By Kam Rathee
TORONTO: Having undertaken four trips to India in less than five months, and innumerable ones earlier, I feel I have a good pulse on Indian politics, uncluttered and unbiased, on account of the long distance from the Indian milieu.
Neither is my mind influenced by India’s navel-gazing media demi-gods – Karan Thapar, Arnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt, etc. – who are not used to thinking afresh and still living in the past, in the world of the Mayawatis, Jayalalithaas, Mamatas, Mulayams, etc.
They overlook the fact that times have changed and India is entering a new world that it should have entered long ago if the right choices had been made.
India is on the cusp of a major change. Call it the influence of the media, reluctantly opened up by Indira Gandhi, lest it populace gets “corrupted” by western habits, lifestyles and thoughts, but more so perhaps to keep her slogan of “Garibi Hatao” alive which to some really meant “Garibon Ko Hatao” (who says ignorance is not a bliss).
Regardless, India is ready to question the flow of feudal power from top to bottom, a sovereign arrangement in the garb of democracy. It ready to question a dynasty whose self-crafted one-way long lease seems to have run out.
Most western democracies have party elections and primaries so that the best may surface to the top. Perhaps for this reason, India’s ruling edifice never allowed open, legitimate and grassroots party polls to elect its president, for the fear that the ruling family’s dynastic hold will come unglued. Hence, we have had a moribund leadership where the electorate simply was provided a rubber stamp to validate its hold on power. This is all about to change.
The Congress party, beset by arrogance, fell asleep at the switchboard. This has given BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi a chance to sneak by and make his way to the crown. But this man has all what it takes to make a grassroots leader: honest, hardworking, selfless, an able and proven administrator, experienced and worldly wise, single and not beset with the problems of feuding and corrupt political families wanting to capture power as if it is their birthright.
Contrary to some expert opinion, I see Mr. Modi winning the upcoming general election by a landslide because:
1): India’s youth which comprises 65 % of the population is with Modi whereas they should be with Rahul Gandhi, who in fact they despise. The first time voter is his strongest asset as they see through him the fulfillment of their desire to achieve their life’s goal which is most cases is a decent living for them and their kin.
2): Half of India’s population consists of women. This is the “silent majority”, a term coined by President Reagan to describe those that do not speak but cast a major influence as an electorate. The strange thing is that there is a general lack of communication between men and women in India, even though womenfolk drive the home and nation. An Indian housewife bears the brunt of it all. She has to manage the household on a fixed domestic allowance and face the ravages of inflation when the basic items of domestic consumption, onions, tomatoes, etc., go sky high in price thus making her life a daily grind. What makes it a double whammy for her is that as she steps out of the security of her home she gets raped and molested by some sex-starved Indians who have no fear of the police or the Government that administers them. It seems that even the opinion poll tracking companies do not ask for their opinions whereas in actual effect all that the womenfolk are craving for is respect and security. Of the ten women I asked as to their choice of PM, eight of them named Narendra Modi.
3): Mr Modi is an OBC (Other Backward Classes) but has never uttered this word once from his mouth let alone take advantage of it (when other martial communities are asking for and got OBC status !). He will set the imagination of all the OBCs of India on fire because one of them, without using the crunch of OBC (read” vote bank” politics), is about to become the top leader of the land.In that close to 49 % of the Indian population is OBC minus 15 % to 17 % Muslims (half of whom will surely vote for Mr. Modi), the number of Lok Sabha seats the BJP could garner will swell beyond the 272 magic number. To me, it is a landslide (350 seats at least) waiting to happen.
4): Mr. Modi is a proven administrator and has successfully turned Gujarat from a developing to a developed state compared to other state politicians who have been in power for the same number of years, if not longer (and eaten up the state treasury) is a powerful testament or experiment, as some would call it, and people will surely want that to be replicated in whole India.
5): Mr. Modi’s poor and simplistic lineage, with honesty and dedication that no Indian politician has or ever had, bereft of family dynastic baggage, assures a corruption-free India that appeals to the masses who have had no escape from the feudal centre and state family lineage laced, choice less political options presented to them.
India is passing through a crucial stage of political development. As the great Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”, so the day of reckoning for Indian politicians has arrived.
India is awaking from an induced slumber and her people will soon be commencing on a journey of peace and prosperity during a Modi era for a period of a decade, if not longer.
(A former president of Canada-India Business Council, Kam Rathee is currently vice-chairman of the Canada-India Education Council)