Growing communal tensions and intolerance are undermining the credibility of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his reform plans and blocking the much-needed foreign investments, a leading economic analysis group has warned.
A report by Moody’s Analytics has squarely blamed members of Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Hindu fringe groups for creating communal strife through their provocative acts and comments.
“While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalist gibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions,” the group said. “Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility.”
The comments by Moody’s Analytics, a research division of the corporation that operates a separate credit rating agency, assume significance as India is eyeing 7.5 growth rate a larger role in the United Nations.
While Modi, after taking office in May 2014, remained largely apolitical, party members kept hogging headlines with their provocative speeches to please hard-line Hindu groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Modi shocked even his staunch supporters with his prolonged silence when he was supposed to admonish errant senior party leaders.
One recent case related to the killing of a senior Muslim citizen in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri village for allegedly eating beef when many BJP-ruled states have banned its consumption on religious grounds.
Another Muslim, a legislator of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, was attacked for organizing a party in which beef was served.
Instead of tendering apology, BJP workers were gloating over such acts. One BJP lawmaker, Sakshi Maharaj, went to the extent of saying that party workers are ready to kill and get killed for cows.
It took Modi three weeks to break his silence on the subject. And the comment was mild. He said the killing of the Muslim was “sad and undesirable”.
The dispute over beef continued when Delhi police, based on a tip-off from a Hindu Sena leader, raided the Kerala House, the state guest house of Kerala government, to check if beef was being served in its canteen. Beef is banned in restaurants in Delhi.
Although the beef row was resolved with the timely intervention of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the arrests of Hindu Sena chief Vishu Gupta and his aide Mohit Rajput, the incident left a bad taste in people’s mouths.
These incidents served as a catalyst for the intelligentsia who were already upset with the murder of Dr MM Kalburgi, a Kannada writer, scholar and rationalist in August this year. It was the third instance in two years where a rationalist author has been killed for his views.
The past few weeks have witnessed writers, filmmakers, scientists and historians returning their various government awards to protest against “rising intolerance.”
However, Hindu hardliners like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) say these creative minds are driven by “their own political agenda” the party cannot be used as their “punching bag”.
“These so-called intellectuals have been ignored by the public for some time and their frustration has prompted them to perform such publicity gimmicks. They’re finding themselves misfits in the new order, as the country has stopped listening to their views. In a bid to remain in the national debate, they’ve resorted to the idea of returning awards,” said Dattatreya Hosabale, joint secretary of RSS.
While the acts of Hindu fringe groups backing Modi’s party seem to give a bad name to the country, the prime minister is project to give a brave new image of the country by cultivating a relationship with people in the Silicon Valley.
Moody’s report, titled ‘India Outlook: Searching for Potential’ and written by Sydney-based economist Faraz Syed, says India’s growth rate of 7.3% in September was “below potential” and the country’s exports could be hurt by a slowdown in global demand.
It also noted that India’s stock market, which boomed on excitement over Modi’s victory, has fallen 11% because of the government’s “consistent failure to deliver key economic reforms.”
The world is awaiting the results of Bihar elections seen as a referendum on the Modi government.