Even before the elections results were announced in India, political pundits, especially in western countries were out screaming through the minarets that Narendra Modi´s government is divisive, some even brandishing him as a “Divider in Chief”. People in India, though had their own assessment.
Western media are unable to grasp why very few Indian Muslims get radicalised and join extremist groups compared to Western European countries. Even though India has close to 180 million Muslims and Belgium has only half a million, the number of radicalised Muslims from Belgium who have joined ISIS is 20 times higher than that of India.
A record 600 million voters have cast their vote, and made the usual cliché about India redundant that read, “Indians don’t cast their vote, they vote their caste.” This has been definitely proven wrong. India is leaving the caste dichotomy behind and reinventing a new narrative about India where education, qualification, expertise and calibre matters more than one’s ancestral past. Caste and religious affiliations worked in favour of all the invaders who came, conquered, ruled and looted India by dividing the country. So caste is not indigenous to India; it was made so by the rulers to divide and rule India. India of 2019 is rejecting the outdated social structure that it no longer wants to identify with. Western scholars however, will still keep using those parameters in order to superimpose a moral order, even though the empirical data contradicts their theoretical assumptions.
Indians have risen above caste and class and irrespective of gender, have given a thumping majority, an absolute majority to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi, emulating him to the status of a world leader with the largest popular mandate in the whole world at the moment.
Results of the General Election, where a record number of 900 million voters were eligible, showed a landslide victory for the BJP, winning 303 seats in the Lok Sabha, out of 543 seats. Lok Sabha is the lower house of India´s parliament and the requirement for a simple majority is 272, but the present government has 31 seats extra to carry out the reforms it wants to in the coming five years of its tenure.
The audience in the western countries who are following the development in the South Asian continent need to know that before Modi´s arrival on the political stage in 2014, India´s political arena looked more like the present contest for the post of next prime minister in Denmark. Denmark, a small country of five and half million people, has 13 political parties contesting to enter parliament, the results of which will be decided on 5th June 2019. Since no one single party can form a clear majority, the whole political debate is coloured by who will form coalition with whom, making it unclear for ordinary voters what the outcome would be. All parties on the left and the right side of the spectrum, have their own demands to form the coalition they want to support. Such a model is hardly manageable in a country of a few million but for a country of a billion plus population, a similar scenario would have spelled inertia and inaction for a government. India in 2014 had 464 parties contesting the national election, some of them only appealing to few voters in a regional context, with no national agenda at all. People of India, by giving stupendous support to the Modi government have asked for clarity and voted out confusion and regionalism. India is getting united, people want a pan-Indian solution, someone who brings India at the global stage. It is the total opposite of what the western pundits are predicting.
The arrival of Modi on both the Indian and global stage, shows that people of India have approved of his vision of India and rejected the appeasement politics of the Congress party that has governed India for the major part of Indian modern history. The BJP’s vision of India, show preference of merit over one´s ancestry, and civilian courage over religious allegiance. Foreign policy and security issues have also climbed a notch up in the list of priorities in the eyes of Indian voters. Indians in fact have stayed sceptical of the opinion of left-wing political pundits and university scholars who have always projected India as backward country. American voters may be tired of Russian interference, Indians on the other hand are tired of the interference of left-leaning newspapers like The Guardian, The New York Times and others who often select people from the extreme left-wing to narrate the political development on India for its readers. It is inconceivably obnoxious of New York Times to disregard the sentiments of more than half a billion voters by publishing a one-sided explanation of the Indian elections a few days ago. Pankaj Mishra, notorious for calling everything Racist and Islamophobic wrote a column on 23rd May titled, “How Narendra Modi Seduced India With Envy and Hate.” Paradoxically, a few days later a Muslim family decided to call their new born son, Narendra Modi to celebrate Modi’s victory in election.
Western media are unable to grasp why very few Indian Muslims get radicalized and join extremist groups compared to Western European countries. Even though India has close to 180 million Muslims and Belgium has only half a million, the number of radicalized Muslims from Belgium who have joined ISIS is 20 times higher than that of India. Contrary to Pankaj Mishra’s hunch in The New York Times, Indian Muslims deserve recognition and respect for their superb integration in Indian society. Thank heavens India is not as fragmented and polarized as many western societies have become. Voters in India, therefore voted for a united perspective on politics. It was a vote for unity and not for envy and hate as Pankaj Mishra among others will have us to believe.
In Indian history, there are other visionaries who have shaped India´s future which whom the western world needs to get acquainted and understand. The focus needs to be especially on the state of Gujarat which despite its small size has produced leaders with tremendous influence on the national stage.
Three Gujarati’s have shaped the narrative of India since the declaration of India as an independent country in 1947; Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and now Narendra Modi who has the mandate to govern India for the next five years. Gujarati literature, the business culture of Gujarat, the cosmopolitan cities of Gujarat like Baroda, Ahmedabad and Anand have all played a role in shaping the present India. A large number of Indians have migrated from other parts of India to Gujarat, felt accepted, recognised and have made Gujarat their home. Gujarati tolerance, gender emancipation, Gujarati garbas, and emphasis on small-scale industry has created a culture of business and dynamics in the whole western region of India. Vibrant Gujarat as it is often referred to, explains better why people voted for Modi compared to stagnant West Bengal where business in the eastern part of India, is not able to thrive as effectively as in Gujarat.
What western academicians and left-leaning leaders of the west have misunderstood big time is that even women have come out in large numbers this time and endorsed the welfare agenda of the present government. The western world keeps inviting divisive leaders and writers like Arundhati Roy, who have misinformed the world about Narendra Modi, calling him a more dangerous leader than Donald Trump. While giving an interview in connection with her new book, “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”, in Copenhagen last year, I was flabbergasted at Roy´s description of India as country of thugs and religious fanatics and especially her description of Narendra Modi as dangerous leader, shocking a few observers of India in the audience. After lecturing on poverty and downtrodden people of India, these writers often dine at the Michelin-starred restaurants which the common man, even in the western world cannot afford to dine. Criticising India is rewarding for writers and academicians, who are busy selling books on it. But their influence is now dwindling in the world stage, their predictions have proved incorrect and people in India have stopped listening to their fake advice.
When only left-leaning writers from India get invited and without a debate or discussion, are given the opportunity to paint a lopsided picture of India as a dilapidated and dysfunctional democracy, then it is no surprise that people in the Western world get confused. It is time for western media to see their own coverage, instead of blaming Russia for all the evil of their society.
In democracy, opposing views and viewpoints need to get represented and views that differ with Arundhati Roy´s anti-India views also need to get a proper representation. Arundhati Roy becomes an expert on events in Gujarat without speaking a word of Gujarati, and writers of western origins have regurgitated articles and books without learning Hindi, which is the language that Modi uses and it is also the language spoken by people who have overwhelmingly given him the mandate to govern.
Indians have discarded the divisive politics of the western media and intelligently voted for stability and growth. They know what is best for their country and have independently decided, without getting coloured with opinion from abroad, about what is best for them and the future generations of India. Corruption free India, discarding appeasement politics, inclusive educational programs instead of quotas for reservation, economic growth, employment of all and a new priority of foreign policy is on the list of agenda for those who have optimistically given Modi five more years in power.
A country of over a billion deserves a better place in the world. The discourse of including India in the democratic world needs to begin. The right place to begin could be the expansion of the United Nations Security Council, including India, Germany and Japan, three important democracies of the world, instead of just five countries which are permanent members of the Security Council.
The western media keeps on portraying a negative picture of India and keeps neglecting the positive developments that have occurred, which among others, includes the willingness of the people of India to engage with the western world. This can change if the partial and negative coverage remains unabated. Therefore, there is a need of objective coverage on India, where a balanced view is presented, without incessantly reproducing the outdated image of a country that may not exist except in the wild imagination of a colonialised mind, exotifying India. One good step could be to send a journalist that understands the local languages or has some minimum working knowledge of the languages spoken in India.