Will support wapsi by intellectuals cost Modi dear?

Ashok Upadhyay
Ashok UpadhyayMar 07, 2016 | 19:21

Will support wapsi by intellectuals cost Modi dear?

On March 4, 2016, front pages of most national newspapers and quite a few regional ones carried banner headlines and the details of JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar's speech from the evening before. Author Chetan Bhagat came out against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he was losing popularity because of his disconnect with the youth of India. In a series of tweets, Bhagat lashed out at the government for allegedly failing to fulfil Modi's election promise of generating jobs for the youth.


Chetan Bhagat wrote:

"You know PM is losing connect with the youth when a young student's speech from JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) is being talked about more than any 'Mann Ki Baat'."

"(The) BJP promised reforms for huge job growth but is resorting to UPA-style populism. What about the youth they charged up before elections?"

Bhagat also cancelled his visit to the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha meet at Mathura on March 5.

Around two year ago, on February 14, 2014, the same Bhagat had attended the BJP’s “chai pe charcha” programme in Mumbai, and while talking about Modi said, “He is the only leader who has presented an extensive economic agenda for India. No other leader has done so till now. I think his model of governance and economy is the best. It would create a large number of jobs in the country which is good for the youth”. In April, the same year, after meeting Modi on his 40th birthday, Bhagat tweeted: "Met #NaMo. You know a leader has the youth's pulse when he can discuss job creation and is still up for a selfie!"

Here is an author who had said Modi had his finger on the pulse of the youth, but in less than two years, he has made a total U-turn stating that the “PM is losing connect with the youth”. Why is Bhagat disillusioned with Modi? Is he the only high profile Modi supporter who has lost faith in the prime minister?


Let’s try to find out the answer to the first question.

Twenty one of the 60 months of the government’s term are over. At the end of one-third of the BJP’s term in office, the nation is looking at a full-blown economic crisis and every day we get more data that indicates that we are struggling to find the bottom of bad news.

All economic indicators are disappointing. We have had 14 successive months of negative export growth, sales of all firms are down six per cent, sales of manufacturing firms are down 11.5 per cent and the stock market is back to where it was before Modi took charge.

The dollar, moreover, is at an all time high. There is rural distress. It was promised that 250 million jobs would be created over a period of ten years, which means 2.5 crore jobs every year. There is no evidence to suggest it has happened.

The BJP was to bring back black money within 100 days. But it is coming out with schemes to convert black money into white. In the background of Modi’s tall promises people now have started taunting, “achhe din aa gaye?” In the light of the promises and high expectations, this disillusionment now looks like quite natural.


But Bhagat is not the only high profile author or opinion maker who is feeling disillusioned or let down. There are several of them. Let’s see how some of them have changed their opinion about Prime Minister Modi with the passage of time.

Swaminathan Aiyar

Well-known commentator and economist Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar wrote on May 1, 2014: "Investors are giddy at the prospect that Narendra Modi will lead the BJP to a sweeping victory, hoping he can revive growth rates that have dipped below five per cent a year.” A week later, on May 9, 2014, he again expressed his optimism when he wrote, "There is a message of optimism and hope that Modi is sending out."

These were his words when Modi was about to take over as the prime minister. With time, however, initial optimism turned to a more cautious assessment of the country's prospects under Modi. Aiyar’s comments started becoming harsher. On August 16, 2015; he went after the prime minister and said, “You seem indecisive and defensive, not tough and decisive, as in your successful 2014 campaign. Cynics already call your regime 'UPA-3 minus big corruption'." Six months later, on February 28, 2016; Aiyar wrote, “The aspirational classes who drove Narendra Modi to his 2014 victory may be turning against him.” Aiyar's words clearly suggested he was disenchanted.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is president of Centre for Policy Research, and one of the most admired and highly rated columnists. By May 17, 2014, when it was quite evident that Modi would come to power, Mehta wrote, “To walk into Bihar and talk about transcending caste politics, to utter the sentence no secularist in India has had the courage to utter, that poverty has no religion, to dream of reviving India’s growth prospects, to talk about jobs, to tap into the restlessness for doing things, he became an embodiment for a desire for change.” In admiration of the prime minister-to-be, Mehta went on to say, “Modi is a political phenomenon without precedent. In the annals of democratic politics, there are few stories to match his.” However, Mehta's perception about Modi has changed. On December 19, 2015, he wrote, “Political, economic and institutional dysfunction threatens to cloud India’s prospects”. And on February 16, 2016; he went all-out against the prime minister and wrote, “(The government) is using nationalism to crush constitutional patriotism, legal tyranny to crush dissent, political power to settle petty scores, and administrative power to destroy institutions... the government’s disproportionate response smacks of tyranny of the highest order”.

With the passage of time, Modi the “embodiment for a desire for change” and someone who was a “political phenomenon” has become the head of a government of “tyranny of the highest order”. And his government’s “institutional dysfunction threatens to cloud India’s prospects”.

Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie, minister for disinvestment in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, was one of the first top BJP leaders to say Modi should be the party’s prime ministerial candidate. Way back in August 2013 he said, "Wherever I go... the view that I get from the people is 'Narendra Modi ko lao (bring Narendra Modi)'. He repeatedly batted for Modi as the "only hope for a clean, decisive leadership". Full of admiration and hope he said on May 19, 2014; “Modi is indefatigable and goes into details. He will look for best ideas, wherever they come from."

On October 27, 2015, Shourie embarrassed Modi by his utterances. Shourie said, “Doctor Singh (Manmohan Singh) ko log yaad karne lag gaye hain (People have started recalling the days of Manmohan Singh). The way to characterise policies of the government is – Congress plus a cow. Policies are the same.”

On November 2, 2015, six days before the Bihar Assembly election results were to be announced, Shourie said, “The prime minister's behaviour has lowered him to the level of RJD chief Lalu Prasad and made Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar a statesman.”

Quoting poet Habib Jalib, Shourie said: "Tum se pehle woh jo ek shakhs yahan takht-nasheen tha uss ko bhi apne khuda hone pe itna hi yaqeen tha (The person who used to be the ruler before you believed as much as you that he was god).

Surjit S Bhalla

Surjit Bhalla is the chairman and MD of Oxus Investments, a New Delhi-based economic research, asset management and emerging-markets advisory firm and a popular and well-respected columnist. Before Modi became the prime minister, on April 18, 2014 he wrote, "Basically the philosophy (under Modi) will be a lot more economic freedom." And on May 5, 2014, he went on with his optimism and wrote, "The Gujarat model has succeeded in implementation, execution and attracting investment, which is needed to supplement growth."

While Shourie dubbed the Modi government as “Congress plus a cow”, Bhalla went deeper. On November 28, 2015, he wrote, “Temple politics got replaced by morality and cow politics” and “encouragement of anti-Muslim propaganda (ghar wapsi, love jihad, and the communal refrain - 'If you don’t like it here, you can always go to Pakistan').”

And on the issue of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) row, he first went after Union human resources development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani for invoking religion in her defence. The second person to face his ire was Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who had invoked Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed’s name in his defence. Bhalla pointed out that the home minister had based his actions on “a fake Hafiz Saeed Twitter account”. Words of Bhalla clearly show how an optimist is well on the path of becoming pessimistic about Modi’s performance.

These are just a few prominent opinion makers who have either withdrawn or are in the process of withdrawing their support for the Modi government. When artists, writers and filmmakers returned their national awards in protest against “intolerance” they were described as “dependents of the Congress”, who were frustrated at the growing influence of the BJP.

But unlike the so called "award wapsi gang", which was accused of being politically motivated, none of the "support wapsi" writers are leftist or socialist and all of them had supported Modi in the past. The BJP may call them disgruntled and ignore them but in the long run, the number of "support wapsi" may grow further and this may cost the BJP and Modi dear.

Last updated: March 07, 2016 | 20:41
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