By Siddharth Srivastava
Living in Gurgaon, Haryana, I voted for Narendra Modi a couple of weeks back. I am no diehard BJP supporter or Modi fan, ideologue, Hindutva advocate or Pracharak.
But, I do weigh my vote carefully every five years. I usually look at two aspects — one nationalistic, the other selfish: whether the party (or person who sets the agenda for the political outfit) I am voting is good for the country overall; and further for me and my family that translates to better livelihood, opportunity, lifestyle, living and security.
I studied options available – Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Modi. I settled for Modi, so voted BJP.
When I look back at my past choices over the years I have always backed the winner. I hope my record stays intact. Ironically, in 2004, I voted Congress as I was unhappy with then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s handling of Modi. The India Shining campaign had its merits, but sounded hollow as the BJP had lost its moral fiber. Vajpayee should have fired Modi for failure to control, looking the other way, maybe fanning the Gujarat riots.
Vajpayee, however, chose to acquiesce to Hindutva hardliners in the BJP party lead by LK Advani who did not want Modi punished. India’s contemporary history would have been different had Vajpayee listened to his conscience and asked Modi to resign. Probably, Advani would still be calling the shots in BJP and could have been PM candidate again this time.
Not a very exciting proposition given his age, fragile health and record of leading BJP’s aggressive Hindutva campaign in ’90s. In 2009, I again voted for Congress, believing Manmohan Singh had it in him to take the country forward, especially after his strong stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal, despite opposition from the Left parties. The issue was not nuclear power, but the fact that Manmohan stood by his principles and was willing to resign if the atomic agreement did not happen. Manmohan seemed a much better choice than his nearest competitor, Advani the Modi protector.
Manmohan, however, has belied high expectations in his second tenure by failing to check corruption or push India’s economic growth and reforms forward. If he succeeded in either, I would have voted Congress again. Sanjaya Baru’s account might have been dismissed as “fiction” by some. However, as Manmohan’s former media advisor in the PMO, Baru could not have got it all wrong. Sonia Gandhi had a big hand in tying down Manmohan, due to which the government faltered, ministers turned satraps, sycophants and crony capitalists prevailed, corruption became the norm, policy making, fiscal prudence and governance went for a toss.
Tax payer’s money has been poured into wasteful and gargantuan welfare schemes that never reach the poor. Instead, it creates a small sub-section of embezzlers that exploit the system. Manmohan should have resigned rather than let matters drift. This might actually have been a boon for the Congress in the longer term. Sonia might have let Manmohan have some say in his government to buy peace. Given Manmohan’s record and proven expertise, policy making might have straightened for the good. Scams in coal, telecom, CWG might never have happened.
For my 2014 vote, I did briefly consider the Aam Admi Party (AAP) led by Kejriwal. I have not ruled out voting for AAP in future. But, Kejriwal needs to hang in a bit more rather than trying to bite more than he can chew. He rightly wants to rid the country of corruption. But, when he did get an opportunity in Delhi, he abandoned ship, betraying the electorate.
The shoot and scoot approach works well as an activist, but not when you are chief minister of a state that has believed in your mission to cleanse the system. Perhaps AAP won Delhi elections at the wrong time, too close to the general elections, and that has prompted Kejriwal to take a shot at greater glories.
Modi has had his problems. Vajpayee should have fired him. He should be sent to jail if courts find him culpable in the Gujarat riots. On the other hand, every political outfit in this country has skeletons in its cupboard – charges of corruption, heinous crimes, identity and caste politics, minority appeasement, communal polarization, pseudo secularism, authoritarianism, nepotism. Prior to Gujarat riots, Sikhs were massacred in Delhi in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
The Muzaffarnagar riots happened only recently in Uttar Pradesh. Modi is a product of Indian gutter politics as it exists today. In order to survive in the gutter, some of the shit and sewerage will smear on you. However, I do believe that Modi wants to move on.
He has proved himself in Gujarat, winning three elections. The state has remained peaceful since the 2002 blot, the economic indices are good. Modi’s catchphrases are development, growth, governance, rooting out corruption. There is always the risk that Modi may resort to some of the dirty tricks endemic in Indian politics. But, I believe India’s democracy and its people are resilient.
Freedom is valued, so is social and economic mobility. Institutions such as judiciary, defense forces, election commission and robust media are strong checks and counter balances. If Modi gets a chance and does not deliver on promises to the country, he will be shown the door, like Vajpayee in the past and now most likely Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan. Thus, I voted Modi.