Noted sociologist Dipankar Gupta says Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has done very little in terms of improving the human development index of his state and the BJP strongman gives away his bias when he uses terms like the "burqa of secularism".
Gupta, who in his new book Revolution from Above introduces the concept of "citizen elite" or those who are in a position to influence political decisions that are aimed at improving the lot of citizens in general and not to serve "this or that" section of society, says Modi is not among this grouping.
In email answers to IANS, Gupta says: "I think Modi disqualifies himself from being a citizen elite because he favours one community over another and does not think 'citizenship'."
"Even the use of the term 'burqa of secularism' gives away his bias," he says, referring to Modi accusing the Congress of hiding behind the veil of secularism.
"Modi has run Gujarat state well, but in a limited way. This is because he inherited properly functioning administrative machinery and a prosperous economy when he came to power in 2001.
"In terms of bettering Gujarat's position on Human Development Indices, such as health and nutrition and universal education he has not shown much interest," he says.
The well-known writer and social commentator also says that non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parties should challenge Modi on issues like health, education and other social indices rather than attack him on minority issues.
"Just attacking Modi for being a Hindu nationalist does not help because most people see little wrong when a community other than their own is either attacked or sidelined. This is why secular parties must deliver tangible secular goods like health, education, jobs and proper living conditions," Gupta told IANS.
In his new book, Gupta argues that nearly all the major developments in democracy over the past 150 years or so have come because of the initiatives of such members of the citizen elite and not because of pressures from below.
"Citizen elites are not known by birth and status but by what they do. True, such people are well placed and much better positioned than the overwhelming majority; yet they use their favourable position not to their advantage but for citizens in general," he says.
Gupta says in his opinion, "targeted interventions usually end up in corruption (like the recent mid day meal scandal or the misuse of MNREGA and PDS resources) because they do not pull citizens together in a universal policy that affects and benefits all".
Thus "In short, Gujarat is hardly the model for citizen elites".
Gupta says the Indian citizen elite in fact has yet to emerge. "We will know they are there when they do things worthy of being citizen elites and not just because they are relatively more privileged than the rest".
The book, he says, is meant to inspire those who could be citizen elite to come and lead from the front and not be misled into believing that democracy only progresses when there is mass pressure.
India's IT sector can be used by the citizen elite in terms of attaining universal health and education if used imaginatively, Gupta says adding that by itself, the IT sector is like any other sector, but with one major difference.
"The leaders in this industry are people who came to the fore because they had talent and enterprise and not family money, as is the case with most other industrial houses".
"...if a person has come to prominence on account of training and education and lawful enterprise, then such individuals would probably be more likely to become citizen elites. But eventually, as I said, a citizen elite is as citizen elite does," he says.