On May 26, Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the fourth anniversary of his government. In the last general elections in 2014, the electorates had given him a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha. He had come to power primarily by promising to bring "Achhe Din" and promoting "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas". These tall promises are yet to be fulfilled, but the Modi government is not the first government in India to be blamed for not following up on election-time commitments.
However, the Modi government is the first one in India to outrightly belittle its own election promises as jumlas. Not only in the Lok Sabha elections, the Modi-led BJP has also won most of the state elections since 2014. To win these elections, Modi and the BJP have not refrained from using more jumlas, like giving special packages or waiving farm loan etc. In Modi’s India, there is no shame in making false promises on the eve of elections.
Jumla has become a legitimate electoral strategy. Acceptance of jumla is not an isolated political development, it is rather part of a larger syndrome of rapidly disappearing morality from political space in the country.
Drumming up support: Modi had come to power by promising to bring 'Achhe Din' and 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'.
There is no doubt that Modi and his confidante Amit Shah have banished morality from India’s political lexicon in the past four years. Winning election has become the ultimate aim and in order to achieve that there is no hesitation anymore in employing whatever tactic is available.
After the BJP came to power, the use of massive financial resources, deceitful management of the media and spread of fake news have increased manifold for garnering electoral benefits. But what has damaged India’s faltering democracy the most is the tone and tenor of the election speeches given by the Modi-Shah duo. When a constitutionally secular country’s prime minister publicly engage in dividing people on the basis of religion for consolidation of its own vote bank, there is very little moral constraints left for others not to follow that path. Modi’s "kabristaan-shamshaan" style rhetoric might fetch some votes for his party, but that degrades the moral of Indian politics. The country’s politics had also not seen before its prime minister making a wild allegation against his immediate predecessor of colluding with Pakistan, just to influence voters in a state Assembly election.
In the past four years, fear, anger, hatred and resentment have become primary motivators for India’s electoral choices. Modi has been repeatedly ignoring political morality and decency to raise the level of public anxiety in his election speeches in order to consolidate his support base. His brazen promotion of religious phobia as psychological weapon is giving him political dividends, but also promoting a sense of retribution in the Indian society.
Crushing down opposition: The country had not seen a PM before making wild allegations against his immediate predecessor of colluding with Pakistan.
Deep ideological divergences are being pushed aside to make post-election alliances to grab power at any cost. India is for the first time witnessing a situation that the ruling political party is openly boasting about its power to poach elected representatives of Opposition parties to grab power. The lack of hesitation in using the Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed principle by the Modi-Shah duo to win elections after elections have resulted in a deep crisis for India’s democracy, as it has wiped out even the semblance of morality in country’s political landscape.
Thanks to majoritarian populism, power has been fast slipping out of the people’s hands. As Socrates had described, morality and democracy carry the same meaning — rule over oneself. Democratic governments are the governments based on morality.
Democracy of a country is stable when all important political stakeholders carry certain political morals, and in most cases they obey the basic rules of the democratic game. For four years now, in the line of his populist call to break the status quo, Modi has refused to play according to the established but unwritten norms and principles of Indian democracy. Modi’s war-cry of "Congress-mukt Bharat" is nothing but open declaration of an all-out war against the Opposition. To achieve his aim, Modi is following the principles of "all is fair in love and war" and going after Opposition parties ruthlessly using all sorts of means at his command.
As Michael Ignatieff writes: “For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary. An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you want to destroy.”
However, in Modi’s India, Opposition parties and leaders are no more seen as adversaries, but as enemies. Unsubstantiated personal attacks are being hurled at the Opposition leaders by none other than the prime minster of the country. Political morals are being repeatedly sacrificed and that recklessness from Modi’s side adds to his appeal, but it has also opened the ways for other political actors of the country to break the democratic norms and traditions.
Modi’s unabashed pursuit of power as country’s prime minister has damaged the very moral foundation of India’s developing democracy. In the past four years, the pursuit of Modi cult has caused significant moral erosion of Indian politics.
The dramatic decline of political discourse has posed serious crisis for the country’s democratic architecture. No one but Prime Minister Modi is primarily responsible for this significant moral decay of Indian polity to such a low level in only four years of time.
Political moral takes time to gain roots, but when it starts to retreat, it retreats fast. More than six decades of hard-earned democratic norms-building exercise has been almost lost in the four years of Modi rule. If something that Modi’s four years as prime minister has achieved, it is the near-death of country’s democratic values and principles.
With the disappearance of morality from public space, India has never been in the past so vulnerable to succumbing to a populist majoritarian dictatorship.
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