‘Government as of the people, for the people and by the people’
It is quite easy for anyone to quote this line of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address on government. Yet, the fact remains that it is seldom practised true to its spirit, especially in such a big country like India.
The 2019 elections has a lot of surprise in many ways. Political foes becoming friends and vice versa. Congress party President Rahul Gandhi running away to fight in a ‘minority’ majority constituency are just a few of them.
But a far greater and perhaps more significant development is the civilian participation during the election campaign. When I say civilian, I mean those who are not registered with any political party. They have full time jobs, businesses or study at colleges, and are not actively involved in politics for most part of their time. They range from day-labourers to CEOs of companies and start-ups. And unlike some instances where similar campaigns have happened like this before against the incumbent governments, this time for a change, it seems to be in favour of the ruling government. And more specifically in support of one man, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi.
This begs a few questions and among them these: What is so special about him that makes people to volunteer in such a large scale? What has he done for them that endears him to them? And why didn’t the citizens of this country not participate in such exercises earlier, during previous governments?
I believe the answer to all these questions is one and the same. We will explore that in the following few paragraphs.
As Modi himself often says, he has spent at least a night in almost all of the districts of the country during his days in the RSS and as a BJP pracharak. This is by no means a small or insignificant achievement. And neither is it the first time that someone has undertaken such a task in this country. From Adi Shankara, Ramanujacharya to Mahatma Gandhi, anyone who contributed to Indian civilization and who wanted to change and challenge the status quo, has always wandered all across the country and got to know it first hand before he/she started to tackle the problems of the society.
The psyche, the values, the morals, the lifestyle, the symbolism, the colours and the sounds are so varied all across the country, yet rooted in the foundation of a unifying Dharmic culture and knowledge system. Anyone who hasn’t undergone such an extensive travel and hasn’t interacted with so many people is bound to find contradictions, differences between these cultures and the people. They have no idea of what Bharat is and how to deal with its apparent ‘mutual contradictions’. Their actions and their philosophy is guided by their own superficial understanding of this culture and its people, limited by a narrow ideology or intellectual thought. This is how the British behaved and ruled us during their colonial rule and this is how most rulers of Bharat have ruled us since Independence. Not to mention, this is how the Western World has been viewing us for the past couple of centuries and so do the western influenced urban crowd inside India at present. It is a mixture of incredible ignorance, arrogance, lethargy and lots and lots of money.
The result of his extensive travel all across Bharat has given Modi a lot of insights into the lives of the people and an understanding of their challenges. And perhaps the most significant takeaway he had is the realization of how honest and trustworthy each common Indian is irrespective of all their differences. The key is trust.
This has also been the basis of a lot of policy decisions he has taken in his administration. Take the case of the MUDRA scheme. It is of course based on the research work that was done by Prof Kanagasabapathi, Prof. Vaidyanathan, S. Gurumurthy etc, but Modi was quickly able to see the truth and the value in it and then convert that into a successful policy against the wishes of his Finance Minister and the then Reserve Bank governor. He decided to give loans of Rs 50,000 to 10 lakhs to the poor and the lower middle class citizens, who wanted to set up their own businesses without the need for them to show any security or collateral at all.
The scope of this scheme is befuddling and outrageous considering the physical size of the country, the population and mode of governance. It is of course madness to give crores of people thousands or lakhs of money without any security. Aren’t these people uneducated and uncultured who could not be trusted and who needed to be told what to do? For godsake, this is why they were not even allowed near the banks for the past 7 decades. Won’t they run away with the money they get from the loans and vanish? Such has been the thinking and reaction of our political and intellectual masters in Lutyens Delhi.
And of course the then Reserve bank governor, Mr. Raghuram Rajan reacted just the way every western educated economist would’ve reacted: Skeptical, pessimistic. He went on to say that this loan will lead to lakhs and crores of NPA (Non-Performing Assets), thereby bankrupting the country. Other Oxbridge and Ivy League university educated economists and intellectuals also followed suit.
But look at the result. See how different it has turned out, contrary to their predictions. As of 2018, the NPA from this MUDRA scheme loans turned out to be just 3.43% whereas the loans on SMEs and large scale industries are typically between 7-12% with the loan amount being in several crores. The common poor citizens of this country were vindicated and they showed us and the rest of the World their honesty, sincerity, commitment to the promises they make and their hard work.
It is not that they suddenly acquired all these qualities after 2014. They have been always like this. It is just that they were never trusted, given the responsibility and the opportunity to display these qualities, by the previous governments or leaders. Everything was decided at the top in Lutyens New Delhi. There sitting in their humongous luxury bunglows, they decided how each Indian should live, what he needs to study and believe, how he/she should earn his living and so on. And in return these Indians were expected to fall at their feet and worship them.
Probably for the first time in a long long time, this practise and imagery has been broken by Modi. He asked every Indian to start a bank account, even with zero balance, no questions asked, through Jan Dhan Yojana. The Lutyens’ Delhi mocked him. And now the deposits in these accounts has crossed Rs 90,000 crores. He built toilets in each house in the villages through Swachh Bharat Abhyan. The Lutyens mocked him again. But today open defecation in rural households and villages has come down drastically. He requested the citizens who could afford, to give up their gas cylinder subsidies to fund the Ujjwala yojana. More than 1.25 crore Bharatiyas have voluntarily surrendered their subsidies. He declared that citizens henceforth don’t need to get their certificates attested when they were applying for jobs. Till now there has been no scams or any legal infringement by the people of this country. And the biggest of all, he brought in demonitization. Everyone of his opponenents went beserk. They tried everything to sabotage during those two months of 2016, trying to start riots, violence. But the common man of India, who understood the importance and the intentions of the PM, bore the diffciulty with grace and patience that is even unimaginable in any other country or society.
This notion of honesty and trust among our people has been the bedrock of our civilization which cannot be understood by those who didn’t live through it. It cannot be understood by those whose philosophies and ideologies are guided by the West, however good their intentions are. Hence the British during their colnial rule, criminalized a large section of the Indian population because they fought against them and heavily distrusted the Indians in general, to look after their own affairs. The subsequent rulers and leaders of Independent India faithfully continued this legacy of mistrust. That trust that was missing between the people and the government seems to be making a comeback under Narendra Modi. And it ts this trust that is also pushing them to take a stand and vote for him again in this elections.
How do we know that? Well, by the public display of affection and hope in him in this Lok Sabha elections. Never have I seen so many people from all walks of life, from the poor to the crorepatis coming together in support of an incumbent government or leader like what is happening now. People have been doing walkathons, campaigning for other BJP leaders who are fighting the election, making videos etc all across the country. These people are not in BJP either. They have volunteered their time, money and efforts just to get Modi re-elected. There are many who have temporarily taken a break from their paying jobs or have even quit them to work on the campaign. Many people who live abroad have already booked their tickets to India to cast their vote for Modi. The social media is brimming full with support and awareness campaigns by thousadns, if not lakhs of volunteers.
This phenomenon of the civic society is probably unparalleled in modern Indian history. Sure there have been such involvements in social causes liking fighting corruption or against rapes etc. And sure there have also been rallies and large scale campaigns by political parties through their party cadre. But for the otherwise non-political civic society to be actively supporting and campaigning for someone who is running for his re-election is unprecedented in my lifetime. This shows the trust they have on this man. And conversely that man, Modi, has also for the most part, through his actions and policies showed that he is deserving of that trust. A unique symbiotic relationship indeed considering that this is such a large country that has been plagued by corruption and growing skepticism from both sides, the rulers and the ruled.
Whether this mutual trust and hope between the people and the leader materializes into an actual positive reality is something that needs to be seen. It would undoubtedly be a loss to both, especially more to the people, if it doesn’t happen as we don’t get to see such phenomenon often in this cynical world.
I’m a film maker who has worked both in Hollywood and in the Indian film industry. I also run a youtube channel called Vak Media.