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Modi’s India on an upward trajectory

Living in vanishing glory doesn’t help Indian Muslims. In spite of impediments, they have to try to join mainstream Indian society

Saad Hafiz*

Since coming to power in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Modi, has extended its electoral gains across India. The BJP now rules 21 of India’s 29 states. The government receives high marks for its handling of the economy, foreign policy, technology, and infrastructure. Under Modi and the BJP, India’s rise as a global economic power offering an attractive consumer market, trade and investment opportunities continues. Barring a few negative blips on the human rights radar, India seems on course to fulfill its wish for a permanent seaton the UN Security Council.

Since independence, India has made steady progress towards building a more dynamic, decentralised and democratic society after its emergence from colonial rule and past statist policies. Unlike Pakistan, which has left its fate to Allah and the Army, India has made a concerted effort to stay on a democratic course. The much applauded 1991 economic reforms, initiated by the then Congress-led government, changed the Indian economy from a controlled state-driven model to a more open system. This transformation resulted in stable macroeconomic indicators and high growth for India.

Arguably, all democracies like India are never-ending works in progress, depending on the pace of political and economic openness. In response to popular demand, India has invested its economic gains more every year on education and health. As a result, literacy rates have improved significantly since the 1990’s. Consequently, India can now offer investors a healthier and better-educated workforce than ever before. Also, maternal and infant mortality rates have fallen with life expectancies increasing. However, challenges like poverty reduction and inequitable growth remain. Similar to other developing countries, India has to put in a large slice of its growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to eradicate poverty and address income inequality.

Clearly, Hindutva groups act against India’s time honoured traditions of tolerance, democracy, and secularism. Given its diversity, India is in the rare position to show the world that all groups and religions have equal claims on the Indian state and culture

The twin pillars of economic prosperity and Hindu nationalism drive Modi’s appeal among voters. Based on recent polls, Modi’s hasn’t disappointed; his popularity remains high. As a strong and decisive leader, he enjoys near godlike status among his supporters. Modi’s incorruptibility, austere lifestyle, self-discipline and self-sufficiency are a welcome contrast to parasitic leaders in many developing countries. Overall, the BJP and even opposition supporters express satisfaction with the direction of the economy, and the country. Overall, the majority of Indians like the way things are going in the country. The positive assessment of India’s direction has nearly doubled since 2014.Once a pariah in the west due to his alleged culpability in the deadly anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, Modi now enjoys a red carpet welcome in major world capitals.

Still, there are frequent accusations from critics that the Modi and BJP upswing is turning into an exclusive Hindu juggernaut. The violent actions of fringe Hindu nationalist groups against vulnerable minorities, particularly Muslims, leaves Modi and the BJP open to criticism. Detractors label Modi, a nationalist bigot and an architect of hate, and accuse the BJP of playing the majoritarian Hindu card. Clearly, Hindutva groups act against India’s time honoured traditions of tolerance, democracy, and secularism. Given its diversity, India is in the rare position to show the world that all groups and religions have equal claims on the Indian state and culture. Progress on this admirable objective would further strengthen Indian democracy, serving as an example for neighbouring countries.

However, the Muslim minority can’t blame the Hindu majority for all its ills. The educational, economic and social backwardness of the Muslim community is rooted in myopic leadership and flawed priorities. Muslims constitute around 14% of the Indian population of 1.3 billion yet have negligible representation in the country’s political and economic spheres. Muslims have also fared poorly on most economic and social indicators, including per capita income, monthly per capita consumption expenditure, and access to health, education and basic services. Living in vanished glories doesn’t help Indian Muslims. In spite of impediments, they have to try to join the mainstream of Indian society. Availing educational opportunities, seeking economic advancement and increasing political participation are the only wise choices for Muslims. Reliance on state quotas and handouts isn’t the way forward. If denied their fundamental rights, they can depend on the safeguards available in the Indian constitution.

In general, the Indian electorate’s trust in Modi seems to be paying off. He is undertaking difficult reforms and providing firm leadership that the country requires. Going forward, the Modi government has ambitious plans to improve national connectivity through integrated initiatives involving new ports, expressways, railways, waterways and civil aviation. Moreover, the government expects farmers to benefit from a new crop insurance scheme and a range of marketing reforms intended to increase farm incomes. The government’s introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) and also its crackdown on black money could have long-term benefits for the economy and society. Taken as a whole, the impact of these government plans and others could sway voters and determine the outcome of the 2019 general elections.

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