Open Letter to Narendra Modi by a Journalist of French origin

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. (Photo: PTI)

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Many of us believe that you need to be re-elected for a second term, even a third term, and that with an absolute majority. Why? Firstly because you are the first Indian Prime Minister who demonstrated simultaneously while at work several qualities: total non-corruption, both for yourself and your party, devotion to Mother India with a dose of great nationalism, a quality that most PM’s missed; no favour for your family, as we witnessed in the case of the Congress’ Robert Vadra (we know that your brother still runs a ration shop in Gujarat and you mother lives a simple life); and above all, hard work: 18 hours a day, something that your predecessor, Manmohan Singh, seemed to have missed.

Secondly, you require an absolute majority so that you can implement crucial reforms that India needs so badly, if it wants to move forward as a superpower on par with China. Constitutional reforms for instance: your country wastes incredible amounts of time and money on endless elections and politicians cannot work for the people, because they always have an eye on the next elections. Thus, at least central and state elections need to happen simultaneously. India also still functions in a Raj-like system, with a president and governors who have no power, but cost enormously to the exchequer both in manpower and budget. A parliamentary system, with an elected President, who nominates his or her Prime Minister from amongst the majority party, is thus a must.  Education too, Sir, a subject you did not dare to touch, during this mandate – but schools and universities still teach a totally westernized curriculum, which does not impart any pride to be an Indian and produces clones good for export – the biggest brain drain in the world.

This said, Mr Prime Minister, it unfortunately looks to me and few others, who have an ear on the ground, that at the moment, no doubt the BJP is going to win the elections – but with a reduced majority that could lead to a collation government, where you will have your hands tied and will spend most of your time firefighting allies and their egoistical demands.

What are the reasons for this somewhat pessimistic view? Firstly, the GST (Goods and Services Tax). No doubt the GST was a much needed reform and it is no more exorbitant than, say, in France my country, where the TVA tax is quite similar. Yet, India being such a huge and complicated country, it has created a nightmare for small people, who can’t afford accountants and who have been accustomed not to pay any taxes. This may cost the BJP millions of votes. The Demonetization was also a bold and indispensable reform, but people in India have been accustomed to cheat, from the richest, who hoard black money, to the rickshawallah who still refuses to turn his meter on. There is resentment there too amongst the rural people, who do not always grasp all the important tasks that you have done during your mandate, in terms of economic, social and foreign policies: all they see are their troubles and the fact that you did little for the Hindus who have elected you.

Indeed, let’s talk about that, Mr Modi. You were elected in 2014 with a united Hindu vote, from the Dalit to the Brahmin. The Congress or Mrs Mamata Banerjee have shown us that once in power, they cater to the people who brought them there — in case of Mrs Banerjee, the important Muslim minority of West Bengal. Since the beginning of your mandate, Sir, you had a very laudable will to be the Prime Minister of ALL Indians and you went out of your way to prove it. But the Hindus who elected you, saw with dismay that nothing was done for them. They were aghast for instance at the Ayyappa episode – and your silence: How can the Supreme Court of India tamper with the religious beliefs of Hindus, whether Ayyappa, Holi colors, Jallikattu etc, but dare not touch those of the Muslims, Sikhs or Christians?  Hindu temples are still under government control with priests in Karnataka being paid Rs 400 a month, whereas churches and mosques are free of any government interference. Why could you not do something about that? Hindus also realized that the BJP putting its faith in the Supreme Court to build the Ayodhya Ram Mandir (Temple), or to remove Article 35A from Kashmir, was either a great stupidity, or a way of avoiding taking a decision on what you had pledged during the 2014 campaign. Hindus find it a one-way traffic that they cannot own land or open commerce in Kashmir, while Kashmiri Muslims have taken the souvenir trade all over India, even though they do not feel they belong to India.

Furthermore, the Congress has skillfully used Negationism to darken your good deals. Belgium Indologist Koenraad Elst defined very well what is Negationism: ‘Negate truth, as many times as possible, even if it is outrageous, until it puts doubt in people’s minds’. In my humble opinion, the Congress has employed skilfully and efficiently negationism in cases of the Rafale and the Balakot airstrike. Most of us, when you announced the Rafale deal in Paris, thought it was a brilliant stroke, absolutely above board, but after so many stories, counter-stories, denials, counter-denials, doubt has crept in the minds of many and the Congress certainly has gained quite a few points. The same is true of Balakot airstrikes: it appears to me that much of the glow and national pride that rose immediately after the strike, has diffused, and people have given some credibility to an often hostile western and even to the Indian media and their satellite photos. Again you have lost ground amongst the Hindus there.

Also – and it has been said before – Rahul Gandhi’s ‘soft Hindutva approach’ has borne fruits and many innocent Hindus think not only that Rahul Gandhi is a Hindu (whereas he is a baptized catholic, as his sister) but even that he is related to the Mahatma Gandhi.

I am not sure either about the alliance which you cobbled: the AIADMK is rudderless and people of Tamil Nadu have always shown a preference for charismatic leaders, such as Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi – and for the moment the only one visible is Karunanidhi’s son, Stalin, whose party may better the AIADMK in the elections. As for the others, we do know how small parties in India get power disproportionate to their elected MPs, thanks to a flawed electoral system.

And lastly, something that most political observers have overlooked: Mr Modi, it seems to me that you have not been able to break away from the shackles created by seven decades of Congress Central rule. Seven rings of VVIP security, seven layers of bureaucrats – no doubt intelligent, polished, nice men and women for many of them, but who have a Nehruvian bent of mind and to whom you have listened too long and too much; a Judiciary, which remains in the hands of the Congress and in whom you have put your faith to build the Ayodhya Ram temple you promised in 2014. And this Race Course Road residence which is both a fortress and a golden jail.

Dear Prime Minister, the paradox, as a result of all this, is that there are many areas which functioned better under the Congress than under your Government! The Swachh Bharat was an inspired and essential reform too – but the tendency to cheat is still too ingrained in your people – and contractors paid by the Government to collect and sort the trash, dump it at night in deserted places – the Kanakapura road, for instance, near Sri Sri’s Ashram in Bangalore, or in Auroville near Pondichery. Many places and cities in India are as dirty as ever, dirtier even, and you get to see only sanitized places, where everything has been cleaned beforehand (I believe Banares (Varanasi) is the exception). Banking has become even more difficult, particularly for foreigners and it is practically impossible, even with a one year visa, to open a savings bank account. Visas that you wanted to liberalize, are a nightmare: the BJP Govt made stringent rules against Christian missionaries and hostile NGOs which were warranted. But the lower bureaucracy and the old style Nehruvian immigration officials have applied them to ALL foreigners. I know of a lady who speaks fluent Sanskrit and is an expert on the Vedas, who has been blacklisted for giving an online course to six people on the Vedas and has been separated from her two small children for 2 months. I know of young boys born in India, married to Indians, who were on the point of getting their OCIs (Overseas Citizenship of India) who were also blacklisted by the Foreign Registration Officer of Chennai and are now separated from their wives. I know of the rudeness of the Chennai Immigration officers, who grill foreigners for hours as if they are criminals…

In conclusion, one of the first tasks for you in your next term, should be to decentralize the government away from Delhi. As a preamble, you should move your government periodically to other places of India: Bombay, Chennai, Dehradun, for example, so that you can again listen to the aspirations of your people. Ideally, like the British did in 1911, shifting the capital from Kolkata to Delhi, you should build an entire new capital in the Center of India, Indore or Pune for instance (the Pakistanis did it, so why not India?). This is will break the huge bureaucratic hold that is still resisting all your reforms and give a new impetus to a novel government. But for that you need to be re-elected with the same majority than in 2014.

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