The bulk of the general elections involving most of the country is over; the votes sealed in the EVMs as well as the fates of the contestants Delhi area votes tomorrow. The thoughtful among the citizenry must have wracked their brains about which political party to favour and whom to elect to office. The fact is there are no good options — this being plainly a referendum on Narendra Modi. Indeed, the prime minister has said so that a vote for the “kamal” is an endorsement of him personally and his tenure in office. But are we all aware of the gravity of the situation and what’s at stake?
Modi has disappointed, failing to achieve a radical makeover of the government that he had promised in 2014. Further, he has been less the hard nationalist that we had every right to expect than the believer in the fuzzy-wuzzy “Wuhan spirit” he actually turned out to be. He also showed a tactician’s skill in beating up on Pakistan at every turn rather than a strategist’s foresight. In this same vein, he revealed not so much the right instinct or strategic clear headedness — a prerequisite for a successful foreign and military policy — as a cloying deferential attitude to those he felt were his superiors. This was reflected in the hunched shoulders, the diffident, eager to please-smile when getting into his characteristic clinch with a Trump or a Xi. It was an embarrassing spectacle, and pulled down India’s stock in the world.
Naturally what followed in the case of the US was not a surprise — letting Trump trample on India’s interests without so much as a squeak from Delhi. In the face of unrelenting pressure — the repeated Trump hectoring and harangues on India’s supposedly oppressive tariff structure, punitive imposts on Indian steel and other imports, and the deliberate measures to seal the Iranian oil supply line that will come at enormous cost to this country, and India’s being fingered by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom — the Modi regime made much of the crumbs thrown Delhi’s way — getting the UN to declare Masood Azhar a “global terrorist”. Washington expects the Indian government to, as a result, fall behind the US on everything, specifically in the targeting of Iran.
For the same small give on China’s part (re: Masood), Xi, hopes he will be able to extract from the Indian government (1) a soft-pedaling of its opposition to the belt and road initiative, (2) staying with the present trading order in which India ships natural resources to China in return for finished consumer goods — the classical neo-colonial pattern that India was subjected to 150-200 years ago of Indian cotton shipped to Manchester in return for finished mill cloth, and a horrendous trade deficit; and (3) keeping quiet when Beijing appoints its own Dalai Lama which the Xi cohort is planning on doing to preempt his HH in Dharamshala preemptively installing his reincarnation discovered from among the Tibetan exiles in India and elsewhere, and thereby screwing things up for Beijing for another generation.
In short, in the external realm Modi has been more a failure than success.
So, what’s the problem? Why not vote for the mahagatbandhan and the alternative parties in the fray? Consider the prospective PMs — Mayawati, Mamata Bannerji, and Rahul Gandhi. It makes one’s blood run cold contemplating what they may have in mind to do in the external realm because both of the strongest PM aspirants Mayawati and Mamata have between them not voiced a single idea — good or bad — pertaining to foreign policy. The Congress party’s agenda, like the BJP’s, reveals lot less than what may transpire should Rahul G emerge as consensus candidate of the disparate opposition after the announcement of the election results on May 23.
However harshly one may judge Modi, there’s no question about his personal integrity. This is simply not the case with Mayawati or even Mamata — both provincial politicians of limited vision, with the former in particular having dark big corruption stains on her escutcheon. Rahul is being shovelled under his father Rajiv’s sins of accommodating his wife Sonia and her retinue of Italian relatives and carpetbaggers, such as the middleman and commission monger, the late Quattrochi (whose son supposedly maintains an active office in the Meridian Hotel’s commercial complex and waits for the good times to once again roll around). Between the revival of these Italian connections and the unscrupulous antics of his brother-in-law, Robert Vadra, whom his sister, Priyanka, cannot or will not disown (unlike Indira Gandhi who separated from her husband Feroze G owing in part at least to the latter’s sustained criticism inside and outside Parliament of her father and PM, Jawaharlal Nehru), Rahul will have a hard time keeping his thieving home-grown and foreign relatives away from the Indian treasury’s cookie jar.
This is the sort of stark contrasts the voter is faced with, and it is no small problem to weigh the pros and cons, and the merits-demerits of this or that party and candidate, considering that a Lok Sabha seat here and there could decide who gets to run the show for the next five years or less, and who gets to play the chowkidar to keep away the grasping hands from the till. So, who should one vote for?
All things considered, a damned difficult decision. But it is Modi by default.