The narrative fostered by the latest assembly elections – set to change the course of politics in this country – has marked the third big break in the way we perceive the Modi regime. The first was in 2014 when Modi won the general elections with a thumping majority and the second was when he displayed the extent to which he would go for ‘reform’, through drastic measures like surgical strikes and demonetization. And the third is winning the critical Uttar Pradesh elections.
These victories have surprised many observers, because, more than anything else, the term of this government has been rife with controversies and protests. There is a trend, wherein each year has been devoted to large themes of protest and discussion, with issues like nationalism, Indian culture, Hinduism, education, secularism and intolerance generating burning conversations among people. These are issues from which the common man has been largely alienated for the most part of the last few decades. They were concerned, and voted for the government, based on practical considerations like caste/jati solidarity – taken for granted – and of delivery of welfare.
However, the aspect of the development and welfarist programmes – the art of which the Modi government has mastered even more perfectly than the Congress of Indira Gandhi’s times and later – is secondary when we judge the change that the government has brought about. Indeed, if development were that critical a plank, then Akhilesh Yadav of SP should have won the recent elections, for every party promises numerous schemes and development initiatives, and Akhilesh had the actual track record – though seriously diluted by poor law and order – in UP and the goodwill of the people and the popularity to prove it. Yet, none of this, not even people’s goodwill or the endless welfare schemes, could compel them to vote for him. Thus, while judging the government’s track record, the real root of analysis should be psychological and study at the spirit of the change, which alone can explain outer realities like social change.
In India, at present, what is being witnessed is the completion of the true spirit of nation-building and national consolidation so that the country can take her rightful place in the world. What the Modi government has given, more than anything, is the involvement of people in actually shaping the national character. There have been repeated assassinations of our national character for far too long, as it had been left in the hands of corrupt, self-serving politicians, with our public being lethargic and unthinking. Now, by getting the people in touch with right issues and enabling them to collectively rise up – a process which our intellectuals would call ‘reactionary’ and term as a ‘controversy’ – and no longer remain a lumbering mass, party to the pettiness of our decades-old political culture.
A Complementary Global Trend
This process taking place in India complements the movement world-over. In all countries, things are changing. Unexpected leaders are gaining popularity and the “liberal” institutions and ideals that had been constructed over the last two centuries are losing currency with the people. People are supporting leaders like Trump in the USA and Marine Le Pen in France, and are endorsing Trump’s policies on protectionism, torture, war and clampdown on illegal Muslim immigrants.
The reason for this backlash is not that the ideals of the modern age that we have cherished are wrong in their spirit, but that our liberal institutions have been built – especially since the last few decades – and deteriorated into a mere façade of harmony, beneath whose surfaces there has been perpetuated endless division and suffering. In India also, there was a strong backlash against the ideas of liberalism and secularism as practiced selectively by India’s political and intellectual Left-minded elites. People, when they voted for Modi, were demanding not a scaling back of these ideals, but a putting of them in a right perspective.
And that is why, despite numerous policy stumblings and mixed report cards, the popularity of the leader remains as strong as ever. The Modi government has now been in office for more than two and a half years – crossing the mid-term mark. This, usually, is the time when anti-incumbency begins to set in among the people. For, either governments become stale due to lack of any substantive work or they become corrupt – a fate which has befallen nearly all previous governments in India. Yet this government continues as strong as ever.
And, coupled with the election of Donald Trump in the United States and with Putin already in place in Russia, there are new and high expectations that finally such leaders in important countries like India, US and Russia will usher in many changes, most prominently the end of global Islamic terrorism. It is now widely recognized that the previous ‘liberal’ regimes like the Obama-led US had amply funded the terrorist groups in various conflicts across the Middle-east and Afghanistan.
Everything pertaining to the so called liberal world is now being questioned. Thanks to the transitions in India and the world, we are now living in an age, which many commentators have begun to describe as ‘post-truth’ – an age where the so-called ‘truth’ and ‘facts’ of the matter, as perceived by our senses and our ingrained collective understanding of so many decades, no longer matters solely. That is how popular leaders like Putin, Erdogan, Modi and Trump work. They are not circumscribed by apparent realities as touted by liberal, educated opinion. This may help them to surmount major barriers and dominant perceptions about right and wrong. To the superficial eye, these occasions and the rise of these personalities – though temporary – may seem more like a chance or an accident, or simply the temporary recoil of popular opinion from established institutions. But it is more than that – it is precisely what wise men call accidents, and cannot accept, that shape the course of history, instead of established rational events which we use to justify our own view of history.
As Sri Aurobindo wrote in the context of the French Revolution and the despotic men who broke away from established patterns to bring it about, “So it is that God prepares the man and the moment, using good and evil with a divine impartiality for His mighty ends. Without the man the moment is a lost opportunity; without the moment the man is a force inoperative. The meeting of the two changes the destinies of nations and the poise of the world is altered by what seems to the superficial an accident.”1
India’s Role in the Times to Come
India is favourably poised to take advantage of changing international conditions. With the current leadership, which is dynamic and not reluctant to proclaim the glory of India’s civilization to the world, she can lead the movement towards the world unity on a truly psychological basis. For now, even the global conditions, despite the prevalent strife (latest UN reports claim that the world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis right now), are favourably aligned towards a complete change of ideas, psychology and consciousness. India should play a leading role in facilitating this unity and “if she can develop that larger statesmanship which is not limited by the present facts and immediate possibilities but looks into the future and brings it nearer, her presence may make all the difference between a slow and timid and a bold and swift development.”2
It is precisely for this process that Modi has come in. There is mainly a double purpose involved – to elevate India to a dominant position in the world affairs and, within the country, to bring a sense of national unity among the people. Therefore, at the passing of the mid-term mark by the Modi government, we must judge what the government is doing based on these essential criteria.
While foreign policy and international dominance was already this government’s effortless forte, the real work is now being done in the future direction of the development of a united national consciousness. In spirit, this unity has always existed – through all castes and sub-castes and other divisions – and no amount of political maneuvering over the last six decades has been able to destroy it, though on the surface, caste equations always led to a politically fragmented system.
What forges the country together is not these temporary alliances or divisions on the surface, but the spirit of belonging to one nation, and conceiving the nation as our living Mother. For, “When there is one country, one Mother, unity is bound to be realised one day; the union of many races will forge a single strong and invincible nation. Religious beliefs may differ, religious communities may be in perpetual conflict, there may be no harmony or hope of harmony, but even so there is no cause for alarm. One day, harmony must surely prevail by virtue of the powerful magnetism of the Mother incarnate in the country; by hook or by crook, through negotiation, force or appeasement, communal divisions will be submerged in a feeling of fraternity and love of the Mother…. the country is the foundation of nationalism and this relation is unfailing. Where a country exists, nationalism is bound to arise among its people. In one country two nations cannot persist for ever, they must eventually unite.”3
Nationalism cannot be identified with any one narrow epithet. The Mother has to be seen in her totality; only then can the ideal of nationalism be realized and our problems solved. When this happens, as Sri Aurobindo wrote, “The differences of language will no longer be an impediment; we will keep our own mother tongues and yet accept Hindi as the common language, thus eliminating that barrier. We shall be able to evolve a real solution to the Hindu-Muslim conflict. For want of a vision of the country as the Mother, the urge to do away with this obstacle has not been strongly felt; that is why the means has not been found and the conflict has continued to worsen. But her true and indivisible image is needed. If in our yearning for the vision of the Mother we seek her as the Mother of the Hindus, the basis of Hindu nationalism, then we will fall into the old error and be deprived of the full flowering of nationalism.”4
This is significant, for here, we see that nationalism cannot be identified with Hindu nationalism alone. The trend that we are seeing in the current expansion of BJP, and especially the Hindu consolidation in the aftermath of the UP election, is simply political in its nature – a transitory, yet necessary phenomenon. In fact, if the Ayodhya backlash and movement was the first phase of cross-caste Hindu consolidation, the present can be called its second phase. Just like Ayodhya could not turn us into a Hindu polity, even the present will not.
But we must see the necessity and importance of the current phase of Hindu consolidation which has just begun, as it is critical not only for fostering cross-caste unity, but also laying some kind of foundation for the realization of the spirit of Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana Dharma is the true nationalism. Its meaning has been obscured to us through our ages of slavery to material and psychological forces, while only the spirit closed deep inside could prevent the country from disintegrating.
The time has now come for the realization of this spirit, which requires a consolidation, first and foremost, of our political structure, since that is where the material power lies. What was missing was a political translation of this spirit. And this, the Modi government, is now fast securing. While it has now only just started consolidating all its hard-work in building up a precarious political coalition, based on the principles of true Hinduism, cutting across caste lines, continuous effort is needed to make such a political unity permanent. Achieving this political unity, domestically, and asserting a space for India’s leadership, globally, is Modi’s immediate role.
India’s Global Rise
India’s foreign policy and the country’s concurrent global rise is a testimony to the firm break taken by Modi government in international affairs. It is also indicative of the massive changes that Nature is bringing about at such a fast pace.
India’s position in the world affairs has been amply strengthened in recent times, even though the country’s bid to enter major institutions like UN Security Council and to Nuclear Suppliers Group has not been realized. But the fact is that the very existence of these institutions is an irony in how the world is changing today. In a world where militarization and conflict have increased, and where power equations have changed so drastically, away from the ‘liberal peace’ of the 1990s, these “controlling” institutions have become toothless. It is the kind of mere symbolic assertion of power which would have been understandable even one or two years back, but no longer holds ground. Countries like US have led the charge in withdrawing from international institutions and multilateral cooperation treaties like the TPP, while countries like Russia and China are on the prowl for forging stronger regional alliances, for serving both their economic and military interests.
In this changed world, it hardly matters whether India has compelled China to make some symbolic condemnations against Pakistan. What would matter is if India is also able to expand its geo-strategy. Already, India is fast being counted among the Great Powers of the world. It was under the leadership of Modi that India deftly steered its way into the group of influential countries, and undertook a programme of serious economic and defense modernization reforms, weathering its way through shocks like the Demonetization and the Surgical Strikes on Pakistan. These external overtures have helped in the consolidation of India’s position in world affairs. But so far, the progress in foreign policy has been on the diplomatic and economic fronts only. Formations like BRICS have little reality outside the sphere of economic diplomacy and their importance cannot be overstressed. Therefore, geo-strategy, for India, is still something that needs strengthening.
In the times to come, India’s closeness to the US and the latter’s policy of tilt towards Asia Pacific (meaning South China Sea) is set to take a hit. Trump is interested only in bilateral relationships and is planning on phasing down the US’s role in global interventions. Moreover, Trump’s America is fast fading into irrelevance. This means that the Asia Pacific field has become a free field for China, which is already strengthening its hold through the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, which India has denounced since it is running through the PoK, and because China has separately signed onto the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with Pakistan. SAARC has been made irrelevant by India itself due to its enmity with Pakistan, implying that China’s OBOR initiative – and, both Russia and Afghanistan have jumped onto the OBOR bandwagon – will trump Modi’s larger vision of a South Asian unity, leaving India isolated.
Modi needs to urgently re-think his foreign policy vision to assert a place for India in this changed world equation. It is also high time that India re-visits its history and improves its relations with China, which were vitiated during the Nehru regime over the contention over territory. It should not be surprised to find a willing ally in China. These actions could be accomplished once the government establishes a foothold over its internal sensitive border areas, especially in the North-east and addressing issues like illegal immigration. India marked a break with the past by signing agreements that would have been unimaginable before. These include the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh in 2015, wherein India justified the move – including arguments about India’s loss of territory – by saying that the agreement actually rationalized the borders; otherwise, there existed pockets of illegally occupied territory, which would have further promoted illegal Bangladeshi immigration.
Another step included signing a peace agreement with Nagaland’s insurgent group, NSCN (IM), which no other government was able to achieve, and the momentum generated around the Citizenship Bill, 2016. In fact, the ruling BJP has been undertaking intensive work in the North-east. Ample result of this can now be seen in how rapidly the party has expanded its footprint beyond Assam, into states like Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland, where, till two years back, BJP influence would have been unthinkable.
A Widening Scope in Domestic Restructuring
These victories have cemented the gaps that were missing from the BJP’s victory in 2014 viz. its control over institutions and actual, influential decision-making. While the party was vastly successful in changing the social and political narrative on the ground, the institutions and rules were still being framed by the old, archaic elite.
The Opposition would always stall all sessions of Parliament, without fail, since 2014, over big issues like secularism, nationalism, intolerance, Dalits, education etc. Their control over Rajya Sabha also enabled them to stall important legislations. And yet, the irony was that, at the end, despite all major obstacles, these institutions proved to be fruitless; for, real change will be brought about, not by the transformation of the machinery, but the spirit. And with the pressure of the spirit increasing, we can see the institutions fading into irrelevance. With the current elections, now even the institutions will no longer be a hurdle in achieving the minimum material goals.
Now that these elections have set a secure stage for BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Modi government is expected to get down to doubling the momentum of the work that it wants to complete. This will be achieved as it can now determine the nature of institutions like the Rajya Sabha and the Presidency. Already, the very next day after the declaration of the election results, the Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, was quick to get the long-pending amendments to the Enemy Property Bill passed. Earlier, it was obstructed in Rajya Sabha, ostensibly, because the Opposition raised the cry that it would jeopardize Muslim properties. Similarly, the critical amended Citizenship Bill, which would have curbed the flow of illegal Muslim migrants, was stalled by the Opposition on grounds of secularism.
These bills will now see the light of the day. In the social sphere also, there is a lot that the government can build on. In social policy, contrary to popular belief, the Modi government has left a good legacy. It has actually fared better on the social policy front than the UPA. For instance, thanks to persistent drought, the government sanctioned an amount of more than 55,000 crore for MNREGA – the highest ever so far, since the programme was launched. Many of the BJP-ruled states have also implemented MNREGA and PDS (Public Distribution System) reforms more effectively than UPA-ruled states. In fact, in this, the BJP-ruled, Raman Singh-led Chhattisgarh government has done so well that now it is being called a ‘poster boy for PDS reforms’ in the country.5
These examples show that we have come far ahead of the days of the ‘Kerala’ model of governance – known for its welfare and PDS system – which was popularized by leftwing intellectuals like Amartya Sen and others. But the changes have not been talked about either in the media or among the academics. These are the things less talked about, and less noted in public forums by the government also, but something on which this government should build on, to expand its popular base and legacy among the people.
There are countless other hits and misses of the past two-and-a-half years that can be added to this discussion. But the real point to be made here is how, through all of this and through the fundamental changes in the present system, the Modi government is serving the larger fulfillment of India’s future role.
As already reiterated above, the major part of this role is to emanate from the field of politics, and not developmental/welfare schemes. If we look at the critical areas which need change today and over which Modi government’s attempts to initiate reform since the past two-and-a-half years has been stalled the most, education, culture and constitutionalism stand out.
Both culture and education are closely linked. Pick up any contemporary history book – written, as usual, by one of those ‘prominent’ Leftist historians – and one will see how vitiated is the social and political history we have been reading so far, starting right from ancient Indian history and the myth of Aryan invasion. If one bothers to pick alternate historical records – with far better proofs – one will see that the mainstream history is politicized. It is a product of the socialist drive of the politicians in our country – Nehru and Indira Gandhi – who sought a hold over young minds and sought to paint Congress as a progressive, modern force in our history books. Any account of culture and civilization is completely missing or is entirely vitiated. Thus, while the political Left may have died years ago in our country, it continues to exercise a space for itself through its hold over young minds.
When Modi came to power, he – or rather, BJP’s social arm, the RSS – took special interest in changing this history and reforming the education system, focusing on changing the scope of administrative powers, appointments to national research councils, especially of history and culture and arts, and, changing the syllabus or the content of study. The process has met with great agitation. In fact, the whole of 2015 could be said to be devoted to agitations by the Left-wing forces struggling to survive.
Over the last two years, universities have witnessed the most disturbance. And in our country today, universities – especially central, well-known universities in Delhi, namely, Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University – embody all the tendencies of the erstwhile Left-wing culture that has lost traction everywhere, but continues to exercise some grip over young minds in these universities. Ever since the Modi government came to power, JNU has been on a constant eruption, either due to highly publicized issues like protests against the government or for subtle, yet important, administrative changes that are affecting it.
While over big issues like the Kanhaiya Kumar incident or the Najeeb Jung incident, the ‘secular’ opposition left no stone unturned to nail the government, but the fast administrative changes being issued by the government have now effectively ensured that places like JNU finally emerge out of their comfort zone. Internally, the campus is violently divided, and the old guard is of the view that this government will not rest till JNU is finished or till it becomes ‘normal’ like other universities. For the first time now, even the old Left-wing professors can be seen telling their students to be efficient and practical instead of wasting their time in ideology, if they actually want to survive in the new system.
Similarly, in the area of culture, law and constitutionalism too – areas again dominated by ideas of the old Leftist elite – the fault lines were exposed very early into this government’s tenure. Recall the violent ‘award-wapsi’ protests as well as other associated protests by artists and litterateurs and writers over issues like free speech and intolerance. The Opposition thrived by relishing this and political pundits had written Modi’s political obituary several times. But now, they seem like nothing but an illusory whirlwind.
Similarly, it was for the first time in any government’s tenure that the constitutionalism of Nehru and Ambedkar and Patel and the ideas of Gandhi and Savarkar were actively debated. Never was the common man so sensitized as during the current government’s tenure. The actual battle was fought at the level of ideas, and in this, the decades-old dominance of the Left stands torn and on the verge of extinction. It is, in fact, one of this government’s biggest achievements that institutions and figures that were, for so long, considered formidably reputed and beyond the pale of common man, now stand exposed and torn of their aura, brought within the reach of the common man.
What all this really signifies is the awakening of the long-dormant soul of the country and the creation of the ideal material conditions through which the principles of Sanatana Dharma can get the best chance to express themselves. There is still a long way to go, and Modi’s rise is simply an instrument for the laying down of the foundation of the future. What is happening now is a process of thorough cleansing of the national psyche, full of toils and bloodshed. However, the swiftness of the pace at which changes are occurring is remarkable, showing that Nature is fast paving the way for larger transformations, in which India is to take the lead.
Future of the Current Regime
The successes of the current regime are only now beginning to be noticed. So, perhaps, it is too early to predict its future. But if we look at the past, through all the contraries and through the entire trajectory of Congress rule which now stands completely dismantled, it is evident that there was, yet, the collective force of the nation that was shaping even the past events, however much we may denounce them now. The seeds of the decline of Congress were sown very long ago, inside the Congress party itself. As one family consolidated its hold over power inside the party, the Congress began to view the nation as a reflection of itself, rather than itself as a reflection or embodiment of national ideals. It ultimately got entrapped in its own illusions, without even realizing that they had become illusions and the nation had moved ahead.
This is what inevitably happens with any collective organization or institution, as it begins slumbering in its phase of consolidated success, being at the top of things, and sinking slowly without realizing it, till one day the reality stands stark, and the wise men are left trying to analyze what happened. And what the wise men call a phase of infancy and weakness and struggle is the beginning of a new force preparing to overtake the old giant. This was what BJP and RSS have been thus far. The time is not far when the current party’s consolidated success with a popular leader at the helm will soon entrap it, and a new instrument takes its place. For, the inevitable future of this country is not towards the petty aims of economic and political and geo-strategic expansion that we imagine or even nationalism as we narrowly envisage it now. It is towards a society driven by the spiritual consciousness of Unity that India shall move, for so only it can fulfil its mission in the world which, in the words of Sri Aurobindo, is to organise Human Unity by pointing back humanity to this true source of human liberty, human equality, human brotherhood.
1. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.1, p.514, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
3. On Nationalism, p.488, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
4. Ibid, p.490
5. Aiyar, Yamini. 2017, The Wire. January 26, https://thewire.in/102937/social-policy-three-years-modi-government/