It has been called a great moment of rage. With over 800 million eligible voters, more than 100 million of whom would be voting for the first time — half the population being under 24 — the 2014 general election places unprecedented power in the hands of the nation’s youth. But India has rarely been more divided with conflicting ideas and visions for the way ahead. What course the life of the nation takes will be decided by us. But will we vote, and will we exercise that power responsibly?
T5E brings you a series of Op-Eds on the major political parties/coalitions to help you decide.
In this article, Vignesh Iyer writes about why he supports BJP.
When Shyam Saran Negi, then 34, walked out to cast his vote in the first general elections in India, and in the process became independent India’s first voter, little did he realize that, 63 years down the line, the democracy he and other voters had tried to build would be lying in shambles. Yes, India has made major progress in a number of areas, and is a rising power today. However, the rate of progress has been slow to say the least, and as a nation we’ve constantly found ourselves copping great notoriety for being corrupt and inefficient. It would be no understatement to state that under the present UPA government, India’s image on the anti-corruption front has attained new lows, with corruption running rampant and a slew of scams being exposed.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has been the frontrunner for the upcoming elections ever since the exposes started coming out like movie releases, a new one every Friday, a couple of years ago. They were given the chance to lead the nation once in the past, in 1999, for five straight years. Based on their performance then, pre-poll forecasts predicted that they’d win again. In this five-year period, they had stable economic growth, their FOREX reserves stood at USD 100 billion, a record for India, and the service sector had generated a lot of jobs. They had also led the country bravely through the devastating Kargil war. But the communal picture of them that was painted by the opposition and what we call “paid media” today, played a major role in their defeat. At the center of that picture, painted in red, was the Gujarat CM and the current NDA prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
There has been a lot said about Modi’s RSS roots, his role in the Gujarat riots and why he would not make an ideal Prime Minister. But, while the RSS does have its share of mischief-mongers, anyone who has done some research would know that the RSS is an organization which uses its manpower to help promote education, health-care, rural development and village self-sufficiency, among other things. Calling the RSS a Hindu terrorist group is grossly inaccurate. To say that Modi has RSS roots is, essentially, to say that the man got his training in public service and man-management at the grassroots level, and that is something that has served him well in subsequent decades.
Taking into perspective the Godhra riots, there hasn’t been sufficient evidence against Modi. There are claims that evidence has been tampered with, and that the SIT clean chit is not clean enough, but there are also pretty strong claims that the allegations that Modi was involved in riots are a figment of Congress’ imagination, under whose tutelage the Teesta Setalvads and the Sanjiv Bhatts have been running amok. Amid all this confusion, it would make sense, to me, to trust the Supreme Court as we always have, because if we don’t trust the highest law-keeping body of our country, then we truly are in a hopeless situation. It would also help for people to dig up a few articles by Madhu Purnima Kishwar about the events surrounding the Godhra riots, and how Modi used the forces in his control to the best possible extent to try and contain them. While Modi has refused to apologize for the 2002 riots (arguing that if he is guilty, he shouldn’t be apologizing, but should instead be hanged), he has also distanced himself from the RSS in recent times in a last-ditch effort to stop the maligning of his image.
From being India’s most targeted man to becoming prime ministerial candidate, it has been quite a journey for Narendra Modi. It is only right that his administrative abilities take center stage now. His work with Gujarat has been well-documented. Of course, there are those who try to discredit the entire model, but these claims do not hold water. It is doubtless that the man, if he wasn’t fighting a tainted image, would be a direct choice to rule the nation — such has been his impact over the last 12 years in Gujarat. Gujarat is the only state whose GDP has grown at a rate of over 10% every year since 2005. The overall GDP and overall growth rates are higher for certain other states, including Tamil Nadu, but these states owe their success to one year of 17% growth, and similar boosts, leading to statistical bias. Also, his political campaign has always been development-oriented. Of course, he has brought the ruling UPA into discussion time and again, but only to expose their shortcomings, and to explain what his methodologies in an identical situation would be. The top job in the country needs experience, and Modi has not only experience, but also performance, to back him up.
It would be interesting to see how Modi would deal with the limitations of a coalition government though. Since it is improbable that the NDA would obtain a clear majority, forming a central government would mean collaborating with a lot of minds which agree to disagree more than anything else. To see that this would be a tricky test for Modi, one needn’t even look outside the BJP. The party has been ridden with a lot of internal strife, and there are too many dissenting voices on the inside, in the form of Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj et al. All along Modi has been in control only in Gujarat, and so it might be difficult for him to lead in a far more challenging circumstance. But one can only take hope from the way he has conducted the election campaign: with a single-minded focus on the agenda, detached, and at times disapproving of the statements and sentiments some other BJP/RSS members have been propagating.
Looking at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit timeline over the years would convince one of the gradual progress in the number of MoUs signed over the years, pulling in promises of investments worth as much as USD 462 billion in 2011. The Modi administration in Gujarat has been clean, and has a focus on economic development — something that the nation needs badly as it comes out of a corruption-hit five-year-long UPA reign. Even other performance indicators such as the Human Development Index (HDI) and Generalized Inequality Index (GINI) have continuously been above the national average in Gujarat. Therefore, to attack Modi’s government on these is unjustified. A BJP government at the center is a prospect teeming with positives for the country, and is something we shouldn’t lose a hold on. So this time let us raise the bar, ab ki baar Modi sarkar!
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