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Home / Columns / PM Modi must win the trust of every citizen | Opinion

PM Modi must win the trust of every citizen | Opinion

He has delivered on his party’s ideological agenda, but the State has a lot to do on the domestic and external front

columns Updated: Aug 02, 2020 18:41 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
In terms of popularity, Modi has left all the BJP’s leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, far behind
In terms of popularity, Modi has left all the BJP’s leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, far behind(REUTERS)

Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi will participate in the ceremony which will mark the beginning of the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on August 5.

Coincidentally, this comes exactly a year to the day that Article 370, a special provision for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), was effectively nullified and basic changes in the constitutional and geographical situation of this state were carried out. Will these events have an effect on society and politics going forward?

It is no secret that the construction of a grand temple in Ayodhya and the removal of Article 370 were primary pillars of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s road map. These have been on the party’s agenda since its inception. But it was PM Modi who has seen the party’s agenda through. It is not just these two issues; he has also pushed his party’s agenda and ideology on the contentious triple talaq provision and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Being an astute politician, he understands that these decisions find favour with a majority of people. Through these and other issues, he is clear that he can capture 51% of the votes for the BJP, a long-held dream of the party’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). But there are risks associated with these decisions.

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, successive prime ministers have had to explain the fateful events leading to that day and its aftermath alongside the events which brought about Operation Bluestar and its consequences in almost every international forum. Many liberal Western leaders felt that minority rights were not being safeguarded in India. The biggest stumbling block to resolving the issues of Article 370, the CAA and the Ram temple was adverse international opinion. The PM had begun to hone his strategy right from his first term.

During that term, he coined the slogan sabka saath, sabka vikas. After winning the next general election, he added another phrase to the slogan — sabka vishvas. Here, sabka obviously means everyone, both the minority and the majority. He was actually sending out a clear message of inclusion within and outside the country before taking some tough decisions.

The result was that when Pakistan tried to take up the matter of Article 370 and the partition of J&K in the United Nations along with China, it found little traction. Almost all the major countries treated this as an internal matter of India. Modi was successful in getting India’s view accepted by both the West and West Asian nations.

Before taking the decision on Article 370, the government had laid the groundwork internally. The Amarnath Yatra was stopped, security forces were deployed in the erstwhile state of J&K and tourists were sent home. Everyone understood that something major was about to take place at the time. Yet, what came was a surprise to almost everyone.

All the major leaders in the state were arrested or put under house arrest as soon as the decision was taken. Many Kashmiri leaders, including Mehbooba Mufti, are still under arrest. But history is repeating itself. Sheikh Abdullah, then J&K’s tallest leader was placed under house arrest on August 8, 1953. He remained in the jail till 1964.

Later, the separatists of the Hurriyat Conference and other political figures have been in and out of jail on different occasions. This is why they were in no position to resist Delhi’s muscular intervention. Those who anticipated substantial resistance have been proved wrong over the last year.

The Ayodhya issue is completely different. The Supreme Court (SC) handed down a verdict on this after considerable deliberations. The 162-year-long dispute had become too tedious for the country; so people accepted the SC’s decision.

The PM will send out a clear signal to the majority of Hindus that he is mindful of their sentiments by attending the programme on August 5. This will help the BJP in the coming days. Elections are on the cards in Bihar in November and then in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry by May 2021.

Many who were silent on triple talaq and the temple issue were suddenly vocal on the CAA. More than two dozen people were killed in the violence that erupted in many places over this issue.

The opponents of the CAA sat on prolonged dharnas and were only dispersed completely when the coronavirus pandemic struck. There are apprehensions among this section that after Ayodhya, there may be similar efforts with regard to temples in Kashi and Mathura.

There are also worries that the developments in Kashmir enabled China to create disturbances on the Sino-Indian border. China may now try and use the Kashmir issue to further its own agenda at the diplomatic level, having been caught short in Ladakh and earning international opprobrium over its lack of transparency on the coronavirus which originated in Wuhan.

All this means the government’s job is not complete yet. But, in terms of popularity, Modi has left all the BJP’s leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, far behind. The real test for him will be to win the trust of every citizen of India.

He also has to forge a foreign and security policy which ensures that India’s borders are not violated and that the country is perceived as a voice of reason and restraint internationally.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal
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