OPINION
Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas.
Will Modi walk the talk?
- Vipin Pubby
Will Modi walk the talk?



Prime minister Narendra Modi’s speech to the newly elected Members of Parliament from National Democratic Alliance was flawless. His generous references to inclusiveness and extending a hand to minorities did surprise many. To the old slogan of Sabka sath, Sabka Vikas, he added  Sabka Vishwas.

Not only his own party members but even his trenchant critics must not be having Vishwas that it was Modi speaking in that tenor. If only he would have said these words before the elections, the doubts and fears of minorities and also his critics would have been given a ray of hope. But perhaps he and his party may have lost out some votes of the fringe groups who have been out to spread terror among the minorities, including religious minorities. On the other hand, he would have gained support from a section of minorities as well as his critics who had been accusing him of maintaining silence on communal and violence assaults on minorities.
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His supporters say you can’t expect the prime minister to intervene or criticise every such incident. That’s granted but it is also a fact that early intervention can stop more such incidents.
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Modi’s speech was high on statesmanship. He acknowledged the fear and apprehensions among the minorities although he blamed the rival parties for it and for exploiting them over the years. He said he had worked on the poor in his previous term and had been amply rewarded. He declared that he would now work for the welfare of minorities in his second term to gain their confidence.

The prime minister was actually not just addressing the new NDA MPs but citizens across the country through his widely televised speech. Besides focusing on inclusion of minorities and other marginalised groups, Modi also spoke of importance of coalitions and regional aspirations. Another fear that he allayed was that he would respect the constitution. His critics had been of the view that if given a majority he and his party may try to tinker with the constitution and may drop the reference to secularism from the constitution. 

His reference to restraint in speech and action and also reaching out to party veterans like Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were other highlights of his speech. So was the reference to his opponents that even those who had opposed him "woh bhi hamare hain”.
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He did criticise but an incident involving the killing of a BJP worker. Surely it would not have taken him much time to condemn the other two incidents as well.
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For a party that had described a section of minorities as "termites” or had given ticket to terror accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur (who, in turn, had praised the killer of the father of the nation), for a party which does not have a single Muslim MP, for communalising even Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad, the words of reconciliation were too good to be true.

Indeed within 48 hours of the speech, two communal incidents took place involving beating of members of Muslim community and again there was no immediate condemnation. This was in line with a spate of lynchings in the recent past with the government and Modi keeping silence for too long. It was only when he had condemned the incidents that such incidents stopped.

His supporters say you can’t expect the prime minister to intervene or criticise every such incident. That’s granted but it is also a fact that early intervention can stop more such incidents. 

He did criticise but an incident involving the killing of a BJP worker. Surely it would not have taken him much time to condemn the other two incidents as well.

Modi would not have thought that a test for his declarations to new MPs would come so soon. It also remains to be seen how he tackles Pragya Thakur who statement praising Nathuram Godse had led him to say that he would never forgive her. What happens now when she would be sitting in the same House. If Modi was sincere he should have asked her to resign. He has enough majority to take such decisions.

Given the past track record of Modi, it is difficult to believe his positive assertions in Parliament House meeting. Will he take minorities along and can he infuse confidence in them ? That’s the big question and only time can answer it. He must be given enough time to prove his sincerity. 

 

(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)

 

 

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