Modi and Mahinda

| by Vickramabahu Karunaratne

( May 22, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Now that NDA won with a clean majority and Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister of India; there is a definite change in parameters in relation to the political stability of Lanka. Obviously, things will be deferent in the way Tamil national problem will be handled. Not only Modi is in power but also Tamils, and in general Dravidian power, also have got consolidated in the south. Of course, India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he is looking forward to strong relations between India and Sri Lanka. On the other hand, President Rajapaksa, congratulating Mr. Modi on his landmark win, said that he was glad that Mr. Modi would be able to form a stable government with his party's resounding victory. Also, he rapidly extended an invitation to Mr. Modi to visit Sri Lanka. That cosmetic diplomacy does not change the coming battle for policy changes. One thing is clear, both leaders share similarities inspite of the vast differences of political power structures. As an activist of RSS Modi was a populist in addition to being a Hindu extremist. These orientations continued even after joining the BJP. However his thinking changed in 2001; after Modi was appointed the Chief Minister of Gujarat, with the responsibility of preparing the BJP for elections in December 2002. As Chief Minister, Modi's ideas of governance revolved around privatization and a government with small number of ministers, which stood at odds with the "anti-privatization, anti-globalization position" of the RSS. Not only that; after the decline of Ahmedabad's textile industry, Modi dropped Gordhan Zadafia, an ally of Hinduthva leaders, from the cabinet ministry. When the peasant leaders launched a farmers' agitation, Modi ordered their eviction from houses provided by the state government. Modi's decision to demolish 200 illegal temples in Gandhinagar deepened the rift with Hindu extremists. Various Hindu organizations connected to the BJP were no longer consulted nor informed of Modi's administrative decisions prior to their enactment.

These modernist pro IMF changes brought by Modi in the period 2002–2007 have led to Gujarat being called an attractive investment destination by the global capitalism. Also it was accepted that corruption had gone down significantly in the state. It was claimed that if there was to be any corruption, “Modi had to know about it"! Modi also greatly changed the system of power distribution in the state, with a significant impact on farmers. An assessment study found that corporations and large farmers had significantly benefited from the policy, but that small farmers and laborers had been negatively impacted. Political scientists assert that the development in Gujarat has been limited to the urban middle class, while rural dwellers and lower castes have become increasingly marginalized. It is claimed that under Modi, the number of families living below the poverty line has increased, and that particularly rural adivasi and dalits have become increasingly marginalized.

So we see that Modi started off as a chauvinist populist, hated by minorities for his suspected collaboration with anti Muslim rioters; but having come to power in Gujarat he was able to suppress corruption and control anti Muslim hatred within his camp. With the new look he followed the global capitalist policies to bring about a typical post modernist capitalist development where rich become rich while the poor pay the penalty. In addition traditional knowledge, environmental wealth and cultural heritage were neglected.

However when we compare Modi with Mahinda, we see that Mahinda also has become a pro IMF capitalist leader with modernist development aims, negating his past promises. This is amply shown even by the criticism made by ministers Champika and Wimal. However while the ills of modernization flourished Mahinda was unable to control chauvinist thinking and growing corruption. This failure will create an unbridgeable gap between Modi and Mahinda. Modi, the Hindu stalwart with a thirst for anti corruption, also with a history of departure from anti Muslim chauvinism could demand similar changes from Mahinda immediately. Clearly the wind from India is in that direction. If that happens the political crisis here could become a tornado that blows up the government.