Four years ago, Narendra Damodardas Modi stormed into the national political arena with the slogan of Vikas.. Sabka saath sabka vikas was the catchy slogan that the people, especially the youth, believed in and catapulted Modi to the seat of the Chief Executive Officer of India Inc. Four years later, Vikas (Development) has receded almost invisibly into the background. It is Vibhed (Division) that has taken centre-stage.
It is the politics of polarisation, practised most brazenly, that has become the trademark of the Modi Government: dividing the people along religious lines, discriminating against the religious minorities and depriving the Dallts,tribals and other underprivileged sections of the people of their basic right to live, of the right to their land and traditional vocations. Vikas has meant the vikas of the crony capitalists battening on the Indian state like epiphytes. Many of them have defrauded the nationalised banks to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees or are guilty of other forms of corruption. The Lalit Modis, the Vijay Mallyas, the Nirav Modis, the Mehul Choksis and many more are known fraudsters who have been allowed to flee from the country, the government knowing full well that once gone they can never be brought back to face trial.
Constitutional democracy still exists formally but actually democratic freedoms are being constantly encroached upon and constricted. A cartoon or a write-up lampooning the Prime Minister may land the cartoonist of the write-upís author in jail in no time. The Prime Minister thunders that nobody will be allowed to take the law into their own hands but in reality the murderers of Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Afrazul and many more go unpunished. A climate of fear prevails in which people constantly look back over their shoulders and are afraid of exercising their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Self-appointed gau-rakshaks and vigilante groups run amok, target anyone they consider enemiesófrom those guilty of love-jihad to meat-eaters.
Press freedom is being constantly targeted, not openly but surreptitiously, as the recent Cobrapost sting operation has exposed. Sub rosa deals are being offered for huge sums of money for carrying on political and religious propa-ganda of a particular brand in the guise of news.
All the higher institutions of learning, all research bodies and government controlled organisations like the Film and Television Institute of India, the Central Film Certification Board, the Prasar Bharati, etc. are being systematically packed with hard-core saffronites whose only eligibility is their loyalty to Nagpur. Even institutions like the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) and Election Commission are being pressurised and their independence eroded. Mythology is masquerading as science and fantastic stories of Ďachievementsí by our ancestors in the hoary past are not only being propagated by the powers that be but are finding their way into the textbooks.
In the economic field, despite the government opening up every sector of the economy, including such sensitive ones like defence and communications, Foreign Direct Investment has not registered any significant rise, demand recession continues, the Index of Industrial Production refuses to move up and job loss rather than job creation is the order of the day. Modiís promise of creating twenty million jobs per year has become a joke.
Over and above all these, the recent spiralling of fuel prices has sent the economy into a tail-spin. Inflation has increased, eroding real wages of salaried people. There has been an across-the-board rise in the prices of all commodities because diesel is the fuel used in their transport. The rupee has been steadily falling against the dollar, making our imports costlier and our exports cheaper (and also increasing our foreign debt burden). This will have an adverse impact on our current account deficit (CAD). All the fond Budget calculations of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley may go haywire at the end of the current fiscal if fuel prices are not brought down. Incidentally, India does not have a Finance Minister at the moment. There is a part-time Finance Minister who runs the Finance Ministry from the office of the Ministry of Railways.
So overarching and omnipotent has the saffron ideology become that even a staunch Congressman like Pranab Mukherjee, who retired from politics after occupying the highest office of the Republic, finds it convenient to address RSS rallies.
In the pervasive gloom, the only hope of the people lies in the electoral system through which they can change the rulers. But the way the EVMs and VVPAT machines were tampered with in the recent byelections makes a mockery of the elections. In Kairana in UP, hooligans were seen openly threatening minority voters not to cast their votes, with the police standing like mute spectators. As things stand, the situation may become far worse by the time the Lok Sabha elections are announced next year. Peopleís verdict may not be reflected through the EVMs. What then?
The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.