400+ is a Jumla; Modi Can’t Secure Third Term, Says Economist Parakala Prabhakar

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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s husband calls Prime Minister Modi “crazily incompetent” and a “dictator.” His critical remarks on Modi and the BJP have gained a lot of attention.

Abdul Bari Masoud | Clarion India

NOTED political economist and author, Dr. Parakala Prabhakar, has warned that if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is re-elected in the ensuing Lok Sabha election, the country’s map could change drastically, leading to nationwide turmoil. Glimpses of what would be in store for the country are being seen in Ladakh and Manipur now which are reeling under extreme confusion, uncertainty, and a lack of order.

Dr. Prabhakar also cautions of potential hate speech delivered from the ramparts of the Red Fort if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins a third term.

The writings of Dr. Prabhakar, husband of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, including “The Crooked Timber of New India: Essays on a Republic in Crisis,” and an upcoming book about Modi, highlight his concerns over the current state of Indian democracy.

Born into a political family, Dr. Prabhakar has a background in communications and served as an advisor in the Andhra Pradesh government holding a cabinet rank.

In a conversation with Clarion India, Dr. Prabhakar called Modi “crazily incompetent” and a “dictator.” He blamed Modi’s lack of imagination for the acute poverty in the country. Casting doubt on Modi winning a third term and predicted that the BJP would not win more than 230 seats. His critical remarks on Modi and BJP are gaining attention as elections loom.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Despite your wife holding a key position in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, you have emerged as one of his critics.

A. The past ten years under Modi’s rule have been marked by incompetence, divisiveness, and a widening wealth gap. The Oxfam Report highlighted the stark inequality in India, with many people living in poverty while a small elite gains wealth. Unemployment, inflation, and unrest in regions like Manipur and Ladakh are causing widespread hardship. India’s unemployment rate is comparable to war-torn countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Despite the challenges, Indian youths are still eager to travel abroad for work opportunities. The economy is struggling, and the rise of billionaire Gautam Adani seems to be linked to Modi’s government. Overall, Modi’s leadership has failed to address the country’s pressing issues, leading to increased suffering for many Indians.

Q: How can you call Modi, an elected leader, a “dictator”?

A: The Modi regime is not democratic at all. It is concerning that 145 members of parliament have been suspended in a democracy and that a state like Manipur has been in a state of unrest for nearly a year without much attention from the mainstream media. It is disheartening that the prime minister has not visited the state and that the voices of Manipuris are not being heard. Additionally, the government passing three agricultural laws without proper consultation with farmers is alarming, especially considering that agriculture is the largest sector in the country. The ongoing protests by farmers should be brought to light, as it is a fundamental right in a democratic society. The weakening of democratic ideals and the concentration of power within the ruling BJP is a worrying trend.

Q: What is your take on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi terming the government “Hum do hamare do”—Modi and Shah, Adani and Ambani — running the country?

A: The Modi government is providing five kilograms of grain and two cylinders to the public, while simultaneously allocating six airports and four ports to its associates, particularly Adani.

Q: You described the Electoral Bond Scheme as not just India’s but also the largest scam globally. Would you like to elaborate?

A: It is now widely recognised that electoral bonds are not only the biggest scam in India, but also in the world. The BJP has been the primary beneficiary of these bonds, as shown by data from the Election Commission of India’s official website. One example that highlights the scale of this scam is the case of Kotak Mahindra Bank, which was under investigation for breaching regulations but still managed to give the ruling party Rs 60 crore through electoral bonds. Despite the Reserve Bank of India being an independent body, it was pressured to relax rules in this instance. As awareness of the issue continues to grow, the electoral bonds scandal is likely to become even more prominent in the public eye, potentially leading to repercussions for the current government in future elections.

Q: Earlier, people like you also called demonetisation the biggest scam. What do you say now?

A: Winning an election does not validate the righteousness of actions taken. Any economist familiar with basic economic principles would not have recommended implementing demonetisation on such a large scale and with such haste. This decision was a serious mistake, and the subsequent flawed policies only exacerbated the situation.

Q: Despite all the mistakes and wrongdoings, Modi and other BJP leaders are boasting of winning over 400 seats in the ensuing election. What is your take?

A: It is a jumla. These figures are a strategic move by the BJP to create a plot twist. The focus of discussion has shifted to the number of votes the BJP will receive rather than whether they will emerge victorious. The recent controversy surrounding electoral bonds has sparked an intense public debate, and Modi’s once iconic “naa khaunga naa khane dunga” persona has lost its moral standing.

The upcoming elections are shaping up to be a battle between Modi-BJP and the Indian citizens. Achieving a target of 220-230 seats seems challenging for the BJP as compared to their ambitious goals. For example, in Telangana, where the BJP expects to secure 10-17 seats, the reality may be far from that with potential failure to even secure one or two seats. It appears that the BJP is struggling to grasp the ground realities in certain regions.

Q: You dismiss the BJP’s claims of securing 370 seats for itself and the rest for its NDA allies.

A. It is crucial to take into account the impact of inflation, unemployment, and the ongoing unrest in Manipur and Ladakh. The funds earmarked for MGNREGA for a whole year were used up within six months due to the migration of people from urban areas back to their rural homes. The ruling party is expected to face significant repercussions from the electoral bonds issue while the opposition’s vote is unlikely to be divided.

Q:  However, it seems that a sizable portion of the Hindu population has embraced the majoritarian Hindutva.

A: The BJP and Modi were able to secure victory through the first-past-the-post election system, even though they only received 38% of the votes, making them the “largest minority.” Hindu majoritarianism did not gain traction immediately after Partition, despite the turbulent and emotional climate. India must prevent further regression into a Dark Ages mentality and uphold the values of diversity and equality.

Q: Could the outcome of the upcoming election in India lead to significant changes in the nation, including alterations to the Constitution and map if Narendra Modi is re-elected as prime minister? Will hate speeches from the Red Fort become a common occurrence and lead to widespread violence and deportations?

A: If Narendra Modi is re-elected, you may not recognise this country. This upcoming election could mark the final one in the nation. Significant changes are predicted, including alterations to the Indian Constitution and map. The prime minister may deliver hate speeches openly from the Red Fort. The Red Fort could become a platform for disseminating information on killings, deportations to Pakistan, and other controversial events. There will be no more covert operations; everything will be done openly. The experiences of Manipur and Ladakh could become widespread across the country, leading to potential disasters for the nation and its economy.

Q:  Can you describe the context of your book, “The Crooked Timber of New India: Essays on a Republic in Crisis?

A: The BJP masked its true agenda of promoting Hindutva under the guise of promising development and clean governance to win the 2014 election. The party’s objective to establish a Hindu rashtra was kept concealed from the public. Using development as a Trojan horse to advance their Hindutva agenda, the BJP and Modi must be opposed.

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