Ranjona Banerji: Promises are all we have got
Even as BJP leaders threaten filmmakers with dire consequences, they remain silent on Judge Loya's murder and Jay Shah's case
I find myself agreeing with Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. It is only the people of India who can defeat or keep victorious PM Narendra Modi. It was the people of India who voted him to power, rather than just the BJP to power.
Many voted on the promise of coming good days, of "development for all, all together", of "maximum governance, minimum government" and no corruption ("will not eat, will not let others eat"). Apart from the usual BJP voter, we are told, that millions of 'neutrals', especially young people were enthused by Modi's promises. Jobs and a booming economy were on the way, as Modi waved some proverbial magic wand.
Death threats to an unreleased film's actor and director have been met with official waffling, which almost sounds like justification. File pic/AFP
Soon after the first budget, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley bluntly told the nation that he had no magic wand. But, people still believed in Modi. The economy sputtered along. No jobs were created, but maybe they were on their way? Meanwhile, more promises: India's going to be clean, the Ganga was going to be cleaner, every city was going to be smart, and India was going to get more foreign money than ever before.
None of that happened, but still the people believed. Another budget came and went. By this time, we had communal riots and incidents in UP, lives and property ruined. The protection of the cow appeared to have become more important than development. Muslims and Dalits were killed, beaten up, humiliated. If jobs were created, they were for cow protection goons; legitimate jobs were not in evidence.
Then came last year's dramatic demonetisation exercise. More than 86 per cent of Indian currency became illegal and we all know what happened then. As people stood in queues for their own money, the Prime Minister laughed at those who could not pay for weddings because they had no money. Meanwhile, BJP politicians attended a Rs 500-crore wedding.
Do the people remember how the goalposts shifted? How the initial promise of demonetisation to end black money and terrorism suddenly became making India a digital economy. Individual suffering apart, entire small-scale industries shut down and jobs vanished. However, all this was justified by various cheerleaders as the BJP won the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Proof that the people of India were still overjoyed.
The people of India, in the meantime, have seen the shoddy implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. An economy that has only moved downwards. No clean India in evidence. No smart cities in evidence. No jobs. Regressive ideas and customs getting prominence, at universities, with women everywhere, with Dalits and Muslims and religious minorities.
The death of Judge Loya, as he was presiding over a case in which BJP president Amit Shah was charged, and the recent allegations that have emerged, has been met with official silence. The allegations that Amit Shah's son Jay Shah's company has some questionable financial dealings has been met with official obfuscation and then silence.
A movie not yet released about a fictional character has led to death threats, mutilation threats, and worse by members of the ruling party and their affiliates, towards actors and directors. These have been met with official waffling, which almost sounds like justification. Threats of violence by the right wing are often treated like this; much like actual violence by the right wing as with the cow protection hooligans.
A woman of 25 is questioned by the courts about her marriage choice and given a 'guardian' by the courts, as if one is not deemed to be a major by that time in Indian law. The judiciary itself is at war with itself and with the government.
When a Christian priest asks people to vote for a secular party, he and Christianity are excoriated. When any number of Hindu priests ask you to vote BJP, well, that's all perfect.
And now the Prime Minister goes to Gujarat, which he ruled for 12 years, and tells the electorate that the Congress did not allow him to develop Gujarat. When Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, he campaigned for prime minister of India by promising he would make India as developed as he had made Gujarat.
So there you have the truth, people of India. Gujarat, Modi was not allowed to develop. And, therefore, he could not develop India. How sad for you that you could not fathom that very basic honesty.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org