Why the world is jealous of India's democracy

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Shivaji Dasgupta
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The Guardian view on Modi

Kolkata: In Kolkata on polling day, June 1, there is an easy calm. As citizens amble towards the nearest booths, the para-military seems deeply relaxed. The Guardian newspaper of once-great Britain and its like-minded cronies may well report this as an uneasy calm, predicting imminent riots. Such is their abdication of sanity.

On Thursday, May 30, the publication spoke about PM Modi’s ‘audacity of hate’, in a typically vitriolic piece abusing the essence of India's democratic institutions. Equally predictably, Rahul Gandhi emerged as the flowery messiah, promising to remove ‘inequality’, as if a set of demonstrators blocking the high street. It also speaks of the PM’s meditation campaign and likens it to Donald Trump’s messianic claims. An analogy, which is a self-goal, we don’t quite mind being in the same dock as the USA, even if controversial.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, spoke of India’s xenophobia, as a cause of economic struggles. An appalling demonstration of kindergarten intellect, from a nation still struggling with the integration of ‘folks of colour’ in its genuine mainstream. His advisors clearly have little idea of South Asian geopolitics, partition onwards. Or maybe, they too are plain jealous of our democracy.

There are, truthfully, many reasons for envy, especially for the ‘legacy’ democracies. Our demographic excesses are now paying rich dividends, the white man’s saviour and no longer a burden. The India tech stack, JAM Trinity, has outclassed the snooty tech imperialism of Silicon Valley and the ONDC ( Open Network for Digital Commerce) driven by FIDE ( Foundation for Interoperability in Digital Economy) is clearly the next pioneer. The consumer economy is booming and while there are barriers in employment distribution, the scenario is certainly not dark.

Equally importantly, we are enjoying an unprecedented Peace Dividend. No significant wars in the last three decades in tandem with zero overseas flirtations have led to sustainable stability. As has the Article 370 revocation in Kashmir, as proven by the phenomenal turnout in the elections and record-breaking tourism. IPL is further evidence of this pattern, as an entire nation is further unified under the auspices of, ironically, a colonial soft power.

Like every successful democracy, we have our quirks and share of heartburns. Unlike every autocracy, these are never hidden under the rugs of censorship and bullets. So, when our PM wants to meditate as part of election strategy, that’s certainly Cricket. If his narratives offend sections of the citizenry, they have many avenues to rightfully protest, the finest being the EVM machines. In a complicated, yet defensible, way, it proves the legitimacy of our democracy - a successful sitting PM has to earn his third term through skin in the game, not a Putin-like farcical extension regime.

Which is also why the other characters in the fray further enrich the narrative, as the elections become a gigantic Marketing exercise, on a foundation of distinctive positioning. Mamata Banerjee chooses wisely to amplify her disruptive streetfighter persona and Rahul Gandhi plays the universal citizenry card. Every state seeks an equilibrium between regional nuances and national prerogatives - in this lies the answer to the crown in Delhi. According to informed analysts, the potentially game-changing Muslim vote bank is now seeking a strategic developmental consolidation, as economic well-being becomes the topmost priority.

In all this, the powers of the world are petrified of a Modi comeback, this time with a stronger opposition and thus, an even more vibrant democratic foundation. Our ‘audacity’ at acquiring managerial rights over the Chabahar Port in Iran, dismissing US browbeating, promises to see many encores. Yet, at the same time, eight Indian Rafale fighters are part of an elite Red Flag exercise in Alaska. Clearly, we are a democracy living increasingly on our own terms.

Unlike most clearly, the UK, home of The Guardian. Where Rishi Sunak is celebrating the control of inflation on social media, as if a child getting a Mathematics A in Grade Five, after failing three previous attempts. For the whole of 2023, the UK economy grew by 0.1%. Excluding the Covid years, that annual growth figure is the weakest since 2009 when the UK and other major economies were reeling from the global financial crisis. A recent study by the ONS showed total goods exports in 2023 fell by £15.2bn, or 4.6%, compared with 2022, “with substantial decreases in exports to both EU and non-EU countries”.

On June 4, our democracy will enjoy yet another milestone. In the likely event of a third term, PM Modi will ensure that our global stature is significantly enhanced while tech-enabled domestic growth continues unabated. If somebody else comes to power, the growth momentum will surely not stop, as the essentials are in place.

What will also not stop is the jealousy of the First World, increasingly relegated to second place. For this, we have to be prepared, with all guardrails in place. To combat the evil eye with methods both modern and traditional. We know what it takes. 

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