Dear Prime Minister Modi/ Vikas Purush/ Renaissance Man,
How do we address you? During the 2014 general elections, all you spoke about was development. Vikas was the only word you heard on the radio, TV, or the internet — so much so that my friend Vikas refused to step out of the house. Along with that word, you were omnipresent, like watching Shah Rukh Khan trying to promote Ra.One. India had been waiting for a long time, for the divisive politics of caste, class, and religion to be replaced by that of development, economics, and governance. And you had caught that pulse.
You are a master orator and the microphone brings out the best in you. When the opposition spoke of caste, you spoke of Digital India. When they mentioned religion, you spoke about how Hindus and Muslims should work together to alleviate poverty. You even went on to win the social-media game, that would later be taken to the next level by your good friend Donald bhai. The people of India awarded you with an electoral victory, as your Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan began with virtually wiping out the Congress party.
Four years on, as you’ve travelled more countries than a travel blogger and dropped a Star Wars reference at Central Park, we are now heading toward election year. You have had a couple of blips, with demonetisation and GST implementation but you’re Gujarat ka dhikro. It was the dream of the Gujarat Model that you sold us 1.3 billion people; the only Gujarat Model that has worked since Upen or Ashmit Patel.
Sadly, all the positive messaging and promise of acche din from 2014 has dissolved ahead of the 2019 polls. This has been replaced by slurs and bitter name-calling. Following political debates in the country feels no different from browsing through the comments section of a YouTube video. Everyone is an Urban Naxal, and everyone is plotting against your good office.
Last December, ahead of the Gujarat elections, everyone was suddenly obsessed with Rahul Gandhi, to the extent that the Gujarat government denied him permission for a roadshow (they denied you permission too, but who knew you had a seaplane)? Where you once spoke of infrastructure and foreign investment, last year I heard you compare Rahul Gandhi to Aurangzeb. Really, sir? A man who looks and acts like Chetan Bhagat on steroids, is akin to a dreaded dictator? In an election where education and health ought to have taken centre-stage, one of the biggest issues had been whether Rahul Gandhi is Hindu. Does it really matter whether he is Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Parsi, so long as he unites the country by making all of us laugh at him?
We have also came back to the bugbear of the Ram Mandir, the political equivalent of a tennis ball before any election. It is the Draw Four card of Indian politics, brandished every time the populace is in severe need of division. Mr Modi, we expect you to walk away from the rhetoric and focus on issues plaguing the country, such as unemployment and violence against women. Instead, the BJP seems to be more engrossed in statue politics, with a promise to build a Ram Statue bigger than the Statue of Unity.
In the past, you didn’t let petty name-calling get in the way of your development agenda. Remember how you turned around and totally owned “chaiwallah”? But it seems no one wants to miss out on a free hit these days. Mani Shankar Aiyar offered you one and you hit it out of the park. And again. And again.
But since 2014, there is a sense of disappointment for Indians who voted you to power.
It would be naïve on my part to suggest you’re the only guilty party. Your opponents have also been equal party to the crime. It feels like collectively, all of you are taking us for a ride that we didn’t sign up for. But you are the Prime Minister of the country, and the one people look up to. It would be only fair that you should direct the country toward intelligent debate, of the kind we deserve.