Monday, December 15, 2014

BJP Government - Indian middle-class's deal with the devil

Right when the BJP came to power with a thumping majority, a large part of modern(-ish) middle-class India knew we had made a deal with the devil. We all knew that this group of fellows would talk the talk and hopefully walk the walk also as far as basic governance and economy were concerned. We also knew that they were blessed with a section that can be politely termed as "lunatic fringe" that would somehow feel empowered to voice its opinions and spout general garbage.

In fact, we even knew that some elements who had kept their inner lunatic under control for many years, would now get the courage to voice their view without fear of ridicule. We had hoped that this book-revising, moralizing, nonsense-spouting brigade would be kept in check and that the big daddy about town was so serious about modernizing India that he would not get distracted with this. That hope still lives on. But the absolute conviction that the Messiah had arrived is gone. With Ms. Swaraj's brilliant idea of calling the Bhagwad Gita a national book, we can confidently say the honeymoon period is over. 

For a machinery that is so conscious of manipulating the news cycle, this government has been losing the PR war over the past few weeks. And funnily enough, the opposition has had little to do with this.

This government will be evaluated on both metrics - Right now they are in trouble

The first few months had the gentlemen talking reforms, foreign trips, goodwill gestures, etc. The last few weeks have been full of Sadhvis and conversions.

It is incumbent upon Indian middle-class to communicate that we will not put up with this revisionism; that we feel that this is abhorrent. If the middle-class does not convey this, it will further embolden the fringe to try more stunts.

What exactly did we (Indian middle-class) sign up for?

As an electorate, we do not ask for much. We do not want big bang reforms. We want a quietly efficient government that lets us carry on with life. We do not want government leading the charge on anything. Keep regulations uncomplicated, taxation non-onerous, government-servants non-smug; provide roti, bijli, pani for people. Thats about it really. Anything more is a bonus. The bar on governance is really low here.

But having said this, Indian middle-class also does not put up with moralizing, sanctimonious, religious-triumphalism.

This is the deal we signed up for in May 2014. If the government cannot deliver on this, then all bets on performance-led government are off. A world where the Economy grows 11% every year, but one in which Pravin Togadia should be taken seriously would be a sad state of affairs.

If the fringe keeps talking, the pressures on the government will shoot up. And this is something Mr. Shah and Mr. Modi need to keep in mind.

Where does the government stand now?

Not as high as they think they are on the Economy-front, but far worse than what they imagine they are on the lunacy front.

Why this is such a big deal? Because the jury is still out on what kind of person our PM is

The key questions surrounding Mr. Modi are - Is he a fiercely secular person who just happens to be religious? Or, is he merely a pragmatist who is going to push 'Hindutva' sooner or later? The above chart is from a previous post on Nehru, religion and secularism

People who voted for Mr. Modi, ones who were very happy that we finally had a 'strong' leader are still not sure which of the two slots Mr. Modi occupies. Mr. Modi has stayed away from all religion talk thus far. In the first few months, when no one else was talking religion this was good enough. But now, when everyone else seems to have developed a taste for religious triumphalism, this aint good enough.

Saying nothing now would be akin to when Mr. Manmohan Singh said he was a person of integrity, when all and sundry in his cabinet was filling his boots. At least Mr. Singh had the excuse of being merely a lame duck, Mr. Modi has not that luxury. If he cannot contain Ms. Sadhvi from saying inane things, whats the point of that 56-inch chest?

Sooner or later, the PM must come out and say in as many words that some of these jokers are talking out of their hat. Silence will not cut it any more. And as the middle-class, if we cannot convey that, the joke really is on us.