Soon after securing second term in office with a landslide mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a significant speech at the parliamentary party meeting of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) where he talked about his commitment to inclusion. “Sabka Vishwas” has been added to the BJP’s earlier slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. While it is a welcome development that Modi spoke in clear terms about the “fears” among minorities in the country and the need to remove such apprehensions and create a sense of reassurance, the country would want the Prime Minister to walk the talk. It must be pointed out that the saffron party ran a highly divisive poll campaign, pitching muscular nationalism and security as its key planks and branding its critics as anti-national. It is time the bitterness and rancour that marked the election campaign was firmly put behind and the road map for the next five years was laid out on the basis of the spirit of inclusion, restraint and social harmony. Modi’s second innings will be keenly watched for his government’s efforts to bridge the trust deficit with the minorities who, he said, have been deceived for decades. The Prime Minister’s unequivocal pledge to treat the constitution as the sole guiding force for his government must serve as a message to those belligerent voices within his party rooting for majoritarian approach. The core values of equality enshrined in the constitution are sacrosanct which define the idea of India and nothing should be done to tinker with them.
While Modi has touched the right chord in his political messaging, it is time his party did some introspection on how its own ideological positioning and the actions of the rabid Hindutva elements on the ground have created a sense of insecurity among the minorities. Modi’s outreach to Muslims must be welcomed, though, as it can strengthen India’s democracy, development and national integration. The resounding mandate it has earned from a cross section of the society must have a sobering effect on the BJP leadership and help reset its relationship with minorities. Brash and in-the-face brand of Hindutva that revels in the binary narrative of nationalism versus ‘Tukde Tukde gang’ must give way to conciliation, inclusiveness and non-discriminatory approach to governance with a genuine commitment to follow the constitution in letter and spirit. The government must rein in the divisive forces of cow vigilantism and establish the rule of law by all means. Vigilantism in any form is anathema to democracy and free society. The cow vigilantism, if unchecked, will severely damage the secular fabric and create communal discord. There is a need for firm policy that cracks down on vigilante groups and doesn’t distinguish between good and bad vigilantes.