"It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it."
That is the number of Indian Rupees one US dollar will fetch you at the time of this writing. This figure is the weakest the Indian Rupee has been since September 2013 - a month during the UPA government's final death rasps - and, if basic extrapolation is any guide, the Rupee is set to be even weaker at the end of this week.
While there are multiple reasons for this drop in value (simply blaming Narendra Modi is as stupid as simply crediting him alone for all economic gains), this episode provides us a gateway into a lesson on how dangerous the lack of accountability in Modi's government truly is and how blinding his cocktail of nationalism and economic paradise has become for his ardent followers, or "bhakts" as the internet lovingly calls them.
In August 2013, as the Indian Rupee fell in value under the UPA government, Narendra Modi and the BJP spared no time to capitalise on the ruling party's failure. Sushma Swaraj - currently sitting as Foreign Minister - tweeted that the Indian Rupee had lost it's value, and the Prime Minister (Oxford trained Dr. Singh) had lost his "grace", and Modi himself tweeted that the Rupee's value had exceeded the age of the then incumbent Finance Minister - Harvard trained Dr. Chidambaram.
Fast forward a few months and we find Modi tooting the horn of economic development and progress (as so many politicians have) as he campaigns to be the nation's next Prime Minister. His loyal hordes look to him as some kind of divine entity - free of corruption and free of flaw. Modi promises to increase the value of the Rupee to points that the UPA could never achieve (It's important to know that the UPA did maintain the rupee at 45 to the dollar in 2011).
Modi's followers claim loudly that we are on track to a future where one rupee would equal one dollar, and squash any rational criticism of Modi's over-the-top promises.
"The fact remains that, contrary to the beliefs of Modi's almost crazed devotees (some even built a temple which housed his bust) Modi is not divine. There are many flaws within the man who is our Prime Minister. "
Fast forward to today, as the Rupee sinks to it's lowest value since the drop in which Modi compared the rupee's value to the FM's age, and we face the same situation - any critique of Modi, any slight questioning of his accountability, any unflattering whisper is bashed to pieces by his followers and dismissed as being the words of "Mullas", "Presstitutes", or "Sickulars" (you have to give credit to Modi's followers - they are the creative type of bullies.)
But the hard fact remains that, contrary to the beliefs of Modi's almost crazed devotees (some even built a temple which housed his bust) Modi is not divine. There are many flaws within the man who is our Prime Minister, and it is our democratic duty to point out these flaws, regardless of who leads the country.
Dr. Singh was too lenient to corruption, Modi is too lenient to militant Hinduism. Dr Singh was not a powerful orator, Modi is not using his powerful oratory to end the horrific treatment of Indian women. There are always pros and cons - this is a democratic axiom.
In a previous article, I referred to Modi as India's best shot for growth while simultaneously reminding the reader that there were many mistakes committed by his government. This is the definition of rational democratic thought - to be able to weigh our leaders for their merits and demerits and not blindly pledge allegiance to them for a few noteworthy merits while completely shutting our eyes off to any demerits. We don't live under an autocracy, and we certainly don't have a constitution that prohibits freedom of speech, so why do we allow ourselves to be bullied into not criticising the man whose actions will determine the fate of a billion Indians?
"We don't live under an autocracy, and we certainly don't have a constitution that prohibits freedom of speech, so why do we allow ourselves to be bullied into not criticising the man whose actions will determine the fate of a billion Indians?"
It's a shame that we live in a democratic country where the fundamental democratic right of being able to admire and criticise a leader at the same time is either not understood by most Indians or actively oppressed by Modi's followers' incendiary passions. As Dr. B.R. Ambedkar once noted, "Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic."
Dr. Ambedkar's words echo through history and reach us at a time when we need them the most. It is time we criticise Modi for his failings as much as we pat him on the back for his successes. Modi is no God. He is flesh and blood like the rest of us and makes the mistakes that all of us are capable of making.
Modi's mortality is a product of the democratic rights that our constitution provides to us. It's high time that we employ those rights to shatter the façade of Modi's divinity and function as a mature democracy that doesn't smother its leaders with unconditional love, but acts prudently and criticises when necessary.
To err is indeed human, and it's time both Modi's opponents and admirers understand that democracy is built on an equilibrium of both of their contributions. A democracy built on unrelenting criticism plunges into civil war, and one built on sycophancy plunges into dictatorship, and if there's anything we Indians are talented at, it's haggling to reach an equilibrium.