same grudge to him at home. He has been mistreated, insulted, trolled, at the same time praised, acclaimed and applauded. But it was also the case for the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. If the nationalization of the banks, the liberation of Bangladesh (East Pakistan) and the Shimla Agreement are to his credit, the 1975 state of emergency and Operation Blue Star (1984) are the bitter reminders of the other side of his regime. Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary who ruled the archipelago for a little over 5 decades as Prime Minister and later as President, broke the US hegemony over its peoples. He established free education and health systems, but the standard of living in Cuba remains low, until now.
The 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, who won the presidency but lost the popular vote, is known for leading the United States into the war in Iraq and for using nefarious counterterrorism tactics, but served two full terms. and he was able to pass the biggest tax cut in American history. Gamal Abdel Nasser, the revolutionary-turned-repressive dictator who died in 1970, is still revered by Egyptians, including the young generation, as the greatest leader of all time, even though he lost the Sinai Peninsula to Israel in the War of the Six Days. (1967). And in line with these, the latest example that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was interrogated in June 2017 on charges of perjury and cronyism and then won a landslide victory in rapid polls in October of the same year, demonstrates the conviction that well-educated people rarely create history.
Indira Gandhi, Fidel Castro, George W. Bush, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Shinzo Abe, Narendra Modi are all contaminated. But still they are exalted. Because they did (and are doing) the right thing, at the right time for their respective countries. They passed the comparatively better litmus test of politics with distinction. And if there is something in common between all of them, it is their prodigious ability to attract the general public, which condones their faith.
The Modi government may have failed to implement the goods and services tax, it may have crossed the line on its spiels, maybe demonetization was not such a good idea, but the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was and was too. Ujjwala Yojna (PMUY), and the Sagarmala Project, and the Neem-coated urea scheme, and many others that have reached and benefited hundreds and thousands of people. The opposition must realize that blindly criticizing the works and erecting obstacles for the government will only paralyze the country.
India is 70 years old, at an age when such maturity should creep into our socio-political system when the politicization of trivial issues is replaced by bipartisanship, especially on key agendas, in Parliament.
As for us citizens, the choice has been increasingly difficult and will be so in the future. Choosing the lesser of the two evils is still an evil. But a proactive devil is better than a sleeping saint who gets us nowhere.