Will India’s Modi resist the lure of nationalism?

By John Lloyd
May 20, 2014

Nationalism is in vogue in the world’s largest states.

President Vladimir Putin has called upon the specter of nationalism in staking Russia’s claim to Crimea and as a justification for destabilizing Ukraine’s east. He and the Russian military have acted to protect and, where possible, bring “home” his nation’s ethnic kin.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a World War II shrine, in spite of predicable outrage in China. While, in China, President Xi Jinping has emphasized nationalist themes in advancing his “Chinese dream.”

Now India has elected Narendra Modi as prime minister by a landslide. He’ll be sworn in next week. The streets will be packed, the media will be hysterical, markets will rise, and the hopes of the poor will soar.

But it seems unlikely to last.

“The fiscal situation is much worse than is known publicly,” says Arun Shourie, an economist and a former minister in India government. “Maneuverability for the government will be limited,” he said.

It will be tough to turn around an economy with a growth rate that has declined to a little over 4 percent — too low to create the millions of jobs needed.

If Modi runs into trouble, the question is: Will he be the prime minister for all Indians, as he has promised, or will he revert to his divisive roots?

One of the most frequent criticisms against Modi is the anti-Muslim pogrom that resulted in a thousand deaths in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, soon after he became the state’s chief minister. Though India’s supreme court cleared him of blame, others, including the U.S. and the UK governments that have only recently-lifted visa bans on Modi, suspected him of ignoring the murderous riots; or worse, of complicity in them.

The issue still has traction; more so because no apology was made. Modi says that none is required.

Modi has been a Hindu nationalist activist nearly all of his life. At the age of eight, a rebellious and strong-willed child, he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a millions-strong network of activists who are united by a belief that India should be a Hindu nation and that minorities, including 180 million Muslims, should accept Hindu hegemony.

Indeed, some go further. A report in India’s Caravan magazine claimed that Yadavrao Joshi, leader of the RSS in southern India, had told a training camp of volunteers in the early 1970s that once the RSS was strong enough, they would tell Muslims and Christians “that if you want to live in India and if you love this country, you accept that some generations earlier you were Hindus and come back to the Hindu fold.”

At that time, a 30-something Modi was rising through RSS ranks. He rose far and fast, displaying a ferocious temper and a desire to dominate and an equally ferocious work ethic and ability for efficiency. The latter propelled him upward, until he was the main liaison between the RSS and the party closest to it — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), now the ruling party. Modi was often on TV as India and Pakistan clashed over the territory of Kashmir, which both nations claim. His rhetoric was strongly anti-Pakistani and anti-Muslim.

In 2001, Modi was chosen by the RSS to stand for election as chief minister of Gujarat. He says that he was reluctant at first, citing an absence of six years from his native state. Others say he lobbied hard for the job. In either case, it was the RSS that put him there and which, reportedly, still sees him as its man. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS leader, was quoted last August saying that “Modi is the only person who has remained rooted in the RSS ideology.”

It stretches credibility to believe that Modi will set out to be a divisive leader. He has too many issues in front of him to seek to alienate more than 14 percent of his people. But events beyond his control may push him that way.

The fact that economic improvement will be delayed and may hardly come at all for most of the poor may mean that populist anti-Muslim rhetoric from Modi allies may be used to retain support for the prime minister. It may not come from him and it may even be against his wishes. But it will possibly come from his friends and allies.

Nationalism, if directed at popular hate figures, usually works well, at least for a while. It may become newly-elected Prime Minister Modi’s most obvious temptation. Can he, after a lifetime of encouraging nationalism as an activist, resist it as a national leader?

PHOTO: Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi (wearing a garland), the prime ministerial candidate for India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), gestures to his supporters outside party’s headquarters in New Delhi May 17, 2014.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Modi’s inauguration would be held Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

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Summary:
• Interpreting the national constitution
• Preserving European constitutional heritage and ensuring the passage
of constitutional legal succession
• Legislative assembly right to exchange with the executive branch with delegated legislation
• Upper chamber electoral commission survey’s of opposition parties to test democratic consent
• Legal Succession & social responsibility: Adjudicating on the unconstitutional legality of executive branch
actions. The Consultative Constitution Council with judicial oversight of economic law and social policy.

The European tradition is able to provide a constitutional guard based on its own founding principles to support an open, democratic justice system to safeguard human rights and civil liberties.
We should ask ourselves how our vision in a time of austerity is compatible with the accountability and compliance demands of a modern working democracy of 21st century Europe?
The upper chamber has full discretion to adjudicate on the legality of any executive branch decision except for the very narrow category of “acts of constitution”. The upper chamber’s major rulings are collected into law reports and commented on by a Council of Experts. A deliberative body of legal scholars that is charged with electing and removing the Consultative Council of Jurists, the Head of State, and supervising his activities in addition to acting as an electoral council for democratic consent.
All candidates of parliamentary elections, as well as candidates for the Council of Experts, have to be qualified by the Constitution Council in order to run in the election. The Council is accorded “supervision of elections.
In the interest of public responsibility we must ensure an executive branch committee of jurists, the Consultative Council of Jurists, fulfills its responsibility under the direction and public scrutiny of parliament as an upper chamber representative committee and court of law with full judicial authority in the executive branch of parliament. The representative, upper chamber Consultative Council of Jurists aims to provide upper chamber delegated constitutional judicial authority and legal advise to the executive branch, adjudicating on the unconstitutional legality of executive branch actions – legal oversight of economic law and social policy that can act as government social responsibility, the integrity of legal development that seeks to enter the public space.
A constitutional court that deals primarily law, the main authority is on whether or not laws that are challenged are in fact unconstitutional through legislastive ‘upper house’ branch case orders whether or not they conflict with constitutionally established rights and freedoms.
It is a fundamental principle of democracy that no-one shall be above the law, including the executive branch charged with the implementation of laws. In the interest of public safety we must provide a constitutional guard based on our own founding principles to support a transparent, fair and open justice system and ensure national interest does not supersede our constitutional principles.

Shaheeb Inayat Sher

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