The Inevitability in Politics: Modi’s Rise to Power

Prasanth Aby Thomas
Published: September 2014

These are interesting times in India. We have a brand new government with a brand conscious prime minister. If there was ever a time Indians have felt that they have a prime minister who can grab attention if he walks into a room filled with dignitaries, it is now. The last time we almost felt this way was when the late Rajeev Gandhi took the reins, but he, although was a great leader with the charm to grab headlines in the West, was a poor politician, and his untimely death denied him any chance to further reiterate his presence.

Narendra Modi, however, has shown an uncanny ability to be both a politician and a ruthless taskmaster. Such a rare combination was what India desperately needed at the moment, and I say this despite a large majority worrying over the fate of a secular nation. So am I not concerned that a BJP government might alter the secularist character of this country? Yes, I am, but if you examine history, some things are unavoidable for human beings to survive, and it is time we as a nation grew out of the clutches of religion.

To explain my point further let’s take two countries as examples. The United Kingdom and South Korea. The former, having ruled over us for about two hundred years, shared similarities with us in political and social systems, at least till about late seventies. That is when Margaret Thatcher, fondly called the ‘Iron Lady’ of the United Kingdom became the Prime Minister and brought in a style of administration that was ruthless and uncompromising.

Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Finchley in 1959.Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975, Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition and became the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.

Upon taking the Prime Minister’s office, Thatcher introduced a series of political and economic initiatives intended to reverse high unemployment and Britain’s struggles in the wake of the Winter of Discontent and an ongoing recession. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Thatcher’s popularity during her first years in office waned amid recession and high unemployment until the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her re-election in 1983.

It would be no exaggeration to suggest that if it were not for Thatcher, England would have been nothing but erstwhile empire reduced to rubble by chaotic politics. If you think on it a bit, India is at a similar point when Thatcher took over United Kingdom. Our politicians are power hungry, cannot agree on even the simplest of issues and have no intention of working towards the common good of the nation. This is where we need a leader who can be an uncompromising taskmaster who can rule with an iron fist.

The second example I am going to present here is a bit more controversial, but none less relevant. In 1961 South Korea got a new leader, Park Chung-hee. It was under his regime that this small Asian country developed its economy to become one of the most developed countries in Asia.

Born into a poor Yangban family at a time when Korea was under Japanese rule, Park originally served with the Japanese collaborationist Manchukuo Imperial Army. He was recognized as a talented officer and selected for service with the Imperial Japanese Army’s elite Kwantung Army group during World War II. After the war, Park entered the service of the Republic of Korea Army. Over the course of the Korean War, he rose to the rank of brigadier general in 1953. In 1960, he became Chief of the Operations Staff of the ROK Army. A year later, in 1961, Park led the group of officers who orchestrated the coup that ushered in nearly three decades of military rule in South Korea. This period witnessed rapid economic growth in South Korea and marked the foundation for the nation’s development to what it is today.

However, his authoritarian rule saw numerous human rights abuses. Opinion is thus split regarding his legacy between those who credit Park for his reforms and those who condemn his authoritarian way of ruling the country, especially after 1971. Of course, such atrocities that were seen during the period were also a result of the post-World War II mentality and the system of politics in South Korea. The world has become a lot matured since then and it would be illogical to assume that any Indian administration would resort to drastic human rights violations. However, I would like to bring your attention to the stern positions these leaders have taken.

I am not, in any sense, desensitised to the fears of minority communities while Modi is in power. In fact, I shall not even pretend that there the worries of minority communities are based on nothing. But what I shall reiterate is that the arrival of Modi was an inevitable development for us, history has seen solutions come out of chaos and Modi was just a natural outcome of the situation.