16 Apr


Modi proves a right mix of religion and economics is the new recipe for growth

Money multipliers survive by promoting the belief that good economics is bad politics. Now Lobbyists for Cuckoo Liberalism are hawking the slogan that good religion is bad economics and worse politics. They conveniently shy away from mentioning the negative aspects of those religions, which are pushing numerous countries back to the Stone Age and into the maw of terror. Stunned by the mass acceptability of nationalism and welfarism, status quoist illiberals are projecting the rise of Hindutva as a major threat to development. During the past three years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proved beyond doubt that the symbols, songs and syntax of faith make real Vikas Mantras. Saffron is no longer the colour of communalism.

Ever since Modi anointed Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the Cassandras of communal connivance are on hyperdrive to eviscerate social and ideological concepts and configurations that remotely resemble Hindutva. They have chosen to be selectively vocal against religion. They prefer not to acknowledge that Yogi, during his three weeks in office, has taken many decisions empowering the minorities and women, enforced law and order, tamed corruption, improved infrastructure and ensured continuity rather than embarking on actions to embolden hard core communal outfits.

The distortion of the ban on illegal abattoirs and brutal attacks on meat shops by fringe elements did spread fear among the minorities. However, course correction by the unflappable Yogi has made it clear that inclusive administration and not political Hindutva is his raj dharma. It shows the sanguine sanyasi hasn’t deviated an inch from the Modi Model of governance and development. All the 13 BJP Chief Ministers, too, have tried to keep their distance from fringe elements.

Taking a dvaitik cue from Modi methodology, they wear religion on their sleeves while ensuring good governance. Most BJP-run states perform better on numerous economic parameters than their adversaries.
Despite the stressed international economic environment, India’s economic performance in many sectors has been better than the world’s best. Motivated by Moditva, many neo-believers are inspired by the epiphany that a nationalist makes a better ruler than a leader who follows radical religion or La-La Liberalism. Today, three heads of states—Xi Jinping, President of China, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, and Modi—have placed their flag and country above all. Donald Trump won the presidency seeking a mandate for America.

In Europe, nationalism is the new liberalism. Many mass leaders have come to the conclusion that nationalism subtly tempered with religion ensures peace and prosperity, empowered by self-belief. This is a slap in the ugly face of Islamic fundamentalism in West Asia, which is infecting the civilized world through senseless lone wolf attacks and bombings.    
Modi’s successful nationalism appears to be a heady mix of religion and economics. He feels Ram rajya represents the best model of economic growth where accountability, transparency and equality decide the contours and culture of governance. Modi has rescued many castaway icons of nationalism, social reforms and the Independence movement from abandoned islands of political partiality.

His mission is to explode the myth that the Congress in the 1800s and Nehruvian thoutology in the 1900s fathered the idea of inclusive and tolerant India. There were others before Nehru and Gandhi who projected India as a nation of unity in diversity. It is the only country outside the Islamic world, which has the highest number of Muslims and other minorities—all living as equal citizens and enjoying the same democratic rights as the rest. Yet Muslims are poorer and less educated everywhere.

Modi rarely speaks about them, even as they are poorly represented in the political and administrative superstructure. Modi’s admirers believe he is perhaps more concerned with raising their economic status than doling out ornamental offices without power.

The Prime Minster’s realpolitik does not spare surprises either. Last week he chose to take the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on a half-hour Metro ride to Akshardham temple—a symbol of Hindu heritage—rather than filling his schedule with  ritual visits to Humayun Tomb or the Taj Mahal. This time Turnbull’s take-home photo will be of a popular temple instead of the mandatory monument to a Mughal emperor’s elegiac sorrow. On Modi’s foreign tours, he unfailingly visits Indian places of worship and historical importance, which his predecessors have avoided...err, religiously.

Modi’s advisors have counselled him to leverage his international standing to prove to watchers that his nationalist agenda will make Muslims equal stakeholders in wealth creation. Their conviction is based on research, which concludes that Islamic governance is fundamentally anti-growth, a source of social inequality and promotes violence. However, not enough data is available on the equation between religion and economic growth. Research done by USAID in the early 2000s makes it amply clear that the Islamic World is living in an age of economic darkness. In a paper titled ‘Economic Growth in the Muslim World’, Peter Timmer and Donald McClelland write, “Why do Muslims tend to be relatively poor? The facts are undisputed: Muslims make up 19 per cent of the world’s population but earn only 6 per cent of its income. The issue is whether there are any causal relationships between religion and economic development.”

They calculated that the average per capita income in 37 Muslims countries stood at $3,375—about half of $5,987 in 70 non-Muslim countries. They also found that “GDP during the decade 1990–2000 grew more slowly, on average, in Muslim countries (2.02 per cent) than in non-Muslim countries (2.22 per cent)”. Nearly two decades later, the scenario has hardly improved. Instead, it has become worse since Muslim majority countries like Pakistan and Palestine have been launching terrorists instead of economists, administrators or academics.

Eleven per cent of their labour force is unemployed—twice the global average—forcing youth to pick up the gun. As the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy and the third largest economy, Modi is determined to assert his identity as a Nationalist Hindu whose war cry is ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’
(development of all with support of all). Half a year into his premiership, The Economist magazine wrote in its January 15, 2015, edition: “Economic reform is the means to a nationalist end; and, for Mr Modi, nationalism is of the Hindu variety.” The lofty editors of the magazine must be disappointed now that he has proved that the Hindu variety of nationalism could be the panacea for what ails economies driven by radical religion and narrow beliefs.