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Minimum Government; Modiji at Dubai: the Least Interference of the Government

Thomas Menamparampil Thomas Menamparampil
25 Mar 2024

Xi Jinping's Model

We have seen different ruling styles. China recently concluded its weeklong annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing in an exultant tone. Its economy has definitely improved, recording a 7.1% growth last quarter. Premier Li Qiang announced a 5% growth target. As was expected, everyone was exuberant about 'Core Leader' Xi Jinping's vision for China and promised to stand solidly with him. Our leaders in India are fast learning from them. We have seen bills being rushed through without discussion and the parliament cheering the top leader in ways that lower their personal dignity.

Despite the high-performing image it seeks to create, objective critics describe such glamorous events as Rubber Stamp Parliaments approving blindly all that their 'paramount' leader proposes. Shockingly, it is reported that China arrested or prosecuted 2.4 million for alleged 'security threat'. We know that the BJP government kept people in prison for a decade and more for their alleged 'anti-national' activities, with no proof or evidence. GN Saibaba and his 5 companions lost ten years of their life and their health for standing with the poor. Father Stan Swamy lost his very life.

Threatening Postures 

A serious concern for India is the report that China's defence budget has increased by 7.2%. India is the biggest importer of arms, it is true. However, China's military budget is more than three times that of India's. Primarily, they look Eastwards. They are no longer speaking of the "peaceful reunification of Taiwan". Apparently, forceful ways are not excluded. Marcos of the Philippines is alarmed by China's "reckless and illegal" actions in the South China Sea. He seeks to strengthen ties with the US. America already has 9 bases in the Philippines. China has not viewed it positively. Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, has expressed their displeasure mildly, "If the US is obsessed with suppressing China, it will eventually harm itself".

Xi Jinping, however, is not a leader who minces words. His call is for action, his programme "maritime military struggles", and his motto "combat readiness". His build-up along the Tibetan border is far sturdier than India's. With Pakistan in a close relationship, Bangladesh in firm trade bonds, and the Maldives with strengthened ties, he grows more assertive in South Asia. He has assured the islands $130 million and a line of tourists from China that will replace those from India. A Chinese military team is visiting Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Jaishankar admits that the border dialogue has made too little progress.

Know Better Your Border Situation

Here is where we need leaders who are in touch with reality, not those who go around planting sectarian prejudices or strengthening divisive tendencies. Sonam Wangchuk, a peace activist in Ladakh, noticed low morale in the army, primarily composed of Ladakhis, Sikhs, and Gorkhas. Ladakhis feel uncertain about their political future. Sikhs are greatly concerned about their kin farmers' grievances. Gorkhas are unhappy about the Agniveer programme, linked with short-term recruitments. They have always an option to place themselves at the service of China.

Such sensitivities are not expressed in the Indian media, but our collective future depends on our ability to handle them. But when some holy man at national shrines calls for the head of a political leader from the South, he wins the headlines. If a group of them call for genocide against minorities and communities at the margins, they meet with approval. A war veteran explodes, "National security cannot be placed in the hands of cow-crazed cowardly communes that bar protein-rich food from their fellow citizens".

Sensitive attention to people at international boundaries is essential. Chungreng Koren, a martial arts player who belongs to the Koireng tribe in Manipur, made a passionate appeal to the Prime Minister to visit Manipur. People who suffer due to gross negligence call for special consideration. Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress called his cry the voice of the Northeast. Sensitivities at the Northern and Eastern borders can be ignored only at the nation's cost. Gogoi was forthright, "Power, money and drugs have turned the BJP blind to the plight of the people of Manipur".

Minimum Government Should not Mean Government Failure

BJP spokespersons will plead: "We have always stood for minimum government. Modiji was very strong in suggesting that in Dubai: "the least interference of the Government", and it was widely acclaimed in the commercial world.

Let us be fair enough to the Prime Minister. He seems to stand by his formula of "minimum government" whenever minorities and weaker communities are harassed. He has hardly ever interfered with the strategies of cow vigilantes, dress code imposers, or morality regulators. He has avoided cases of eliminating Gauri Lankesh, Govind Pansare or MM Kalburgi. He has remained silent when Dalit youths are killed, tribal women raped, and Muslim traders bashed up.

The Prime Minister is cautious not to step in when Christian prayer gatherings are disturbed or Muslim places of worship are attacked. Minimum Government! Subramanian Swamy was honest enough to admit that RSS has been more anti-Muslim than pro-Hindu. As an ardent devotee of the RSS, we can give the statement some weight. Modiji never chides anyone calling for harsh action against minorities, especially if the call comes from a holy man of his own community. They alone have the privilege to "hurt the religious sentiments" of others.

Wrongdoing must be traced to its origins. When Ananta Kumar Hegde called for a two-thirds majority in the next elections to change the Constitution, many in his party leadership disowned any relationship with that statement. They can undoubtedly disown relationships, not responsibility. Those who provided the intellectual and philosophical foundation for erratic statements cannot wash their hands when the consequence comes. Hindutva intellectuals educated them on this type of errancy.

Might Alone Cannot be Right

Some still argue that in Indian culture, the natural right of the strong to say and do what they like is recognised; even those who do not 'recognise' that right must learn to 'accept' it. They point out current examples. The Maratha community, for example, is strong enough to make others accept that it is weak regarding reservations. They are numerous enough to contend that they are few and fragile!

Claims and realities do not correspond. Also, in the BJP's pre-election case, boasts and facts do not agree. What Abhijit Gangopadhyay said about CPM seems more true of the BJP: "It is all about slogans and dogmas".

Dogmas Remain Unshaken

When it comes to imposing the BJP-RSS dogmas, Modiji is most alert. His 'minimum government' formula gets forgotten. The Prime Minister promises tough stands during his third term. What will come next if the first two terms have settled Ayodhya construction and Kashmir demolition?

The Northeast people's fear: will our region be BIMARU-ised (= made like the cow-belt region with the lowest human development standards)? Minorities fear: will we be made second-class citizens? People of India fear: will the Constitution be totally changed to fit in with Manusmriti?

We have experience of "maximum government", to which Arundhati Roy, Mamata and others have referred: the BJP Government deciding what people should eat, drink and wear; how they should call themselves; which location to stay (ghetto); whom they should marry; what religion they should live by. Personal choice of religion is strictly forbidden. If the religious choice is an "inner choice", Viktor Frankl, who survived Nazi concentration camps, says that is the only area where a dictator can have no say. That is the main area where the BJP-RSS Government wants its last word.

It is little wonder that the Gothenburg-based V-Dem Institute has reduced India down several levels from 'Electoral Autocracy'. The report describes it as "one of the worst autocracies." So, with 18% of the world's population, India represents half the population living in autocratic countries. This is not a study to be despised, as it is the fruit of the collaboration of 4,200 scholars and covers 202 countries.

Despite Election Stunts, the Mourning is at the Margins

No doubt, there are a whole lot of pre-election stunts. The Balakot boasts played a significant role in the Varanasi elections last time. This time, the Ruling Party wants to show an impressive record of growth. They have got Moody's to place India's growth in 2024 at 8%. Modi announced a Rs 100 cut in LPG refill price with women voters in mind. Yogi announced renaming 8 railway stations; he squeezed his cabinet to make a place for a Dalit (Rajbhar). We don't even know whether GN Saibaba's release, Mohua Moitra's relief, and the judgement on election bonds are mere election tricks! The BJP is working hard to improve its image.

What is the harm in arguing for 'minimum government' when 'maximum Government is in your hands within two months? What is the harm of adopting a "minority-appeasing" strategy for which Congress was blamed if it means a few more votes? So we find RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat and the Prime Minister meeting with Muslim and Christian religious leaders and political candidates visiting different sacred shrines.

The mourning is at the margins. Manipur weeps, Ladakh groans, Kashmir wails, farmers protest, Dalits are subjected to humiliation, tribals feel their identity and culture threatened. What Mallika Sarabai said when she was introducing the book of a tribal leader some time ago proves true, "The Mahabharata was written 3,000 years ago. Gladston Dungdung's book a few months ago. They tell about the destruction of indigenous people and culture for enriching the powerful".

The Economy on a Limping Foot

No doubt, Big Money claims to be dynamic and productive. The 'Minimum-government' dogma eased the shifting of the ownership of many ports, airports, manufacturing ventures, and even arms-producing initiatives into the hands of private entrepreneurs. Air India transfer was much acclaimed. All profit-making endeavours have been handed over to crony capitalists, and all loss-making complexes remain in the hands of the Government so that the taxpayer can bear the burden.

High-price items have good sales among the business elite. After all, if a profit-maker falls into debt, the taxpayer pays. As Rahul said, "Loan waiver is for the richest, not poor farmers". It is about these capitalists, too, that his remark may prove true, "Modi ran the world's biggest extortion racket", referring to their election donations. As of now, export predictions are high, including for pharmaceuticals, electronic vehicles, and semiconductors!

Because big businesses keep exporting food items like onions, food prices keep rising. The purchasing power of the average man remains low. Consequently, consumption falls. The domestic economy remains sluggish. The following is a comment from Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber Global, "Indians want much but don't want to spend much". Consumer goods don't move easily, with too little money in the hands of the poorer sections. The domestic economy remains weak. During the Gaza trouble, it was reported that there were over 18,000 Indians in Israel, many of them from Haryana, working as carpenters and ironworkers. Job-hungry Indians are on a world rove.

'Maximum Government' or 'Governance Open to Dialogue'?

Such vulnerability of Northeast tribals leaves room for their exploitation, especially when they are unemployed. If missionaries have been helping them with education and job training, why does Himanta propose what is described as their "BIMARU-isation"? Why fear missionary work and prayer for their healing? If legislation is brought against it, why blame citizens for thinking of civil disobedience? For sure, Himanta wants to win credit from the Hindutva High Command.

When Modiji says that election is a 'mere formality', does he mean to bypass it as Trump sought to do if it goes against him? Mark Twain's humour makes meaning, "If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it". Are Indian citizens today as helpless as that? We are not debating about Maximum and Minimum Government; all we are asking for is 'Fair Governance', a style of governance that respects differences of opinion, is open to dialogue, and is appreciative of intelligent criticism.

Similarly, while we reject a sectarian Sanatana Dharma that favours caste oppression and supports exploitative governing styles, we are happy to welcome and work with people who practice genuine Sanatana Dharma, which respects the perennially valid values found in all religious traditions and promotes the total well-being of the human race.

It is for free citizens to make the right choice of their Government and a conscientious decision regarding their spiritual loyalty.

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