As his thumping victory in UP continues to rattle everyone, it is important to look back at PM Narendra Modi’s record in the last two-and-a-half years to understand what one can expect from him after this landslide win.
Modi’s actions since coming to power in 2014 have followed a clear pattern. Sample below some recent developments that may help you connect the dots.
During Modi’s tenure, Parliament has been in a state of paralysis, with the legislative agenda taking a backseat (except for the GST bill, which is yet to be implemented).
Many bills got stuck in the Rajya Sabha due to the BJP’s 'hold no debate, make no concession' style of parliamentary functioning.
There was no consensus, compromise or give-and-take with the Opposition, except for blaming them for bringing the House to a standstill.
Modi then had to resort to frequent executive orders to run the country.
Now, with UP in its kitty, BJP will probably acquire a majority – enough to pass necessary bills – in the Rajya Sabha by next year. So, it will be able to sidestep the Opposition in the Upper House as well. In other words, Indian democracy will effectively be whittled down to a single-party system.
This could result in many more bills seeing the light of day, which will push the party’s ideological agenda (as also its governance-related imperatives). Thus, PM Modi’s legislative headaches will be history, as he now enjoys unrestricted power to take the country in any direction he wants.
And if the proposed changes to the Indian Citizenship Act are an indication, then pushing the Hindutva agenda with a thousand legislative sub-clauses might be on the cards.
Battle With the Judiciary
In the last nine months, the judiciary has been at loggerheads with the NDA government because of the delay in the appointment of judges, both to the High Courts as well as the Supreme Court.
The apex court has rapped the government multiple times for this delay and former CJI TS Thakur fumed, cried and even cajoled the government for the appointments to be speeded up.
With the appointment of five judges to the Supreme Court in February 2017 – which is being seen as something of a truce – the government relented to some extent.
But this was just round one, as the fight over who will have the final say on judicial appointments (the government or the judiciary) is far from over. If the Mod government is able to win this battle by starving the judiciary of resources, the Indian judicial system runs the risk of becoming subservient to the executive and losing its independence.
A Polarised Media
The media has also been afflicted with polarisation and has been compelled to take a stand on various issues. So, instead of the reporting of facts in an objective manner, shrill news debates have taken over the prime-time slot of small screens.
Modi, for that matter, has never considered it important to hold a press conference and take questions from the media. He has resorted to selective sound bites to chosen journalists, and one-way medium like tweeting, radio broadcasts and campaign speeches to communicate.
Social media is also been increasingly leveraged to sift, brand and abuse ‘anti-nationals,’ as an army of trolls is always at hand to wage cyberwarfare on dissenters and ‘out-meme’ opponents.
The debates in TV studios have spilled over to educational institutions and university campuses, which are now seeing pitched battles between freedom of expression and the limits imposed on it by nationalism. Violence is often used as an arbiter in such arguments.
‘Sabka Vikas’ and Questions About Inclusivity
So, as you step back and take a look at PM Modi’s tenure, you realise we are now being perpetually told that anti-nationals are amidst us and enemies are right outside our gates. So, the battle for the land, mind and loyalty of India is being waged across multiple dimensions.
This state of affairs raises a key question.
After Modi rode to power on the development agenda, luring everyone with the promises of Sabka Vikas and Acche Din, why did he have to resort later to drawing these battle lines and manoeuvring the nation into a state of perpetual conflict?
Wouldn’t it have been a rational course of action to negotiate consensus, allow inclusion and lead the nation on a double-digit growth path? Wouldn’t that have served the nation better than this witch-hunt for adversaries within and without?
The answer is a resounding ‘No’. That’s because it has been proven time and again that what is good for the nation is not good for the government’s political survival.
The Hyped ‘Gujarat Model’
So, when you see these patterns of polarisation in the last two-and-a-half years as an extension of Modi’s Gujarat model (which stands for development), you begin to understand that he is incrementally and purposefully propagating a state of all-round siege.
To put it starkly, the entire rubric of day-to-day governance that he oversees is an elaborate campaign of sowing siege and reaping electoral gains, which the UP mandate has just affirmed to be a blockbuster strategy.
So, as India reels from crisis to crisis, do not expect PM Modi to abandon his approach of 'keep talking of development and keep delivering conflicts' that is working so well for him.
In fact, expect more of it as he has just received a shot in his arm for pursuing it. So, as you bid adieu to development for next two-and-a-half years, remember to mark your calendar for several new manufactured crises and even actual wars.
(The writer is an author, social commentator, avid blogger and a serial entrepreneur. He can be reached @primate2sapien. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)