Political Alternative or a Military Coup- India Must Brace Itself

First things first. Although Germany had surrendered in May 1945, the WW2 in the Pacific came to an end only in August after the US had dropped nuclear bombs on Japan. It is a well-documented fact that Japan did not anticipate such devastating defeat and the subsequent occupation of the country by the US. The point is that things may occur unexpected. But the job of thinkers and analysts is to warn the stakeholders of any such probable events, and this is why discussing any possibility of a military coup in India makes sense, though this may be very distant and extremely unlikely.

But before we talk of this ‘strong’ term- coup d’état- let’s first consider what is relatively in the offing. That the Modi-led cabinet cannot rule prudently is a shared viewpoint of almost all non-partisan intellectuals and analysts. A seemingly-better-alternative-to-BJP wins in state polls even when BJP plays the faith card. Delhi and states in the South and even INC’s victory with slim margins in few states corroborate this argument. PM Modi, however, remains the preferred choice of most Indians and this is because of the lack of alternative in national politics.

On the other hand, the economy is in a freefall, joblessness is high, prices are rising and there is no visible improvement in law and order or in border situation as was anticipated by Indians when they boarded the Modi bandwagon. Any fair analysis will predict that the sole pillar of BJP support is the Hindu majoritarian political stance of the party. But do you think that the public at large will continue backing this stance in the long-run? That the ordinary man craves personal growth more than faith supremacy alone was validated in Delhi state elections. What will happen when the presently-concealed-by-oratory situation comes out in the open and the public realises that the Modi oratory isn’t enough for personal growth?

Here, we must consider the first part of this article’s heading- political alternative. Just one late development is enough to understand how badly the country needs an alternative. LJP, a party that was part of NDA in Bihar and allied with JD (U) and BJP to run the administration is likely to side with the winning coalition in 2020. In fact, politics has stooped so low that Nitish, who fought the elections alongside RJD and cursed BJP in the run up to 2015 state polls, shunned his allies to join hands with BJP. This is just one of many such immoral, unethical power games in the current political setup that have made/ will make the ordinary man disenchanted, but the lack of alternative is helping BJP and others maintain a winning streak.

Isn’t it understandable that this is the most suitable time for aspirants to give the country what it urgently seeks- a political alternative? The Emergency and 1977 general elections were a watershed moment; it was the dawn of regional parties and non-Congress PMs. What 2020 and next few years will bring is the similar opportunity for wise and ethical men to challenge the might of Modi and fill the void that has emerged due to INC’s inability to seize the moment. In coming days, we are set to see further GDP contraction and an invisible class struggle that can pave way for a new breed of politicians to reduce the gap between classes and bring inclusive development.

Now, it’s time to discuss the second part. In the absence of any such political alternative in near future, the countrymen may be left with no other choice than to feel disillusioned with civilian politics. The Modi cult or that of other BJP politicians isn’t eternal, and some late developments in the country- indeed, under the patronage of BJP- can decisively shift the mood of the public towards high-handed, centralized administration and this is when they might look at military as a good alternative. Take a look at Pakistan’s history- the first coup in 1958 was a product of events that included making Pakistan an Islamic Republic, failure of judiciary, cult figures in politics and military, and a general sentiment that politicians were weak and corrupt.

India is facing too many threats simultaneously, and it is in light of these threats that a military coup may in some distant future become a reality. From Chinese border incursions to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and record-breaking unemployment rate and rising inflation, there are so many failures that presently stand concealed behind majoritarian politics, however, will in near future dominate the political discourse. Believe us, all the news- from unscientific ways to deal with the pandemic to silent subversion of the constitution to more-than-judicious veneration of military to growing class gap, where the state employee is an elite and private sector worker a nothing- we read and often pay no attention to will shape the landscape of the country.

And so as it seems, the country must decide on what it seeks and deserves- an alternative led by civilians with ethical intentions or a coup of some sort. We may choose to ignore it now, just like Japan ignored many of its misadventures in WW2, or the US in Vietnam War, but the national political scene is somewhat fragile and a course correction will take place- sooner or later.

Nothing Less than a Class Struggle is what India Needs

Answer this. Was it the society that led to a nation or a nation that gave birth to the society? The society, with man as the primary building block, is at the heart of anything that came up later- nations or governments. Men, who gradually moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture and permanent settlement, came up with the modern ideas of demarcated borders, nationalism, a well-defined system of governance- be it the monarch or elected representatives- for their own well-being, and there’s nothing unlawful or unethical in what they sought.

And so here we are today- with elected governments and many other systems in place to call ourselves a society run by rules. But where’s progress of the basic unit- the common man? One needs to realise the reality. Public sector bank staffers treat common depositors as undesirable liabilities; government agencies are yet to come clean on the way they serve the common man; public transport system is overwhelmed; such basic amenities as roads, clean water, electricity are a luxury even in today’s India; and the press is busy reporting subjects that have least bearing on the lives of common people.

At the same time, however, the common man has been given some superficial things so that he can overlook his own pain and distress. He gets blinded when the rich and powerful- be it the politician or the capitalist- asks him to think of the country first, his faith first, his caste or sect first before his own progression. The famous words of John F Kennedy, former US President, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’, are nothing but a political slogan and at best suited to countries where the common man has at least attained some progress with respect to his basic household needs.

Take developing countries, including India, where millions are poor and suffer at the expense of the rich. Consider this- in the ongoing pandemic, countless school-going students are being deprived of education, which has become a privilege only for those with means- a smartphone and internet connection. Migrant labourers were brazenly shunned by the political class even as the Prime Minister was tweeting about the benefits of yoga. The fund constituted to ‘fight the pandemic’ saw generous donations from business houses that gradually raised prices of goods and services to pass on the burden. The common man was poor and has been left poorer.

Medical services are inaccessible to the common man; commodities ranging from petrol to milk are adulterated; medicines are exorbitantly priced to cover the perks of doctors and retailers; the agents responsible for fair distribution of foodgrains at subsidized rates are becoming richer by depriving the poor; much more is happening in the lives of the common man- from the very poor to middle class- that is nothing but breaking of the trust that was placed when we shifted from being a society where resources belonged to all to being a nation. The rich are becoming richer while the common man struggles with no social and financial security.

Amid all these pains, let’s remind you that any call for religious or caste supremacy is a sham. These are things cleverly designed by the elite- including politicians, state employees, capitalists and rich traders- to keep the common man busy even as they plunder the country. India today needs a class struggle- ethical, non-violent and inclusive- more than it needs the so-called other things as advocated by the elite. And this struggle has to deliver social and financial progress of the basic component of nation- the common man- by combining the good, rational concepts of capitalism, socialism and communism.

is india becoming a regressive theocracy under bjp?

aitzaz hasan bangash was a pakistani boy whose story not many in india know. he was killed in 2014 while preventing a suicide bomber from attacking his school that was being attended by 2000 students. there is another name, bibi aisha, an afghan woman. she was given to a talibani fighter by her family when she was 12 and a few years later she was found with her nose and ears cut off. but why cite these incidents when talking about india which is the world’s largest democracy and has a thriving economy?

it is because the aforementioned cases can be juxtaposed with many recent happenings in india, although one can term this as extrapolation. mobs all across the country have inhumanly killed members of a minority faith on suspicion of cow slaughter. not only this, members from the backward caste were brutally thrashed when performing their job of skinning dead cows. and in yet another incident in uttar pradesh’s ghaziabad, a team of municipal contractors was beaten up while they were transporting dead cattle. in all cases, the perpetrators were motivated by religious fundamentalism and were found raising religious slogans.

but wait. this isn’t the sole issue. what exacerbates the problem is the ruling bjp’s unwillingness to cleanse indian politics. after coming to power in 2014, the party also went on to win many state polls but in the course they admitted virtually every aspirant who wanted a career in politics, for self-service. this has led to a new brass at the bottom level that comprises of young leaders who feel religious conservatism and evoking of faith is the easiest way to garner support of the electorate.

take another case of the recently held science congress. the speakers, who hold prominent positions in state institutions, did not shy away from disregarding proven scientific principles and making a case for ancient indian scientific prowess. sadly, their assertions were totally unfounded and were made only to find some patronage from the ruling party. this trend now exists in almost every sphere, from rbi to niti aayog.

next, the party is adopting an all new style of propagating its ideology and personality cult. a recently released motion picture that depicts the former prime minister, manmohan singh, as a mere puppet controlled by the nehru-gandhi family is not a film but a political propaganda and even film critics have admitted this. a short film based on narendra modi’s struggle during childhood days was also released some time back and a new commercial-style film is being produced with modi as the central character.

from disregarding the supreme court’s verdict in the sabrimala temple case to bringing amendments to the citizenship act where non-muslim minorities of some neighbouring countries are to be naturalized as indian citizens, the bjp government is not only subverting the ‘rule of law’ but is also destroying india’s liberalism and secularism. sadly, they call others’ secularism as pseudo-secularism.

the case of aitzaz hasan bangash and bibi aisha must be studied in depth to understand what religious orthodoxy and impunity of communal elements can produce, and how they can plunge a nation into crisis. for this, one must also study soviet invasion of afghanistan, the rise of taliban and the roots of terrorism in pakistan.

for india to become a cosmopolitan, developed economy, much like the west where almost every indian aspires to settle. and where rule of law shall prevail, religion has to be separated from politics, else we may unwantedly and unknowingly tread into a dark future as is the case today with iran, afghanistan pakistan and many others.

why we need capable leaders, not good orators

ever thought why democracies fail to turn political rhetoric into reality? why phenomenally good speakers who command wide public support hardly deliver even a fraction of what they promise? this is because the ‘by the people’ aspect of democracy gives birth to leaders who possess good oratory skills but lack the requisite competence to govern with efficiency and integrity.

india is being self-ruled by representatives chosen by the public since more than seven decades. this is a long time, long enough to eradicate the curses of income inequality, extreme poverty and limited access to education and healthcare. public sector institutions are still riddled with corruption and bureaucracy at all levels lacks both skills and intent to perform their duties in the desired manner.

it can be said that the electorate is yet to identify competent leaders out of a market that is inundated with politicians subscribing to different ideologies. voters tend to back politicians who have the best oratory skills. these politicians are great marketers, for they can strongly influence public opinion by way of delivering great speeches and addresses. they know what it takes to make listeners happy and ecstatic – it can be an empty promise of ‘complete eradication of poverty’ or of ‘paving way for good days for all’.

but governance is no product. governance cannot and should not be marketed. hoardings, banners, public addresses and all other marketing material used by political parties have now breached the legitimate limit of morality and sincerity. today, politicians are only selling dreams to buyers who get easily swayed by false promises- similar to advertisements promising fair skin.

politics, governance and leadership are unlike the marketing discipline. marketing simply means selling for profit, hence a good public speaker is perfect for the job since s/he can convince more and more people to buy the product, irrespective of product’s efficacy. by contrast, good governance relies on good intent and competence. it is a myth that a good orator is a good leader. no. a person with realistic vision and a well-defined strategy to implement that vision is a far better leader than someone with just good oratory skills.

indians have experimented with several political parties and ideologies to run the country. but in most cases, it was a politician who could market and sell tall promises effortlessly through public speeches that won wide support. in the upcoming elections, the electorate must shed the old codes and elect competent leaders who can reimagine and reform public sector institutions rather than claiming income equality and job opportunities only in conversations.

lastly, we are also to remember that good orators are, more often than not, bad leaders, for they place all their energies and skills in preparing and delivering empty promises.

why narendra modi may not go down as a great leader

one needs to revolutionise the prevailing settings in order to be remembered as a great leader. what narendra modi has done or achieved to date isn’t anything extraordinary. he was blessed with oil prices at their historical low, and although such initiatives as mudra and skill india are promising, these are not enough to earn the prime minister the tag of ‘a great reformer’ or to bring the promised socio-economic progress.

what lacks is the will to alter the political landscape of india that is inundated with dishonest and prejudiced politicians. to form governments in states, the bjp not only welcomed goons but also has compromised the ideals of good governance. present bjp leaders not only publicly endorse accused and convicted men, they also try to make a hero out of them only to gain electoral support. unless politics of country is rid of vested interests, no reform can sustain in the medium and long run.

second, india’s public sector space is riddled with lackadaisical attitude of staffers and their want for kickbacks in return of favours. be it police, bank officials, psu staffers or government contractors, the sense of impunity and privilege, coupled with fixed tenure and relatively high salaries, has taken over the sense of dutifulness and this has resulted in continued suppression of human rights and even oppression of faith and caste minorities.

even after 4 years of modi-rule at the centre and with more than 20 states under direct or indirect rule of the party, no government department or organization could be purged of corruption and lack of sense of duty. the country where stringent rules and laws were required to rein in corrupt officials, the government diluted the anti-corruption act to the detriment of the common man.

in almost every other crime, there is some involvement of a politician or a government official, either by being directly complicit or by not responding to the wrongdoing when necessary. as if this wasn’t enough, the bjp’s unwanted stress on protection of cows and other chauvinistic elements have provided the local level elements with enough ammunition to target the already suppressed classes, be it the poor, women or caste or faith minority.

yes, narendra modi may not have any vested interests and may be completely patriotic and duty-bound. but for him to go down in history as a truly reformist leader, he needs to initiate a program to clean up indian polity and state institutions. else, all his schemes and policy actions- which already aren’t producing projected outcomes due to inept implementation- will end up being yet-another failed promise by a past prime minister.

what about leaders of tomorrow, what after modi?

we are better placed today than yesterday; undeniably, economy is improving, business sentiments are positive, but are we scoring equally good on impartiality, inclusiveness and transparency?

gst, demonetisation, unearthing the black money are all short-term spectacles for a country that needs to overcome ages-old curse of inequality in income distribution and the deep-rooted disparity in living standards. this seems all more problematic when one looks beyond 10 years and does not find a capable leader to take over the reins from the present ones.

no political party in india can even falsely boast of being indisputably clean when it comes to corruption and misuse of power in polity; and that’s the challenge for pm modi.

while the public sentiment is heavily tilted toward the bharatiya janata party, owing to the acceptance of pm modi as pro-transparency, pro-poor and anti-dynasty ruler, what after him? what after 2024?

is the prime minister readying a new line of defense against politicians eying opportunities after him to cash in on the highly lucrative jobs of members of parliament, state legislatures?

neither the bjp organization members nor the state units represented by chief ministers, who cannot claim any extraordinary achievement or an action plan for tomorrow’s india, can be trusted when it comes to the responsibility of taking forward the vision of inclusive growth and equitable income distribution with same vigor and honesty.

the passing away of jayalalithaa and single-handedly managed parties like bsp and aitc have a lesson for present prime minister. lack of preparation when it comes to preparing a new line of managers places any organization into anarchy and downfall. it may be allowed in case of bjp but not when the country as a whole is talked about.

the nation seeks a paradigm shift in the political landscape, such that favoritism, populism, polarization, corruption do not find any place in administration of public affairs.

from overhauling the process of recruitment of all-india service professionals to either ridding the bjp of all vices at national, state, district level or coming up with an all-new way of election of representatives to parliament and state legislatures, pm modi has much left to achieve in this sphere.

if the amit shah-modi duo fail to deliver on this front, all reforms till 2019/ 2024 will be short-lived, crushed under the insensitive feet of corrupt leaders of tomorrow.