There is a tug-of-war on the internet. Cheerleaders of the nationalist right wing parties are still cheering their leadership. Naysayers, or the liberal-minded, who never got along with the ruling dispensation, are pointing out how the BJP at the Centre is failing in keeping the very promises that helped it acquire a sweeping majority in the Parliament. And, among the many ongoing arguments between the supporters of the two contradicting ideologies, perhaps the loudest is that of nationalism. The BJP has espoused, openly, a hyper, chest-thumping form of nationalism. While the press is largely silent on these matters, Twitter serves as a bank for anybody interested in pulling out the salvos the BJP leaders used to fire at the Congress-led UPA government at every step it failed to make the nation proud. The matter of ‘teaching Pakistan a lesson’ was among the hottest ones, prior to the 2014 general elections. Tweets from 2013 show Mr Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders such as Amit Shah mocking the previous government for not retaliating to Pakistan’s cross-border aggression. Perhaps as a way of showing that Pakistan is not afraid of Modi’s India, the neighbour has become ever-more hostile and aggressive, going to the extent of mutilating bodies of Indian soldiers time and again.
The answer by the Centre that the Army is capable of retaliation and will do whatever is required whenever it deems fit, is the very argument the BJP leaders used to scoff at, when they were in opposition. Now, as they control the levers of State dynamics, they seem to have become just as cautious as their predecessors in the Parliament, if not more. The only difference is that the ones leading the nation today are louder than the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi leadership of the decade gone by. That, however, does not make up for the losses India is being subjected to, at the hands of other countries and of economic realities such as the increasing price of the dollar, the growing influence of China on world market, Trump’s shrewd give-and-take-equally campaign, and the failure of the education sector in adapting to new tech-driven markets.
There is also the matter of Afghanistan. Mr Modi has, for the most part, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with world leaders, and he is prolific in his foreign diplomatic tours. How has that translated into policy-making? Are we any clearer on how to deal with Pakistan’s dirty cross-border tricks or Taliban’s growing resurgence in Afghanistan? What are we doing to ensure that India does not become isolated in its own territory of land and sea, keeping in mind the Silk Road project that promises great bonding between China and Pakistan, and the growing tensions in the South China Sea? What is our policy on Arunanchal Pradesh and Tibet anyway? How are we going to end the impasse that China insists on benefiting from?
The same kind of probing applies to Kashmir. Revocation of Article 370, which gives some autonomy to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, was one of the main agendas that BJP leaders such as Amit Shah and Narendra Modi used for canvassing. This May, the BJP completes three years in power at the Centre. Apart from flexing its muscles and growing in its influence across the country, how has the BJP kept its promises? The crisis in Kashmir is deepening, and Mr Modi hasn’t made his stand on the State clear even after J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti met him and gave him clear directions on what is required to bring back some stability up there. The Prime Minister has remained as silent as the one he used to habitually mock at. When, and how, will we better the life in Kashmir?
Keeping aside all political inclinations, we must, as citizens of a democratic nation, demand clarity on State policies. It is time for Mr Modi and his government to come out with real policies that have the potential to change the country for good. We have had enough of feel-good statements made by those in the corridors of power. The BJP must prove to its voters and haters that it is much better than the ailing Congress party. After all, it is in their agenda to make India Congress-free.
If we must go to war with Pakistan, as was suggested by the BJP’s loud political campaign for the 2014 general election, let us do it, then. What is the wait and the silence about? If we are to weed out terrorism and join the global fight against it, let us start with helping Afghanistan deal with its Taliban malaise — both Afghanistan and the US have asked India to take action here. What about Hafiz Saeed? How far has justice been done in the 26/11 attack case? Also, how many home-grown terror suspects have we detained and charged?
Mr Modi has also promised the world that India will go solar — any progress there? Why not? Trump has now openly called out India along with China for contributing nothing to the global fight against climate change — is that unfair? If we have contributed nothing, somebody or the other was bound to shame us. Policy changes in the US and Australia already have made it tougher for Indians to migrate to these Western nations. And this after Mr Modi jovially shared pleasantries with their leaders. The writing on the wall, in the context of world economy, is glaring — nothing is more important than the interests of one’s own country. More and more countries will follow suit and change policies, affecting adversely the developing and under-developed nations. Are we — taking ‘we’ as collective for a nation led by the democratically-elected BJP — up for fighting the change? Or are we just going to grin and make more promises?