Can India go back on democracy, socialism, and secularism, basic values which have been the guiding principles of India after independence. The threat to these principles is real, according to many after a stunning victory of Bhartiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is a feeling in days to come it may lead to centralization of power and building up of personality cult around Mr Modi.
For instance the election in India this time was more in mode of a presidential contest instead of being a parliamentary system of Government where country elects members of House of People who in tern elect leader of party who is invited to form the Government. This time slogan often heard was not for a BJP Government but “Modi Government”. Slogans heard at election meetings was cried for “Modi Modi” in style of a fascist party gathering and not a democratic party.
There was time when BJP boasted about its democratic structure unlike Congress party led by Gandhi family and regional parties like Samajwadi Party, DMK and others who were led and dominated by single family. In the changed situation , BJP has become two man party led by Mr Modi and Mr Amit Shah. All other senior leaders like Mr L.K Advani, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi have been sidelined while others like Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie have been shown the door.
So it opens up two options for the country in future either BJP changes as indicated by Prime Minister in his address after the election and it goes for “Sabka Sath and Sabka Vikas : and tries to gain the confidence of minorities by removing the fear of BJP in their minds which has been created by opposition parties, according to Mr. Modi. He has also invited his opponents to join him in effort to build new India in which there will be two castes only that is rich and poor.
Can Mr Modi make a change is a question which will be answered in future. Afterall he made many changes after he was accused by Mr Rahul Gandhi, Congress Chief of running a “suit , boot ki Sarkar”. To start with he would have to turn his attention to the poor farmers who continue to commit suicides. This will be necessary as forecast for monsoon in coming months is not very happy. There are no great prospect on job front and economy is expected to face some tough times in days to come with crude oil prices touching new heights because of crisis in middle East.
As for gaining the confidence of minorities there is need to have fresh look at Kashmir. Current policy of treating it as mere law and order problem has not worked and is not likely to work in future. To start with all apprehensions on account of moves to do away with Article 370 and Article 35 A which provides special status should be addressed. It needs to be remembered that Jammu and Kashmir is necessary for India to be a secular country in which all communities can live in harmony and enjoy equal rights. It was on this basis that Kashmir chose to accede with India and not Pakistan.
There is need to put a stop to all activities like lynching on suspicion of persons carrying or selling beef, attacks on Muslims for wearing skull caps . Now that elections are over all activities which lead to communal divide should be stopped. India can progress if there is peace and there is no need to remain in permanent election mode which creates conflicts and divide people. There is no denying the fact that India as a nation is sharply divided. It is also a fact that majority is with BJP and Mr Modi. At the same a large minority does not agree with them and they can not be ignored.
Such fears were known to founding fathers of our nation who chose to give us a federal structure in which power will flow upwards that is from village panchayats to states and to Center and not other way around. As all accepted Gandhian model and there should be no attempt to change it. As for opposition parties the lesson is very clear we do not need Congress party or regional parties, but we certainly need Nehruvian philosophy in which all should be treated equally and fairly.
There is need for a national alternative to BJP as opposition plays a equal role in running a democracy. The basic shortcoming in the current scenario was that parties in opposition talked about joining hands to challenge BJP but spent more time in preserving their identity. This will have to change if a credible opposition is to emerge. The lesson of 1977 is obvious the Janata Dal won because it had a single identity and a leader. Why it did not work in power is another story. So the road map is clear, let us hope irrespective of road taken India will remain a secular, socialist republic where all people irrespective of religion, caste and community will not be discriminated against.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)