Modi controlled India: Shouldn’t a democratically elected Prime Minister be held more accountable?

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In recent years I have been continually witnessing and reading about the intolerance and hate politics of the Modi government and its passionate supporters. Despite being aware of the government’s track record of silencing criticism, I was still utterly shocked when the Enforcement Directorate froze the accounts of Amnesty International in India last month. This forced the global human rights group to shut down all work in the country. It is difficult for me to fathom that this is what it has come to and that this is the state of the political system and ethos in India. 

This aggression towards Amnesty came just a few weeks after it produced reports critical of the government’s actions. According to Amnesty, the current government has, in one form or another, been after them for quite some years now. The government’s stated reason for blocking Amnesty was its foreign source of funding which made it an international entity and therefore apparently not qualifying to interfere in domestic matters. 

But this is not an isolated problem. In the country now, any form of criticism towards the serving government, journalistic or otherwise, has no space. The much larger issue is that debates and discussions rarely cross the boundaries set by politicians. Both critics and supporters tend to bark at each other about previous governance records, losing focus on the current situation completely – as if past injustices and misgovernance by other political parties serve as a justification for current violations by their own side. 

One of the greatest losses in the country has to do with accountability. The notion of accountability has narrowed down to only include elections, assuming that elections remain a fair play. It is becoming acceptable to think of accountability as an event occurring once in five years. What about the five years of serving? Shouldn’t a leader of a ‘democratic’ nation be accountable in more ways than that? One would think that. But the current Prime Minister has managed to evade it quite successfully. 

The way Narendra Modi operates is that his communications are strictly one-way. This means he never opens himself to any real questioning. He speaks at the citizens, not with them. Even during the past six months of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, he only addressed the nation as it suited him, making these one-directional speeches. He never himself appeared at press conferences to answer to his policies or actions, having proxies in the form of other ministers. The fact that it is common knowledge that he has not given a single proper interview or held an open press conference since he took power, and that people find that acceptable, is worrying to me. 

On 8th October, the PM tweeted out saying India is a “vibrant democracy”. Well, day after day that is becoming more and more untrue. I am not ready to accept that an election makes a democracy. It is what comes after the election that should be the decider. Right now, India is being ruled by an authoritarian being supported by a fairly massive electorate. I guess that makes the whole situation sadder. For change to occur, there needs to be more than change in government. There needs to be a rethinking of our political aspirations as beings. We shouldn’t settle for a leader who is not accountable to the people he was elected to serve. This we must remember not just for any elections to come but, for those periods in-between them. We deserve more and so we should demand more from our leaders.   

I named this piece “Modi-controlled India” as opposed to the usual “Modi-led India” because I do not believe he is really ‘leading’. If he is leading us anywhere, it is towards intolerance and internal hatred. To really lead, one needs to listen and be accountable to the ones being led. That is not the case sadly. He and any leaders who replace him, need to be held accountable.

Manasa Narayanan

Featured Image Source: WikiMedia Commons