Mohandas to Mahatma to Modi!
During his recent visit to South Africa Prime Minister Modi retraced the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi by boarding a railway carriage at Pentrich and disembarking at Pietermaritzburg where Gandhi was ejected from the train for refusing to move to a non first class cabin; and he reminded us that the journey of Mohandas to Mahatma started at Pietermaritzburg as Gandhi waited in the dead of winter in the deserted waiting room of the station.
Mr. Modi's words at Pietermaritzburg drew my attention to the current plight of Indian politics and his place in it. He came to power upon the ruins of the substantially corrupted UPA regime. While he out campaigned and outsmarted the ailing Congress that had made a mess of the administration of the country, he won largely because people yearning for change defeated the Congress; as they say opposition rarely wins, it is usually the government that loses and the UPA led by the Congress did the losing in spades. But nonetheless Mr. Modi's impressive victory and oratory made many people believe that he would make a great Prime Minister.
So far many Indians have been disappointed. Since winning the election Mr. Modi has run the government of gimmicks, be they Man Ki Baat, Swacch Bharat or his Bollywood style shows at Toronto, Wimbledon and Madison Gardens. While he campaigned on the plank of development, the talk of development has been constantly overshadowed and often pushed into the background by the fanatical antics of quite a few of his quite prominent religiously inclined followers. To make matters worse, the number of annual entrants into the job market continues to far outpace the jobs created under his regime. On the economic front too his has been an utterly underwhelming performance.
Instead of focussing on the economic development and infrastructural needs of India, Modi's BJP and its supporters have helped spawn religious tensions, intolerances of political and ideological differences, censuring, threatening and in some case killing of scholars and rationalists. The Modi regime and its supporters have unnecessarily and absolutely unwisely vitiated the academic and educational environment at universities and colleges. The political climate thus created in the country is not conducive to any significant and sustained economic, artistic and intellectual progress.
A relatively poor, underdeveloped and ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse India still needs Mahatma's creed of non violence, truth and love: the love of India, of all its peoples, of all its religions, of all its languages and of its immense diversity. Unfortunately, so far Mr. Modi's reign has not even remotely, let alone fully, lived up to the Gandhian creed. Mahatma had lived and died for all Indians. No one can honestly argue that so far Mr. Modi's has been a government of and for all Indians.
While I am glad he traveled by train to Pietermaritzburg, it is not enough for Mr. Modi to simply retrace Mahatma's footsteps on South Africa's railway tracks. What is needed is a pledge to uphold the spirit of his deeds in the villages, towns and cities of India and govern the country for all Indians; Mr. Modi is the Prime Minister of all Indians.
Since the retraced footsteps of the Mahatma may still be fresh in his conscience, for the sake of India the Prime Minister must pay a true tribute to him and immediately make a public pledge to honestly and ethically govern India for all Indians. At the time of this writing, Kashmir being on edge simply happens to highlight the need for the Gandhian touch of true "love is truth and truth is love" all across India. There is still time for Mr. Modi to evolve into the great Prime Minister that many people had hoped he would be.