Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Advantage Modi Series V

Blending Coercion And consent                                                                               October 17, 2014

A general view of Narendra Modi’s governance style is that it is an impressive more of working: he appears brick, decisive, engaged and demanding. After Manmohan Singh, this is a huge relief to many Indians. The Prime Minister could deeply these qualities to govern effectively; on the other hand, there are other features of his style that could deeply damage India.

First and foremost, Modi is a centralizer. Nothing in the government moves without his assent and nod, and no detail is too small. To centralize decision-making in his person, he has taken almost complete control of his party, marginalizing his elders (Advani, Joshi, Jaswant) and rivals (Sushma and Shivraj Chauhan, who have disappeared politically).Going back to his Gujarat days, he is famous for picking weak cabinets, largely ignoring ministers and paying little heed to the legislature; so too in Delhi. A second feature of Modi’s style is co-opting the senior bureaucracy and police. Essentially, he both scares and empowers high officials, making them his primary instrument of decision-making. Hegemonic command depends on a blend of coercion and consent. Modi engenders fear in his senior commanders. By promising to back them against interfering politicians, he also gives them a sense of empowerment. The result is extraordinary cooperation and loyalty.

Another element of Modi’s governance method is his ambiguous stance on social polarization, especially between Hindus and minorities. Hindus in Gujarat have little doubt where he stands in relation to them. He is the greater Protector. On the other hand, minorities hear him. It is hard to pin anything on him. He promises development and equal treatment for all; yet the worst communal riots occurred under his rule in Gujarat, which Modi astonishingly claims he could not stop. Amit Shah, made was by all accounts flagrantly communal, Sanjeev Baliyan, the BJP leader accused of fomenting the western UP riots, was subsequently made a minister of state. Few doubt the riots helped the party gain massively in UP and reach the magical 282-seats figure in the general elections.

Modi has remained stubbornly silent on communalism, except for his August 15 plea for a 10 year “moratorium” on caste and communal violence. Modi’s is playing the media beautifully-and they still don’t know it! Finally, Modi’s governance approach is based on a cosy relationship with business. He has learned enough economics, finance, and management to impress businessmen, and he has done enough for them in Gujarat to suggest that he is pro-business. They fund him and laud him, and he eases the constraints on them. Will this approach work? It did in Gujarat. But centralization can eventually cause the humiliated to rebel. The best laid plans in Delhi could quickly become mere edicts outside the capital. Allowing communities to be turned against each other could produce a corroding extremism that explodes uncontrollably and tears India’s fabric. Governing well is more than clever speeches and punctual officials in North Block. It is about respect and dignity for those you lead. The PM should remember that.


Read the text of his Independence Day speech carefully. It is inclusive, conciliatory, forward looking and modern. But it is also pure RSS. Modi spoke as an RSS Pracharak would have, stressing family values, morality, cleanliness, discipline and patriotism. Modi’s method is likely to be more in the nature of very soft hindutva but very pronounced nationalism. He will not allow his government to be distracted by Ram temple, article 370 and so on. Modi believes in employing his political capital to further his ideology but will do it very cautiously. It’s early Days yet, but he could be refining an innovative ideology of the right. 

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