The speech of Narendra Modi, all set to take over as prime minister for a second term, at the parliamentary party meeting of BJP and National Democratic Alliance (NDA), stood out for more than one reason.
While speaking at parliament's central hall after ceremonially touching the constitution, he struck a different note from what was heard and seen from Modi during his five-year rule and his election campaigns. Declaring the beginning of a new journey to build a new India with a new energy, he added to his current slogan of 'Together with all, development for all' (sabka saath, sabka vikas) a new theme for a new slogan, 'trust of everyone' (sabka vishwas). Modi declared that it would be his goal to fulfil the national ambition and regional aspirations of everyone from Kashmir to Kerala irrespective of whether they voted for or against the alliance, fully upholding the federal structure of India. After assuring loyalty exclusively to the constitution and its values, he in particular mentioned the need to win the confidence of minorities. For years, minorities have been deceived and kept in a false sense of fear. He commented that minorities were always viewed as a vote bank, without any attempt to solve their problems of livelihood or to develop appropriate leadership from among them. During this regime, that false fear will be removed – thus went Modi's lecture.
Modi's address on Saturday encapsulated a response to the anxieties about what kind of regime would constitute the second term of Modi, who stormed again to power, by covering up the governmental failures of five years with the garb of national security, intense nationalism and religious communalism and capitalising on an Opposition that lacked leadership and vision. This was a continuation of Modi's speech made on 20 May 2014 when he was first chosen as prime minister. However, as opposed to then, now in the announcement about a second term in office, he has considered regional interests and trust of minorities, and emphasized the relevance of coalition for national progress. Thus Modi has been able to create an impression that he would present a new government model enriched and matured by the experience of the first time. After all, there is no one to beat Modi in the country to make impressions through speeches. But when answering the question whether he has the mettle to translate the higth point of speechcraft into implementation of policies, his last five years would rather give a big disappointment.
The Modi who came into his first term with the call 'together with all, development for all' was sidelining not only the Opposition but even the ruling gradequate without adequate consultation with either, thus making both the cabinet and the ruling coalition rubber stamps. And as for his discrimination towards states, nothing is more eloquent testimony than the step-motherly attitude shown towards Kerala post floods last year. Perhaps Modi's swearing by, and bowing before the constitution was intended to counter the Opposition allegation, following the warning by BJP leaders, that once BJP wins a huge majority, BJP would make the country's government and the constitution irrelevant. Fears still linger that Modi, having come to power through a presidential-style campaign, may attempt to amend the constitution to a presidential model as in Russia and China. Further, the dream of a Hindu state of the sangh parivar is occasionally heard from their leaders too. The same Modi, who upholds the constitution, is one who has viewed one of its corner stones, i.e. secularism, as an abomination right from his days as an RSS pracharak until during the term as prime minister. Even during his latest victory speech, at one point he did ridicule the opposition parties that they became silent about secularism at the face of BJP's new national agenda. These are the factors that raise the concern about things likely to happen to the government model and structure during Modi regime 2.0.
Modi, while saying that minorities should be saved from the prison of imaginary fears, is conveniently ignoring the cruel experience suffered by minorities through the history of the country and of Modi himself. The trust of minorities can never be won without denouncing the violent politics indulged in by sangh parivar – whose ideological base is rooted in 'Bunch of Thoughts' which counts two prominent minorities of the country as enemies - - and by stemming that violence. Out of the number of people killed by sangh parivar activists in the name of beef, 98 per cent (112 out of 119) lost their lives during the NDA regime. It was on the same day when Modi's 'sabka vishwas' speech was heard that in Seoni, Madhya Pradesh, that news came of a Muslim family being tied to a tree and being made to chant 'jai Sri Ram' and severely beaten. And in Mahuvad near Vadodara, Gujarat, a Dalit couple was attacked by upper caste people who barged into their home for having made a Facebook post in protest against refusing the village temple for a Dalit wedding. Equally in the news was of the demolition of an Ambedkar statue in Bijnor, UP. The one thing that engendered the most fear among minorities in recent times, is the sangh parivar rank and file seeing and using Modi's rule as an opportunity to take law into their hands and behaving so. The country can be liberated from insecurity only by ending not only the bellicosity of the parivar's own MPs, but also the violence of the followers propelled by religious hatred. And Modi's first term itself would bear testimony to the fact that anarchy and insecurity will only shut the doors of investment opportunities and impede economic growth.
In an interview in 2016, as a prelude Modi had mentiond that it was his forte to shed what he had learned in the past when it became irrelevant and the courage to change. This claim was not seen reflected in his first term. And in his second term, will Modi be prepared to shed his reactionary bunch of thoughts rooted in frenzied nationalism and racism and to build a nation on the ideological foundation of the constitution he reverentially touched? That is what the country and the world which heard his new speech are eager to see.