Modi and the politics of patriotism

Published: March 18, 2019
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The writer is an educationist and historian. He can be reached at tahiriqbalstars@gmail.com

The writer is an educationist and historian. He can be reached at tahiriqbalstars@gmail.com

Eyeing the throne of power back in 2014, Narendra Modi stood tall on stage bellowing out vociferously on issues which mattered to the people of India.

He pledged to create 20 million jobs, bring black money in 100 days and arrange ruminative prices for farmers. People voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which emerged as the first single majority party in parliament in three decades of India’s history.

Now five years have elapsed, and the BJP has not been able to deliver on many of the promises it had made to the people of India. Oil and diesel prices kept soaring despite international oil prices plummeting to a historic low.

Unemployment rate stands as the highest of last four decades. Farmers are distressed and protesting for the promises made to them, some also committed suicides. Such has become the grim plight of the ones who breed on agriculture.

Moreover, the blame of changing the terms of the Rafale deal to acquire jets for prices three times higher without following the stipulated procurement procedure pushed the BJP further into the ditch of ignominy. Besides, it also spent more than four thousand crore of tax payers’ money on advertising its achievements.

But towards the end of the Modi government’s tenure appeared the Pulwama incident that changed the political landscape altogether. The ever-decreasing popularity graph of Mr Modi started rising. The listless crowd of political gatherings metamorphosed into a charged one. Swears and angry rants to avenge upon Pakistan energised the whole lot. Thus the air in India transformed into a vibrant atmosphere.

National political discourse has changed from local issues to national security. Nativism has been shoved to back drawers. Congress is trying to resuscitate the issue-based politics but it seems that now it will take time.

If anything that helps to stir the cinders of ultra-nationalism in India is its media. Hate imbued with the worst kind of rancour against Pakistan was all that the Modi government needed shunning the domestic issues where it was vulnerable in pre-Pulwama epoch. This works, as anti-Pakistan rhetoric sells like hot cakes in India.

The furious diatribe of media-persons synchronised with those of the ruling party and the common man in the street. Most stories filed and aired were contradictory and uncorroborated. Anchors and analysts attributed their information to anonymous “government sources”, “forensic experts” and “intelligence officers”.

No independent investigations have as yet been conducted to substantiate the versions propounded by the military sources. Commenting upon the claim of strikes at Balakot, Jeffrey Lewis, the Director of the East Asia Non-proliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who has 15 years of experience in analysing satellite images of weapons sites and systems, says that the high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damaging the building structures.

But nobody is ready to believe these reports and want to relish the idea of punishing Pakistan. In this entire melodrama, the Modi government seems to have stolen the march over other political parties and now comfortably poses to snatch a heavy win in the Lok Sabha elections starting from the 11th of April.

Diverting attention towards Pakistan and inflating the balloon of misconceived patriotism is likely to benefit the electoral gains of the BJP, but is never going to favour the secular hue of India.

If jingoistic approaches permeate the whole social fabric, it will disrupt the democratic polity of a state; and then it is hard to wean off the horrendous social effects of misplaced emotional approaches to the empirical ground realities.

Whether domestic issues or nativism play its part or not depend upon how Congress and other opposition party play and bring India out of chauvinistic bent which has brought two nuclear states on the brink of war.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2019.

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