SIMILAR: Neither Narendra Modi nor his challenger Mamata Banerjee have the perspective to lead the nation. Both of them are still behaving like regional leaders who have short temper and use abusive language against their rivals

By Arijit Chaudhuri

Two familiar personalities making the news constantly nowadays are Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee. Both are in election mode in a quest for retaining and/or acquiring more power in the corridors of national political achievement. Both must pass a crucial litmus test. A thought-provoking analysis…

TWO of India’s popular politicians, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his aspiring challenger, West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee, have quite a few things in common. Apart from the evident narcissism, both of them possess an excellent repertoire of jokes and banter intended for their political adversaries. But their sense of humor dries up as soon as they themselves become the target!
Known for the coarseness of their language, these two leaders are quite authoritarian and ruthless. On the brighter side, both of them have launched a host of welfare schemes, namely, health insurance, Ujjwala, Swacch Bharat, housing and tap water from the Central government and to compete, the UN awarded Kanyashree, Yuvashree and Swasthya Sathi schemes courtesy Mamata.
One might argue against these schemes as doles for votes and wastage of taxpayers’ money, but those critics won’t have Abhijit Banerjee (advisor to the West Bengal government) or Esther Duflo on their side. They have shown that such doles help the poor to come out of their perennial poverty trap and become productive. Many of the welfare schemes (Ujjwala is a good example) may not have achieved their stated goal.
However, they have raised the ceiling of what an ordinary village woman can demand for her kitchen or the quality of health care a commoner can expect from the government. It goes without saying that the electoral success of both Modi-ji and Mamata-didi has drawn much from the goodwill generated by the welfare schemes.

DIFFERENTIATION between the two leaders becomes difficult because they are so comparable in their traits. However, if we look away from these two remarkable personalities and shift focus to bring long-term people’s welfare in perspective, the task doesn’t look that tough. The changed perspective tells us that although elected visionaries in political power work as catalysts through policy formulation, the real progress of a country is brought about by its un-elected systems and population. The teachers, students, bureaucracy, judiciary, entrepreneurs, scientists or a farmer who continually experiments with his crops, run the country and take it forward.
These people need a functional state working in the background to assure them of peace, security and justice. In a country where the population lives perpetually in fear of being infringed on, losing their livelihood and identity, the focus is lost. Consequently, the nation loses momentum. A fearful mind can hardly think clearly. They pick up wrong problems and the national energy gets diverted away from real issues.
Pakistan is an example. The state was created as a modern secular haven for the Muslim. At its inception, per capita income of Pakistan was higher than that of India. Now, close to its diamond jubilee of existence, Pakistan’s per capita income has come down to 60% of India’s (Bangladesh, which broke away from Pakistan and pursued real issues, is much better off).

EVERY country or a given section of population is naturally heterogeneous. There would be differences in faith, attire, food, relative prosperity, language and dialects, as there would be similarities. A moot question that decides a nation’s future is, whether it fights over the differences or focuses on the similarities.
Although Pakistan was created as a federation of states “Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes…” (Preamble of Pakistan’s Constitution), an independent observer cannot miss the reality of Pakistan chasing the differences amongst its religious and linguistic sects.
They identified the Bengali language, Ahmadiyas, Shias, Balochs in rapid succession to fight with. Within decades, the state, at war with itself, not only lost its ground on economic development, it also started falling apart. The new borders will require deployment of more armed forces, help the armament dealers. That would cause fund-deficits in the much needed health-shelter-education arena.
Rather than seeking homogeneity, the Indian constitution in its opening statements declares the state as a union of states. Keeping together in the face of a host of diversities, India has grown remarkably. That has largely saved India from intensified internal tension and strife, which would have benefitted its enemies and competitors in trade and commerce. If Indians fight among themselves, all its institutions — hospitals, schools, universities, business entities — will degenerate the way it has happened in Afghanistan.

ONE needs to accept that a majority of politicians are there to prosper, not to serve. They want to divide people among camps to create their own fiefdoms or captive vote banks. Any large country will have many communities. That diversity is alright, even enriching, till the inter-community friction does not get into marginalizing people and physical violence.
The continuous witch hunting among “other” communities inevitably evolve into that search amongst one’s own. The hunt for anti-nationals in India started with university students, than it fell on one community. Subsequent attack on the churches proved the wider spread of the net. Ironically, that is happening when many countries realized that marginalizing a community works against national interest and fosters extremism.
In the last few years selective targeting by the government agencies as well as the vigilante groups have become rampant. It is an open secret that joining the ruling dispensation at the Centre provide amnesty against corruption and crime. Leaders and religious upstarts calling for armed violence is weakening the country from inside, the lack of informed debates and discussions in legislative bodies, branding any dissent against government policies “unpatriotic” and putting activists behind bars under sedition law or UAPA are alienating people from the government and pushing the country towards anarchy and mob justice.
GIVEN an environment of internal peace and harmony, India, with its large young population can record remarkable progress and prosperity. The rapidly shrinking population in the developed countries have created a hitherto unseen opportunity for skilled Indians. In such circumstances, any leader stoking disharmony and difference is, knowingly or unknowingly, working against the country and its people.
The people would do well to favor those leaders whose own prosperity and continuance lie in unifying people, not in dividing them. Not only Modi or Mamata, all leaders should pass that litmus test. Once that part is ensured, the wonderfully innovative common Indians, are capable of taking care of anything that is required for their well-being.

(Arijit Chaudhuri is a member of the Ganga Zuari Academy and ex-DGM, ONGC.)

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