May 18, 2014


What Does A Modi Win Mean? (DAVID DANELO, May 15, 2014, American Interest)

The powerful Indian nationalist sentiment Modi has tapped into draws upon allegiances and ties some Americans might find troubling. At a May 8 BJP rally in Varanasi, Modi honored a 115 year old Indian colonel who served under Subhash Chandra Bose in the Indian National Army (INA). Known to most Indians as Netaji, Bose was recognized by the Axis Powers during World War II as India's rightful government, whose support he sought against the British to help India achieve independence. INA soldiers fought alongside the Japanese against the British in the Burma campaign, were defeated, and 300 officers were tried for treason. In August 1945, Netaji (Bose) died in a plane crash in Japanese-occupied Taiwan.

Outside of India, the INA's legacy has been mostly forgotten. But within the country--and especially among India's rising business titans--Netaji is revered. "I believe India would have been a powerful exporter much before China if only Netaji had a front seat in our policy making along with (Jawaharlal) Nehru," said Infosys Technologies founder Narayana Murthy at Netaji's 114th birthday celebration. "Netaji was one of the most courageous leaders in India."

It is the name absent from that list which speaks loudest. Mahatma Gandhi, whom many Americans see as India's most important founding father, does not command the same respect throughout his country. Although Gandhi's 1948 assassination inspired national mourning, it was sponsored by the Hindu Mahasabha, the spiritual and political forerunner to the BJP. The conspirators saw killing Gandhi as a necessary evil, believing his policies would destroy India. In the Hindu nationalist view, although Gandhi led a powerful nonviolent resistance movement, he was responsible for giving away Pakistan, setting India on a ruinous economic course, and promoting the country's cultural division into 22 official languages.

Although Gandhi had few good options for evicting the British and uniting India, Hindu nationalists believe his nonviolence and socialism were fine for spirituality but had no place in statecraft. Ironically, this makes Modi the Mahatma's antithesis and populist successor. Like Gandhi, Modi's charismatic patriotism, austere lifestyle and disciplined leadership have won India's trust. But Modi's conservative policies run contrary to the socialist Congress, and thus the vote is a clear mandate for change. "He is our Obama..."

Posted by at May 18, 2014 4:03 PM

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