If Not Modi then Who?

The Indian Parliamentary election for the next five years is on. The present Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is battling hard for his reelection. All opposition parties are united against his government to combat the kind of polarization that Modi and Shah (BJP national president) are spreading in India with the support of their ideological backers RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). The main opposition party Congress is resurgent, winning three major Hindi heartland states in recent state elections, after touching its nadir in 2014 parliamentary election.

Narendra Modi has to battle a hard reelection bid because of dismal performance of his government in last five years on all the fronts, especially on the economic front. His immature half baked policies like demonetization and GST have devastated the economy. Unemployment is highest in last 45 years. Just after demonetization 5 million people lost their jobs. The informal sector, which is the backbone of the Indian economy, is in tatters. The rural farm sector is facing tremendous stress due to which farmer suicides are increasing day by day. Most of his pet welfare policies are not working on the ground. Amidst all these, the Pulwama terror attack has come as a godsend for Modi. Modi has now made ‘nationalism’ and ‘Hindutva’ his core agenda in the on-going election totally forgetting the “development (vikas)” agenda of 2014. Before the Pulwama attack and the following events, Modi’s ratings were dipping rapidly and most of the polls were showing him losing his majority and probably the election too. The terror attack has given Modi a chance to deflect peoples’ attention from the dismal performance of his government.

Notwithstanding the attempts of Modi and his BJP party to deflect voters’ attention from the crucial economic issues, many voters, who previously voted for Modi, are weary of his candidacy in this election. These voters are facing a dilemma between Modi and his alternative candidates. They are in a state of mental deadlock. On one side they know the reality of Modi’s dismal performance but on the other side they are not sure about other alternatives too. They are asking questions like, if not Modi then who?

But is this a right question to ask during this election season? Are voters really facing a choice between Narendra Modi vs. Congress’s Rahul Gandhi or united opposition’s Mamta Banerjee or Mayawati or someone else? Voters are making a big mistake by getting trapped into this type of questioning. This question is a useless question. This question is set by the state officials, from this or that political party, who are in power ruling over people since 1947. This question is a narrative set by the State officials for the people so that they do not ask correct questions which can lead them to the real alternative choice.

The real question that people should be asking is: Whether they want a Big government (no matter ruled by which party) OR a Small or non-existent government which allows freedom so that people can make their own destiny according to their merits and talents. This question will determine Indians’ future, and not whether Modi comes to power or Rahul Gandhi or Mamta Banerjee or Mayawati or some tom dick and harry. Why this is so? Let’s see.

Historically the state came into existence to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens so that they can progress without harming each other. The role of the state is that of a ‘protector of the private property rights’ of its citizens. It basically is a negative role. This idea of the ‘night watchman (chowkidar)’ state is fundamentally flawed because the basis of existence of the state itself is taxation and taxation means forcefully taking away the fruits of labor (property) of people, which constitutes a violation of their private property rights. The whole concept of a ‘property rights violating property rights protector’ is contradictory in nature. But just for the sake of argument, at the least, if we continue to believe that this ‘private property rights protection’ is the original and only function of the state and its government then the question that I asked in the beginning of previous paragraph becomes fundamental. As I said above, the real choice is between: A Big intrusive government which controls everything vs. a Small government which allows more freedom and violates few rights of people!  This is that fabled choice between the lesser evils!

Theory and history both clearly tell us that wherever we find a small government with little taxes and regulations and other kinds of control, we find people flourishing and progress happening on a large scale e.g., the 18th and 19th century Britain or United States of America or Post WW II Germany or Post Maoist China of Deng Xiaoping or today’s smaller states like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea etc. A big totalitarian authoritarian welfare warfare government has always stifled progress of people.

So this election season the real choice that Indians are facing is between these two lesser evils: Big government vs. Small government. Now which party and which leader provides these two types of governments is immaterial. If the government is going to remain very small and an insignificant part of the society then Indians will flourish and progress, but if the government is going to be a big ever intrusive one then the future of Indians is very grim. If Indians vote for a big totalitarian authoritarian welfare warfare government then they should forget about any better future for themselves. For a better future they must first know and understand this real choice facing them and do not allow themselves to be trapped by the state narrative of Modi vs. Who?

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