Prime minister Modi does well to admonish party MPs
When Narendra Modi became prime minister after the BJP swept past the Lok Sabha’s half-way mark on its own, many felt this would have disastrous consequences since various facets of the Sangh parivar, from the Swadeshi Jagran Manch to the Vishva Hindu Parishad, would now flex their muscles. Some evidence was provided within just a few months when a Sangh outfit said it was against genetically-modified agriculture—GM cotton was the basis of Narendra Modi’s agriculture success in Gujarat and the state delivered upwards of 10% annual agriculture growth over a decade—and when the government seemed to be buckling in to this demand. Though the details of what happened are not public, some weeks later, the government announced it was going ahead with the tests for the GM crops, much to the dismay of the Sangh parivar. Indeed, the RSS link appears to be helping make Modi’s life easier. With the government not just going ahead with the 10% divestment of Coal India Limited (CIL), but also announcing the opening up of the coal sector to commercial miners, CIL’s unions threatened to go on strike—the last time they did this, the UPA government decided to back down on the divestment issue. This time around, thanks to some nifty backroom manoeuvering, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) that has its roots in the Sangh parivar announced it was not going to support the strike—BMS is the largest CIL union.
Over the past few weeks, with various programmes of ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconversion of Hindus from Islam and Christianity) and statements like ‘ramzadas vs haramzadas’ (those who aren’t devotees of Lord Rama are bastards) from BJP MPs, the party looked like it was once again going back to the past to stress its Hindu roots. This is what prime minister Narendra Modi has tried to quell when he told party MPs that they needed to focus only on development issues, a repeat of what he has said earlier, that it would be good to have a moratorium on Hindu-Muslim issues for a decade or so while the country focused on getting growth back on track. Indeed, all data point to the fact that once issues like education and jobs are taken care of, much of what is considered caste discrimination automatically reduces. At an overall level, NCAER data for 2004-05 showed that in the case of Scheduled Caste households, incomes rose from R22,456 per annum when they were headed by illiterates to R85,023 when they were headed by graduates; from R37,615 when the households were situated in rural areas to R85,000 when the SCs were in big towns; from R34,807 when the households were engaged in agriculture to R99,464 when they were engaged in modern services. Data for other caste/religious groups shows the same trend. Development, at the end of the day, is also good politics, and that was also the lesson of the 2014 mandate.