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Modi, A Transformative Hope For India and South Asia

There is a dramatic change emerging in South Asia as Narendra Modi takes over the reigns of power in India. Sixty seven years after India's first leader, Nehru started one of the largest social engineering pogroms causing tensions within and with neighbours; India is on the brink of binning it. The 2014 Indian election marks the end of secular liberal socialism in India and the beginning of a period yet to be defined in any clear terms, except perhaps 'Indian pluralism'.

Much negative press greeted Modi during the campaign both in India and internationally. Judgemental statements are still slipped into news in most western liberal press casting him as a communalist and divisive Hindu nationalist figure with foreboding consequences. We are repeatedly reminded of Modi's alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots despite the Indian Supreme Court acquitting him.

Similar aspersions of divisive communalism were never made against the dynastic 'modern democratic party', the Congress, which exploited communal and caste identities to greatest electoral advantage in almost all the elections. No western leader nor western press ever pointed fingers at Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for justifying the massacres of Sikhs in November 1984 in Delhi after his mother's assassination. Nor was Narasimha Rao. the then Home Minister who failed to call in the police or Armed Forces for four days of massacres, ever hounded by western media, even when he went onto become PM..

The duplicity of the western liberal press and fraternity is sometimes spell bounding. No British Parliamentary EDM, or pontificatory journalists campaigned against prospective Indian Prime Ministers except Modi.

This liberal hysteria may be symptomatic of twentieth century secular liberal evangelism realising that its intellectual sway is now coming to an end in Indian history. For sixty years it clung on to a dream that the Congress Party would transform India into its ideological prodigy.

Western liberals understated Congress' excesses and overplayed its achievements, such as 'largest democracy'. Well that 'largest democracy' has delivered its 'verdict', so why whinge now with the Guardian and BBC wheeling in the 'bitterati' such as Pankaj Mishra and Anish Kapoor.

The Congress party had a veneer of secularism and unity. While it won its first few elections harvesting its leading role in the decolonisation struggles, its subsequent victories were based on appealing to 'fears' among different communities, as vote-bank politics.. In 1984, Congress 'unity' call was based on portraying Sikhs as 'secessionists' and uniting worried Hindus behind itself. It relied on rallying Muslim and 'lower caste' votes subsequently. In 2004 it succeeded in portraying BJP as an 'upper caste' party. In 2014 it was appealing to Muslim psychosis by demonising Modi as anti Muslim..

This strategy has fallen apart. In response the BJP coalition pushed the 1984 massacres of Sikhs into the public debate. Congress lost the Sikhs. The 'caste' vote bank also fragmented since Modi himself comes from a 'backward caste'. Many Muslims voted for Modi.

Modi has managed to unite diverse sections of India without appealing to any fear psychosis. His call to majority Hindu India was to their strengths not their fears. It may be too early to talk, but odds are that he is more likely to pacify resurgent political Hinduism and give the country a sense of 'self', something that India has lacked except in the bureaucracy and newspapers. He is also likely to gradually replace liberal secularism with something indigenous.

Secularism has proved to be a divisive philosophy in India with tragic consequences such as communal and caste violence. Its protagonists in India ignored 5000 years history of a civilisation which made a success of pluralism letting faiths and non faith ideologies to coexist in the public space.

The Indian civilisation is ahead of the west and many other regions of the world in governing plural societies. Only in India can one find a synagogue in a Muslim area. Yet it was extraordinary that in 1947, it chose to discard its successful approach and adopt a new political pogrom to change its culture.

It never worked. A plural civilisation that does not create a clear distinction between religion and secular has been thrown into bitter adversarial political chaos. Despite good intentions, Congress's long rule has bequeathed an electoral field of block votes ridden and fought along caste, religion, regional communities. The Indian State became absorbed in its internal strife while trying to meet its developmental obligations.

The new Prime Minister has a monumental challenge on his hand. Modi is different than some other BJP leaders. He is keen to give India a sense of 'uniqueness' and decrease the tensions within the region. He is keen to concentrate on development. He could end up being India's Deng Xiaoping rapidly bringing poverty to a real end rather than 'statistical end.

Modi is more likely to review the skewed 'reservation' policy for 'lower castes' sustained by Congress to ensure a continuous supply of votes. This policy has entrenched 'caste' as a political entity deep into modern Indian fabric frustrating social movements that try to end this system which was given institutional form during colonialism. Caste vote bank politics is now being introduced into UK by some Labour MPs in the name of 'equality'.

Contrary to predictions, he is also more likely to give Indian Muslims and other minorities a better deal in return for peace and coexistence. In its sixty years of domination of Indian politics, Congress India has not been able to resolve a single internal dissension. Minorities may finally see light at the end of the tunnel as Modi explores indigenous solutions to tensions created during the 'modernising' agenda.

One of the unexpected outcomes of Modi's rule might be serious negotiations with neighbouring countries rather than letting conflicts simmer on. Many seasoned politicians and business people in Pakistan think that a solution is more likely with him. He has already taken the first steps confounding many critics by inviting all the neighbours to his inauguration.

Modi's idea of India's future is a pluralistic society, comfortable with its diversity and its civilisation. Given the clear majority he now has, perhaps he could start by replacing the word 'secular' with the word 'plural' in the constitution. It will give India something to say in the world of ideas. More importantly it will begin transforming Governance of India basing it on the strengths of its own civilisation.

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