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Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

Reminders of raj dharma

The disillusionment has slowly transformed into strident complaints.

Date published: November 3, 2015Publication: Deccan Chronicle Link to original article

The collective decisions by authors, academics, activists, filmmakers and scientists to return awards given to them may be dismissed as “politics by other means” and as “ideological intolerance” by those who are “pathologically opposed” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and its ideological parent RSS. But these protests are now taking a different turn and hitting the government where it hurts: the economy. What is worse is that leading corporate captains are hauling up the government — not for its inability to expedite “economic reforms” but on account of its abject surrender to the majoritarian forces. Those who are worried about the apparent reluctance of the ruling regime to ensure that Indian society is inclusive and tolerant are not all Congress supporters, as is being claimed.

What could earlier have been dismissed as sporadic and muted cribbing about inadequate and slow “reforms” has become a veritable torrent of criticism. Quite a few industrialists, who had wholeheartedly welcomed Mr Modi’s ascendancy, initially complained about the government being slow in changing labour laws, lowering interest rates and, importantly, attracting investments in the manufacturing sector to create jobs for the youth. The disillusionment grew over the first eight months of 2015 as the government changed the 2013 law on land acquisition by using ordinances instead of buil-ding a political consensus with the Opposition parties.

The disillusionment has slowly transformed into strident complaints. Even capitalists, who invariably kowtow to whoever is in power, are asking questions. Why has Mr Modi not silenced those who are spewing hatred against Muslims, including particular ministers and MPs belonging to the BJP? Mr Modi’s apparent reluctance to perform his duties as a statesman and head of government by adhering to his raj dharma — the famous word used by the then BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to remind Mr Modi of his responsibilities after Hindu mobs started massacring Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 — has so vitiated the atmosphere in the country that even certain sympathisers of the BJP are feeling uneasy.

In February, Deepak Parekh, head of the financial services bigwig HDFC, said nothing had changed on the ground and that achche din (good times) had not yet come for the business community. He retracted his statement by praising the Modi government a few months later. In April, industrialist Harish Mariwala said the government had lost its sheen because of its failure to fulfil promises, while Harsh Goenka added “let’s grow up” after the Maharashtra government banned beef consumption and made the screening of Marathi films compulsory. In August, head of the Bajaj group, Rahul Bajaj went on record stating: “Every industrialist will agree that corruption is still very much prevalent. Money is being demanded. But no one is willing to speak up. He (Mr Modi) was the emperor on May 27 (2014) and see now what everybody is saying about him and his government.”

On October 30, Moody’s Analytics urged Mr Modi to “keep his party members in check... or risk domestic and global credibility”. A day later, N.R. Narayanamurthy, founder of Infosys, said there was “considerable fear in the minds of minorities” which was hampering economic progress. RBI governor Raghuram Rajan remarked that an improved environment for tolerance, respect for differing views and prot-ecting the right to question and challenge was essential for the country to grow.

For many who were never supportive of the Hindutva agenda in the first place, the rapidity with which Mr Modi’s honeymoon period has dissipated has been rather surprising. Irrespective of the outc-ome of the Bihar Assembly polls, there is growing consternation that cuts across sections of Indian society that if militant sections of Hindus owing allegiance to the ruling regime are allowed to get away with their inflammatory speeches and violent actions, the government might as well forget about any kind of economic growth. The outcome of Mr Modi’s travels across the globe would have come to nought.

Date posted: May 25, 2016Last modified: May 25, 2016Posted byParanjoy Guha Thakurta