By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI: Living in Gurgaon, Haryana, I voted for Narendra Modi last week. I am no diehard BJP supporter or Modi fan, ideologue, Hindutva advocate or Pracharak.
But, I do weigh my vote carefully every five years. I usually look at two aspects, one nationalistic, other selfish — whether the party (or person who sets the agenda for the political outfit) I am voting is good for the country overall. And further for me and my family that translates as better livelihood, opportunity, lifestyle, living and security. I studied options available – Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Modi.
I settled for Modi, so voted BJP. When I look back at my past choices, I have backed the winner. I hope my record stays intact. Ironically, in 2004, I voted Congress as I was unhappy with then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s handling of Modi. The India Shining campaign had its merits, but sounded hollow as BJP had lost its moral fiber. Vajpayee should have fired Modi for failure to control, looking the other way, maybe fanning the Gujarat riots.
Vajpayee, however, chose to acquiesce to Hindutva hardliners in the BJP party lead by LK Advani who did not want Modi punished. India’s contemporary history would have been different had Vajpayee listened to his conscience and asked Modi to resign. Probably, Advani would still be calling the shots in BJP and could have been PM candidate again this time.
Not, a very exciting proposition given his age, fragile health and record of leading BJP’s aggressive Hindutva campaign in 90s. In 2009, I again voted for Congress, believing Manmohan Singh had it in him to take the country forward, especially after his strong stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal, despite opposition from the Left parties. The issue was not nuclear power, but the fact Manmohan stood by his principles and was willing to resign if the atomic agreement did not happen. Manmohan seemed a much better choice than his nearest competitor, Advani the Modi protector.
Manmohan, however, has belied high expectations in his second tenure by failing to check corruption or push India’s economic growth and reforms forward. If he succeeded in either, I would have voted Congress again. Sanjaya Baru’s account might have been dismissed as “fiction” by some. However, as Manmohan’s former media advisor in the PMO, Baru could not have got it all wrong. Sonia Gandhi had a big hand in tying down Manmohan due to which the government faltered, ministers turned satraps, sycophants prevailed, corruption became the norm, policy making, fiscal prudence and governance went for a toss.
Taxpayers’ money has been poured into wasteful and gargantuan welfare schemes that never reach the poor. Instead, it creates a small sub-section of embezzlers that exploit the system. Manmohan should have resigned rather than let matters drift. This might actually have been a boon for the Congress in the longer term. Sonia might have let Manmohan have some say in his government to buy peace. Given Manmohan’s record and proven expertise policy making might have straightened for the good. Scams in coal, telecom, CWG might never have happened.
The Congress party may have not stared at defeat 2014, propelling Priyanka Gandhi to campaign aggressively as a last ditch attempt to salvage a lost situation.
For my 2014 Vote, I did briefly consider the Aam Admi Party (AAP) led by Kejriwal. I have not ruled out voting for AAP in future. But, Kejriwal needs to hang in a bit more rather than trying to bite more than he can chew. He rightly wants to rid the country of corruption. But, when he did get an opportunity in Delhi, he abandoned ship, betraying the electorate.
The shoot-an scoot approach works well as an activist but not when you are chief minister of a state that has believed in your mission to cleanse the system. Perhaps, AAP won Delhi elections at the wrong time, too close to general elections, that has prompted Kejriwal to take a shot at greater glories.
Modi has had his problems. Vajpayee should have fired him. He should be sent to jail if courts find him culpable for the Gujarat riots. On the other hand, every political outfit in this country has skeletons in its cupboard – charges of corruption, heinous crimes, identity and caste politics, minority appeasement, communal polarization, pseudo secularism. Prior to Gujarat riots, Sikhs were massacred in Delhi in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
The Muzaffarnagar riots happened only recently in Uttar Pradesh. Modi is a product of Indian gutter politics as it exists today. In order to survive in the gutter, some of the shit and sewerage will smear on you. However, I do believe that Modi wants to move on.
He has proved himself in Gujarat, winning three elections. The state has remained peaceful since the 2002 blot, the economic indices are good. Modi’s catchphrases are development, growth, governance, rooting out corruption. There is always the risk that Modi may resort to some of the dirty tricks endemic in Indian politics. But, I believe India’s democracy, its people are resilient.
Freedom is valued, so is social and economic mobility. Institutions such as judiciary, defense forces and media are strong checks and counter balances. If Modi gets a chance and does not deliver on promises to the country, he will be shown the door, like Vajpayee in the past and now most likely Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan. Thus, I Voted Modi.
(A former journalist with the Times of India in Delhi, Siddharth Srivastava is the author of best-selling reality fiction novel An Offbeat Story)