Is Modi facing his Waterloo in Bihar?

Radhakanta Barik

Modi lacks a sense of history. All the Prime Ministers of India before him have a sense of history of India and understating of complexities of a society. This man does not have. The best example is the treating of the migrant labour. In early modern period of Indian history the kings like Sahajahan gave financial package to the workers who moved because of  famine  to Gujarat and every week he handed over the food packet on Monday as he took over his throne on Monday. The same thing happened to a Maratha king handed over the food package to migrant labour. But Modi should have done it as our central storage is flowing with food. And Rs 5000 to each labour and train facilities for going to their homes. He did not do as he lacks a sense of history. A cruel heart  with him having a Hindutva ideology is  without any compassion and no desire to serve the  people of India.

 Bihar politics is getting a phase of magical realism and people are creating a new leader and a new narrative. They are placing Tejashwi as the central character who are opposing the two powerful figures of politics like Modi and Nitishkumar. Modi as a threat to democracy is getting a major challenge from an important state. Politics has been taken over by the youths of the state who are leading the movement against fascism. Listening to street politics for last one week one finds that the politics of the Ram Mandir and Art 370 have been pushed aside. Here the upper castes do not want the language of Hindutva politics. This is the starting point of changing of political discourse in India.

Dwaraka of Delhi is being dominated by people from Bihar. Even a Metro station is being named as Vaisali. This comes in Rural Delhi Constituency where the people of Bihar are a majority. They all belong to all castes and communities. But identified as Biharis. Most of them are self-employed people and work on daily basis. In 2019 general election the majority of them voted for Modi as interviewed by me. Today they are openly telling that in Bihar Tejashwi is winning. It is interesting to find the change in their outlook. Partly they have experienced the problems of the migrant labour. Their income in the city has fallen down. They have a close bond with the people left in the rural Bihar. It is a well-informed people who say openly this time it is Laloo. It is clear indication that Modi is losing this time in Bihar Politics.  Young leader like Tejashwi has brought this energy by running from one election meeting to other. This shows him as an actor who runs in the film. Here politics demand his running as his time is precious which he does not want to waste time. There is an Odiya proverb, " pani pai deba' when somebody a big person faces the challenge from a small player in politics it is called he is forced to drink water. This is happening to Modi today. Modi did not appear before the journalists as he feels nervous before them. This is the reason he speaks’ Man Ki Bat.’ Once he faced an interviewer like Karan Thapar. In answering a question he took glass of water as he felt nervous. It is becoming true in the case of Modi.

 Bihar the land of Buddha is rejecting Modi's caste politics as he is doing in UP. Tejashwi is able to be the leader of the masses who are challenging Modi in the running election battle today. It is going to be a lesson to Modi that Modi's false bravado that he is the only politician who draws the crowd which is proving a lie. This brings a lot of money for the BJP election fund from the corporate houses. Money and Media has shaped a political persona like Modi which lacks any substance. Tejashwi as young man is able to challenge Modi in political wrestling and on the level of thinking where he is articulating ideas against Hindutva based on an alternative paradigm. Provision of jobs to people is the way of making  a strong nation and it provides the sense of  security of a state. This is being pleaded by Amartya Sen for years that human capital of people is the best national security. On his birthday Sen is being congratulated and Tejashwi is getting applause in politics.

Modi needs to be thankful to Indian people that they don't react violently. They wait for an opportune moment to throw away the king. This election in Bihar is the test of his anti people policies. He is going out of the chair. He should make an honorable exit from politics. He should not wait for Bengal and other states.

Modi's speech in Bihar revolves around six words: Art 370, Phulwama, Ram Mandir, Hindu Muslim and Sahid and blaming opposition. He forgets the election manifesto of the BJP which promises to offer 19 lakhs jobs to youths. He does not speak out as he feels scared of his promise in 2014 of 2 crores jobs. He does not talk of the sliding down of the economy. He does not talk of the rate of unemployment in India. He does not talk about intrusion of China into Indian border. He does not talk of agricultural bills passed by his government without holding discussions. He does not talk of labour laws. He does not talk of migrant labour who walked six hundred miles on their foot. He does not talk of  provision of food and income to them. He knows that Indian public do not trust him now. In front of the public Modi is known as jumla PM.

It is an interesting to note down that he consciously oblivious of Bihar as the poorest state and in terms of human development index it is at the lowest and health services at the lowest rank and all these he forgets as he has to invest public money. He is investing only in Corporate houses and forgets the people of India. In honour of Patel a statue has been built by Modi and its name has been kept as a statue of unity. Perhaps naming is the only thing correctly done by Modi as the Prime Minister. Can he stand for unity of diverse social groups and diverse cultural groups in a complex country like India. Modi'a actions have disrupted the cultural unity by going for abrogation of Art370 and an important community Kashmirs feels alienated today. Important social groups like Muslims and Dalits feel that their human rights are getting violated by the actions of government. Best way unity can be preserved only by banning the RSS as organisation which are involved in spread of hatred among people. This has resulted in creating a majoritarian society which Patel opposed in his life time. He banned the RSS when they spread hatred among people.

Ramchandra Guha, a leading historian of contemporary India whose book on India after Gandhi made him a prominent scholar. His scholarship is based on facts which is being respected by liberalism all over world. If facts tell differently then he changes his conclusion. His book is being used by us for teaching political science to students and civil servants. As a teacher I used this book in helping the students in understanding politics of making of Indian constitution. National movement carried the idea of constitution from mid 19th century who are being branded as liberal constitutionalists who pleaded with the Britishers that your rule is unBritish. This was carried by Gandhi Nehru Patel to articulate the interests of diverse castes, linguistic groups and ethnic groups and religious groups. In making the constitution these groups came to making a contract with the Indian state " we the people of India'. Guha's liberal scholarship combines passion and hard work as I know him from Teenmurti days as a fellow. After his fellowship he joined as the Professor of Sociology in Delhi School of Economics. Here he did not like deeply factionalism of the Indian academic community for which he resigned from the job. He pursued his independent scholarship without depending on any institutional support. This is a rare quality of his scholarship which I appreciate. I do not dare to be an independent scholar without the support of the state. He was requested by the Vajpayee government for writing his biography which he declined because of lack of time. His liberalism made him also activist in defense of constitution. Whenever constitution or constitutional rights of people are under attacks he stood with the human rights activists. He went to the Supreme Court with others for filing a PLI to defend the tribal community of Chhattisgarh which made the court in ordering of disbanding of illegal army (salam Judum) created by the government of the state. He has written more books on Gandhi and he remains as a columnist in the leading newspaper. Modi government has no respect for democracy as Vajpayee had to some extent. He and his followers have banned him joining as Professor to Gujarat University of Ahmadabad as the protests are being organised by his lumpen groups supporting Hindutva forces. Let us defend Indian democracy and various view points among scholars.

Guha  thinks that democracy demands that political families have no place in politics. But politics is the most difficult job in the world. There is no management institute to teach ABC of politics. One has to learn from ground and from families. That politics requires understanding of history, economics and constitution and culture of a country and each state. This is the reason Gandhi supported Nehru as he is a scholar cum politician. His daughter Indira Gandhi had a sense of all these subjects. Yes she has learnt from her family and by participating in national movement. Modi does not have any understanding of all these disciplines and nor tolerating different scholars with different approaches. He is ruling with the help of some loyal civil servants having without any independent opinion. With the rise of Tejashwi son of Laloo Yadav speaks a lot and he is able to learn at a faster rate from politics and his family. He is able to challenge Hindutva in a big way. Now Guha needs to revise his political opinion that family plays an important role in political socialisation which teaches ABC of politics and then a politician learns from active politics. There is no hard and fast rule that others cannot play a role in politics. It is democracy everybody has the right to do politics. Modi's slogan against dynasty helps the rise of fascism in politics in India. Today it is the challenge for saving democracy and constitution on these two aspects Guha's history after Gandhi is written. Today's political movement for saving these two important things are on young people including Rahul Gandhi and Tejashwi both belong to illustrious political families.

 As reports  are coming from different corners of India where the lower strata of urban society is disintegrating under the pressures from the Lockdown. They are losing their income and they are pushed out of their houses on rent and their children are losing the schools because of lack of income. Our political economy under Modi has turned upside down. The pyramidal structure of economy is without having a base. This dislocation may ruin the economic structure which may collapse under the pressures of the present day economic crisis. The lower strata consist of daily wager, those working in the factories and women maids having a fixed income at the end of the month. As the economy does not have any support for these people and they are disappearing in the economy. To support them vegetable venders and tailors and rickshaw pullers and small trolley owners are also vanishing. After some time Indian urban society will look like the colonial towns with a small middle class having a salary from the government or private industry.

Prof Radhakanta Barik (retd), Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

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Nov 7, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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