Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mr Prime Minister Elect

Mr Prime Minister Elect,
Yesterday was an important day in the life of any Indian, especially for those under thirty. For many like me, it was the first time we saw the possibility of a single party majority translate into reality. A novelty for roughly two generations born and raised in an environment of coalition politics, never knowing what a single majority, stable government in Delhi can really do, or cannot.
No wonder then, tired and frustrated with the farce that politicians have reduced the noble profession of politics to, a bunch of people—the majority, as we see now--  voted you into power. They bought into your promise of development; they believed in your charisma, they backed you in your attempt to destroy nepotism in politics. And now, they are all waiting with glassy eyes for you to deliver.
I hope you do. You said your party is gunning for inclusive development, which is what one would expect from the leader of a billion diverse people. But you cannot ignore those who are not totally convinced.
For the greats say, that in itself is the essence of  a democracy. 
I’m not trying to undermine your achievement. It would be silly and blind of me to do so. I don’t support those few who’ve taken to Facebook and Twitter to deride the country as a whole for voting you into power.  I believe in a democracy the majority opinion holds and needs to be respected.
One may or may not like that mandate, but it does not give anyone the right to call the country and its people names for it. I, in fact, take great pride in being a part of a country that can conduct a largely free and fair election on this massive scale. While dealing with as many logistical and societal issues that we have to deal with. And in this confusion and diversity you emerged the clear winner. It takes for one to be an absolute spoilsport to not acknowledge that.
But the journey, as they say has only begun, Mr Prime Minister Elect, as you must know.  You are the shiny new leader of a country reeling from disillusionment of a vast population upset with thievery, mismanagement and more.That people are expecting deliverance from this massive web of corruption is the reason they bought into your promise of development and decisive governance.
I want that too. But what if I say I still don’t have answers to all the questions I have on my mind, despite the many campaign speeches you and your party members made? You’re now in power. Isn't it time for you and your party to do away with vagueness?
Today, as you made your way to Delhi in what the media is calling your “victory march”, Shaina NC was on a panel discussion on NDTV. On being asked how the BJP will reach out to those who feel apprehensive that you are in power, she came up with the line on how development cannot be targeted towards specific sections of society.  Just as I was thinking “that is extremely wide-eyed for a party spokesperson”,  Shashi Tharoor, also on the panel, pointed out that development can and has been specifically targeted in many parts of the country for years.
So then, I ask you again: what is your message to those, especially to those Muslims, who feel wary that you are now in charge? To those who (maybe sometimes facetiously) say now that you’re in power there’ll be a decided saffronization in government policies ? That apparently  like Juhapura in Gujarat, many Muslim majority localities in the country could be passed over when this much awaited wave of new development sweeps the country?
“The people of India have spoken decisively for the first time since Independence”, said your party president, Mr Rajnath Singh. He’s right. The people of India have given you power and now the people want some clear answers. I’m not nit-picking, I’m riding on the back of your promise that to run a Government, you can’t differentiate between those who voted for you and those who didn't.
I’m not a card carrying member of any political party. But as a citizen I'd like for you to do more than speak. 
I don’t have to spell out the magic of marketing to you. Judging by your campaign, you know it only too well. But now that you've reaped the benefits of what marketing can do, it is time to spell out the "how"s and "why"s.  
I’m not even going towards what they are calling “snoopgate” or about your sudden acknowledgement of your wife. Frankly, India has bigger issues on hand than to delve into these things, though I suspect even your most ardent supporters will agree that in any other part of the world a politician hiding the existence of a wife till the very last moment would have lost all his women voters to say the least. But we are not “other parts of the world”, so let’s leave it at that. Let us just talk development.
India is not just an economy, it is also a society. One that has a constitutional right to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. I’m technically a Hindu and a Brahmin, though I've read that my religion says women have no claim to a caste, it is the men who are to be grouped. But anyhow, like Hartosh Singh Bal said, I want to know from you, in no uncertain terms, that those who do not follow the Hindu way of life won’t have to go an extra mile to prove their allegiance to the nation.  Unless they are engaging in unlawful activities, in which case the law must be decisive, irrespective of what religion or caste they belong to. And that should apply equally to all miscreants, even if they are ministers.
“A rising tide lifts all boats”, I've been told over and over again. Here’s my question: when there’s already a huge disparity between sections of society in this country—and here I don’t mean just on religious grounds—isn’t that a very simplistic answer to our problems? If section A is already behind section B when it comes to, say, education, is it enough to say a blanket tide will do for everyone? As opposed to saying we need to make special efforts to lift section A to average levels for if not, the difference between A and B will never narrow.
On my return to India, to Mumbai, I was amazed to see the blatant show of disparity in this city and in the country on the whole.  I've known about it all along of course, but it hit home harder after I’d had the chance to compare us to another country. No progressive society should have a “financial centre” of a country that has multi-tiered slums right across the road from world class hotels and retail showrooms, Sir. And have the world go one like this divide does not exist.
If this has been the rule for years and years, where a section of the society is continuously bombarded with the temptation of fancy condos, international vacations, world famous brands, hi-tech gadgets that are beyond their reach, where for generations their lot has been to clean those very condos and gadgets and dresses the TV makes them covet with no way to attain, it is naïve to not expect a push-back and cynicism.
 I want to know from you, how you’ll work to remove this offensive divide. It isn't the task of a weakling, but then I hear you’re not one.
And because you aren't one, I want to know that from now on, the likes of Praveen Togadia will not  rally people on divisive lines in my country, asking people to keep Muslims out of Hindu neighbourhoods.  I’m sure you know this has happened many times, in many forms. In your own state. And when people ask you about it, I want to have a clear answer, not the flimsy lines of how these things “deviate your campaign” or are “petty”. These are not just petty things, Sir. Speeches like these, especially made in volatile neighbourhoods, are stuff that lead to communal violence.  I want to know that starting today, my Muslim friends won’t be denied rental housing in cosmopolitan Mumbai because of their religion. This happens, you know.  I personally know two who've been openly denied housing in this city because they are Muslims.
Shaina NC also said that “the young generation” does not care about history, that they want development. I’m afraid that may be right, for I've heard sentiments of “who cares what happened ten years ago” a few too many times to ignore them. Mr Prime Minister Elect, I know you are wise enough to see the fallacy in that. To rightly understand that no society can progress ignoring its history.  You wouldn't have come all this way if you didn't know that.
Astute that you are, I also suspect you know to enjoy the support of the multitude but not to take capriciousness seriously. You've hinted at as much on a TV interview : “kuch kaam mujh par bhi chor do.”
Aapka kaam aapko hi karna hain, but still, as an Indian citizen, I would like to see you put cynical minds to rest. And I'd like to see some immediate action to take forward your promises. To quote another leader, maybe not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.
Convert the cynics, Mr Prime Minister Elect. That is also your challenge. A billion people are watching.

PS: I rarely do this, but look what I found in today's Hindu::  


suja jacob said...

outstanding piece of writing i must say

Chandan said...

It's a bit scary to see people putting so much faith in one man (instead of the party). Well written post... now send it to 7 Race Course Road :)

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

Thanks Suja, welcome to the blog.
Chandan, thanks to you as well. I am with you. And to underscore my cynicism, here's a link:,-linking-rivers,-100-smart-cities
This reminds me a little of when the TMC took charge in Bengal, mostly because everyone had had it with the CPM. And they expected wonders. Let's see how this one turns out. I'm hoping for the best.

arnab said...

Nicely written. Hope he chooses his battles, friends and foes wisely.... going beyond just what us dictated by vote bank politics.

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

Thanks Arnab.

Pallavi said...

Nicely written Nivedita! Great analysis.

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

Thank you! More of an observation, really.

Saiku said...

Modi's win reminded me of Obama's victory in 2008. Obama, then, was seen as a savior of American economy amidst recession. Now Modi donned the same role. But he has toughest job in hand. He has to clean up divisive society, dirty politics, crippled economy and list goes on. Hope this cabinet totally focus on duty (Karma) instead of playing to the gallery. Much has been said, written, debated, discussed and fought upon. Lets have a break.

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..