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Preparing for 2019 elections

LiveMint logoLiveMint 19-05-2014 V. Anantha Nageswaran

Dear Mr. Narendra Modi,

Vanakkam. You have defied all odds to become the prime minister and you have led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a stupendous victory that no one foresaw—except perhaps yourself—when you were made the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. That you overcame tremendous odds stacked against you in the campaign phase is a good augury for tackling the infinitely more challenging governance phase. Hope and optimism are the appropriate feelings for now. However, some have to remain paranoid so that others can work on turning hope and optimism into reality.

First is that the outgoing United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has literally scorched the earth for the new government. Bankrupt banks, bloated budgets, ballooning prices and bulging unemployment are few of the examples of things that have gone grievously wrong for the country under the UPA. UPA-I reaped the benefits of the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) policy decisions. UPA-II reaped the cost of UPA-I’s missteps. Now, NDA will face the consequences of UPA-II’s plunder and blunders. On the polling day(s) in 2019, voters might be a disaffected and dissatisfied lot if fixing the economy takes time. In other words, it will be perilous for you to ignore lags in policy consequences. You should release a white paper, in all languages, on the situation that your government has inherited in various areas. Please talk to citizens regularly to keep us informed of the progress you are making in removing the landmines set for your government by the UPA government and to expose those—inside and outside the BJP—who obstruct that task.

The second is largely in your hands. It is about resisting the temptation to become acceptable to all, especially to the English-speaking faux intellectuals of India. Having failed to stop you in the election, pseudo-secular and pseudo-intellectual types will use this old trick in the book. Please read carefully the following sentence, for example, in this The Wall Street Journal article:

“Among the issues pushed by Hindu nationalists: limiting affirmative-action-type programs for Muslims, taking a harder line with majority-Muslim neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh and advancing a conservative Hindu cultural agenda.”

It deliberately mixes up domestic and foreign policy matters and conflates the issues at hand. Ending affirmative action programmes that are not means-tested is a fiscal necessity, at the very least. Taking a hard line with Bangladesh on illegal immigration into India and its treatment of Hindus is an action that any self-respecting Indian leader should take. Similarly, dealing with Pakistan as a perpetrator of terrorism on Indian soil and not viewing it as a fellow victim of terror are long overdue. These are actions that Americans would expect the US government to take and if it did, neither The Wall Street Journal nor The New York Times will call the US government, “Christian Nationalist”.

If you were to take these actions, you will be tagged anti-Muslim. If you shy away from them simply to prove your detractors wrong, you will be implementing their agenda and not yours. Although it is a simple ploy, most humans craving acceptability among the “elites”, fall for it. But, in any courtship—real or fake—the one who plays harder to get, wins.

Third, your party’s manifesto correctly noted that it was imperative for a nation to know its roots and that future generation of Indians should be proud of the culture, heritage and history of India (Pages 1 and 22 of the English version). The Central Board of Secondary Education has created an elective course on indian traditional knowledge systems for standards XI and XII. Student response has been lukewarm. You should champion this elective course and ensure that Indian students finish their school years aware and proud of their country’s accomplishments.

Fourth, it is possible that historic mandates are wasted. Two examples in our own living memory are that of the mandates given to the Janata Party in 1977 and to Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. Both of them lost the idea of the purpose behind power. One was consumed by egos and in the other case, perhaps, the system triumphed over sincerity. Hence, it is good to constantly remind yourself of what Lord Krishna told Arjuna in Kurukshetra (chapter 11 and verse 33 of the Bhagawad Gita)—”nimitta-matram bhava savya-sacin”. You are an instrument chosen by him to provide a government of, for and by dharma. As long as you govern with that spirit leading a generation of (all) Indians to a life of security and prosperity, it will be the duty of the country to keep returning you to office.

One way to stick to that path and mindset is to employ a couple of persons, whose loyalties and intellect are beyond any doubt, tasked only to keep you grounded. You have achieved a Congress-mukt Bharat for now; more important is to achieve a Congress-culture (sycophancy)-mukt Bharat.

The fifth and final thought for you is to persuade Indian politicians to accept that self-deprecation is a sign of self-confidence by setting a personal example. Indian politicians can loosen up quite a bit.


Anantha Nageswaran

V. Anantha Nageswaran is co-founder of Aavishkaar Venture Fund and Takshashila Institution. Comments are welcome at To read V. Anantha Nageswaran’s previous columns, go to

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