India’s recent election – which brought Narendra Modi to power with a great majority – is clearly an important if not epoch-making event in the history of the country. It may be the most important shift in Indian politics and national thinking since India’s independence from the British in 1947.
Modi’s election brings much hope, and a real movement for positive change and development in India after many years. It raises the possibility that India may soon reclaim its rightful position in the world as a major global power worthy of respect. After all, India is one of the largest countries in the world in terms of land and population, and one of the oldest and greatest of all civilizations, particularly relative to yoga and higher consciousness.
The Inertia of the last Sixty Years
Up to this election of 2014, India has been largely run by the same political groups and according to the same policies as took power after 1947 under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru. The country has since been looking back at 1947 as defining the nation, its leaders and its aspirations.
India has been primarily under the rule of one political party, the Congress Party of Nehru and his family descendants. This includes the last ten years of the Manmohan Singh administration, during which Sonia Gandhi controlled the government from behind the scenes. Though there have been periods of other party rule in India, these were either short in duration or occurred under unwieldy coalition governments that inhibited dramatic changes in national policies.
The India government has functioned largely as a dynasty run by aristocratic elites residing mainly in Delhi, much like the old British in manners and life-style, aiming first to maintain their own power and affluence. Gandhi and Nehru have remained the dominant names of the leadership, with the Nehru family asserting a dynastic right to rule, up to its recent promotion of Rahul Gandhi (Nehru’s great grandson, son of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi) as the heir apparent.
Since independence, India has also been dominated by Nehruvian socialist and populist policies that promised much but delivered little, just as occurred with other socialist regimes in the world, like Eastern Europe during the Soviet Era. Under the guise of helping the poor, the country overall remained poor. Politicians doled out rewards for voters at election times in order to get their votes, but during their terms in office did little to improve the lives of the common man and instead used their authority for their own benefit and that of their cohorts.
Entrenched bureaucracies made doing any business difficult, not only for foreign investors but also for Indians in their own country. The government was large in size and numbers but small in effectiveness, with various departments, committees and commissions inhibiting policy implementation, giving rise to delay and corruption.
It is true that there has been some important economic liberalization in recent years in India that we must acknowledge. But this has reluctantly followed global trends, not taken a strong lead in any area. And over the last five years of Manmohan Singh/Sonia Gandhi rule, economic liberalization was reduced in favor of the old socialist and populist policies, promoting new schemes to massively increase welfare spending while again putting economic development again in the background. Such policies have not yet unleashed the real economic might of the country and have kept it under the shadow of the past.
Under the guise of maintaining social harmony, there was a development of divisive vote banks based upon family, caste, and social divisions. Under the guise of promoting secularism, there was also a division of the country along religious lines and a favoring of minorities. This left Indians with little sense of national unity or common identity. It resulted in a proliferation of regional parties in the national parliament, which promoted their own regional interests over national concerns, with a central dynasty in Delhi as the overseeing power, doling out favorites to its regional allies.
Narendra Modi won the recent May election with a majority greater than any election since 1984 thirty years ago. His own party, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), has a majority on its own, to which can be added many seats from a number of allies. This means that Modi is now in a clear position to make definitive changes in the country and provide a firm leadership that will not be easy to compromise.
Voters soundly rejected the old era and its dynastic leaders. Most notably, the youth voted strongly in Modi’s favor, highlighting the break with the past and showing where they see their future. Hindus who were previously ashamed of their religion or taking any pride in it at a national level, came to realize that a proud Hindu can lead India just as the leaders of other countries do not have to hide their religious identities in order to be regarded as fit to rule.
The rejection of the Congress party was so great, they failed to gain even the ten percent of the seats in parliament necessary to function as the leader of the opposition. Whether Congress can come back as a major party remains in doubt, particularly with many of its leaders facing corruption probes. Rahul Gandhi, their heir apparent, failed so badly in the elections and interviews that he has been reduced to almost a comic figure.
Under the new government in 2014, the country is perhaps for the first time strongly looking ahead and developing a future vision as a unified country. There is a new sense of national identity above regional interests. The country has a clear leader who is willing to assume full responsibility, a stark contrast to the shadow government of recent years.
Simple matters like infrastructure that should have been among the first concerns of the country in 1947 may finally receive proper consideration. Unnecessary regulations and red tape is being removed. Developing jobs has become the main concern, not simply increasing welfare spending.
And who is Narendra Modi, the dominant person behind India’s recent metamorphosis? Modi is not the usual Delhi based politician. He derives from a poor backward caste background, not the schools of the West, yet is still remarkably well-educated and aware at a global level. He knows much more about India, its traditions and its peoples than previous leaders. He is strongly rooted in India’s spiritual and yogic ethos. He was a wandering sadhu or yogi when young, affiliated with the Ramakrishna order. He is a strict vegetarian, practices Yoga and meditation, and has published a book of poetry. He regularly visits important Hindu temples and Hindu religious leaders of various persuasions.
Though India became independent politically in 1947, its educational system and media has remained dominated by British and Socialist thinking that felt little affinity with the older traditions of the country or its spiritual heritage. Marxists have routinely written the textbooks of India in their favor, as if Karl Marx was among the most important figures in its history. Today in 2014, Modi represents perhaps for the first time an Indian leader of India and shows that the country has gone beyond the mindset of the colonial era as well.
Modi is well known for effectively using the social media and for promoting economic development, modern education and sound business policies in the country. His theme is “modernization without westernization,” showing that the key to India’s revival resides in its own people and culture taking up the tools of the modern age, not merely in imitating the West.
Modi represents a proud modern Hindu who shows how the latest trends in science, business and education can be integrated into a Hindu way of life. Modi’s rise parallels and complements that of immigrant Hindus throughout the world in recent decades, notably in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Hindus have been quite successful in western cointries, without having to give up their culture or spiritual traditions. The tolerance, adaptability and universality inherent in Hindu thought contributes to this.
The election similarly marks a great transformation for Modi himself, from an almost global pariah last year to now one of the world’s most sought after leaders. Modi was criticized for many years for his alleged involvement with the Godhra riots that occurred shortly after the beginning of his first rule as chief minister of the state of Gujarat in 2002. Though all these allegations have been thrown out by the courts, certain vested interests and anti-Hindu forces tried to promote them in the global media as facts.
Fortunately western governments and their leaders today are now beginning to recognize the importance of Modi and working with the new India under his rule. Prior to Modi, India’s leaders were hardly noticed at global events or by the global media. Modi has now been given special greetings by the leaders of the US, UK, Germany, Brazil, Russia, China, and even Pakistan, to mention only a few, who are now looking at India with greater respect.
From Obama to Putin, Modi has been the subject of honor and praise and marking of a new era in relations with India. Why the sudden shift? Because India finally has a leader that is intelligent, decisive and forward-looking, allowing the country to speak with a single voice. Through Modi, India already commands a new presence and power in the world that is likely to grow steadily in years to come.
2014 should mark the start of India’s rise on the global stage after centuries in the background under foreign rule or bad economic policies. This new era combines pride in India’s heritage along with the adaptation of the tools of modern technology to raise the country. The most well known Indian today is now Narendra Modi, no longer the older figures of the independence era.
Sri Aurobindo, one of the greatest yogis and independence leaders of modern India, stated that it was India’s place to once more become the guru among nations, reflecting its ancient rule during its classical era in which Hindu and Buddhist teachings spread throughout Asia. That may yet become a reality in coming years as we also see India based Yoga and meditation teachings spreading throughout the world.