Prime Minister Narendra Modi emplanes for Toyko, in New Delhi, on Oct. 27, 2018. (Photograph: PTI)

Dear PM Modi, Take A Trip From Wayanad To Rampur Via Chicago

BloombergQuintOpinion

WE, THE HINDUS OF INDIA, have now solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN MAJORITARIAN REPUBLIC, and to secure to all its citizens

JUSTICE, since Hindus are incapable of committing terror crimes, they should never be tried for that

LIBERTY, by disallowing Hindus from contesting in a Muslim-majority constituency

FRATERNITY, such that Hindus should awaken and dominate the Muslims

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY AT WARDHA this 31st day of March, 2019, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION

This new Preamble proselytised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Wardha forcefully repudiated Jawaharlal Nehru (no surprise!), who had drafted and moved the Objectives in the Constituent Assembly on Dec. 13, 1946, inspiring Bhimrao Ambedkar to describe the Preamble as a “way of life, which recognises liberty, equality, and fraternity as the principles of life and which cannot be divorced from each other”.

The Preamble to the Constitution of India, post the enactment of the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. (Photograph: All India Radio/Twitter)
The Preamble to the Constitution of India, post the enactment of the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. (Photograph: All India Radio/Twitter)

But Prime Minister Modi’s political mood was brutal on that fateful day. He castigated Rahul Gandhi for “running away from majority-dominated areas” to “take refuge in areas where the majority is in minority” (read Wayanad in Kerala).

The naked implication was that Gandhi had somehow demeaned himself, committed blasphemy, by espousing the cause of minorities. Worse, you were not a “good Hindu politician” if you won with Muslim support. I had to pinch myself to wake up; was this 1909? Because with one angry speech, Prime Minister Modi had resurrected the binary of “separate electorates” – that Hindus should elect only Hindus, while Muslims do the same for Muslims – that ultimately led to the bloody partition of India in 1947.
Dear PM Modi, Take A Trip From Wayanad To Rampur Via Chicago

The Indian Councils Act, 1909

The year was 1909. A rather genteel, pre-Mahatma Gandhi ‘movement’ for independence was in vogue. In stepped Prince Aga Khan with a dangerous thought, incited, no doubt, by the divide-and-rule philosophy of the British masters. Along with Nawab Mohsin-ul-Malik, they petitioned the then Viceroy, Lord Minto, at Shimla: Muslims must be given a separate and exclusive representation at all levels of government. The Muslim League was born, virtually created by both gentlemen. And the Indian Councils Act, 1909 was passed. It addressed the “serious” concern that under a first-past-the-post system, Muslims would become subject to permanent Hindu majority rule. The principle of communal elections was accepted, with Muslims voting to elect only Muslims in specially demarcated constituencies.

An Unbridgeable Chasm Between Gandhi And Jinnah

A couple of decades later, “separate electorates” became the unbridgeable chasm between Gandhi and Jinnah that led to the creation of Pakistan. Jinnah’s famous ‘Fourteen Points of 1929’ included the following:

  • In the Central Legislature, Mussulman representation shall not be less than one third.
  • That, in the present circumstances, representation of Mussulman in the different Legislatures of the country and other elected bodies through separate electorates is inevitable and further, the Government being pledged over and over again not to disturb this franchise so granted to the Muslim community since 1909 till such time as the Mussulman chose to abandon it, the Mussulman will not consent to joint electorates.
Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in 1944. (Photograph: British Library)
Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in 1944. (Photograph: British Library)

Also read: How India’s Laws Made It A ‘Hindu-Secular’ State

The Congress was implacably opposed to Jinnah’s demands, as articulated in the Nehru Report of 1928:

It is admitted by most people now that separate electorates are thoroughly bad and must be done away with. We find however that there has been a tendency amongst the Muslims to consider them as a valued privilege, although a considerable section are (sic) prepared to given them up in consideration for some other things. Everybody knows that separate electorates are bad for the growth of a national spirit, but everybody perhaps does not realize equally well that separate electorates are still worse for a minority community. They make the majority wholly independent of the minority and its votes and usually hostile to it. Under separate electorates therefore the chances are that the minority will always have to face a hostile majority, which can always by sheer force of numbers, override the wishes of the minority. Separate electorates must therefore be discarded completely as a condition precedent to any rational system of representation. We can only have joint or mixed electorates.

What PM Modi Should Learn From Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (Perish the Thought!)

Here is another historical nugget that is a double-edged lesson for Prime Minister Modi. While it may allow him to bludgeon the Congress for what he alleges is “their innately communal thinking”, it would also warn him about his Wardha/Wayanad folly.

When India’s first general election was to be held in 1952, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked his iconic education minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, to contest from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. Maulana curiously asked “why?”. Nehru candidly replied that Rampur was a Muslim majority area, so a victory was assured. The inimitable Maulana cut his Prime Minister short: “I am a leader of India, not of Muslims”. If only one cabinet peer of Modi had the courage to ask him to “lay off Wayanad, which shall elect an Indian parliamentarian, not a Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or Christian one”.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad with Jawaharlal Nehru. (Photograph: NMML/Government of India)
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad with Jawaharlal Nehru. (Photograph: NMML/Government of India)

Also read: Is India Becoming a Hindu Pakistan?

If Everything Fails, Get it From Chicago

Okay, I get it. I am barking up the wrong tree by digging into Congress’s history to try and impress Narendra Modi. It’s an utterly futile exercise. But what about Chicago? It’s today’s story from a country that treats Modi like a Rockstar; and he too loves to give it bear hugs.

Chicago is the classical “majority constituency” in Modi-speak. Over 40 percent of its population is white. But its mayoral election last week created epic history. Running against each other were two black women. Toni Prechwinkle was up against Lori Lightfoot, who was a minority within a minority within a minority – an openly gay black woman (I have italicised these three words to re-emphasise her triple minority status). But guess who won? Lori Lightfoot! And guess by how much? Nearly two-thirds of the vote!

If ever there was an example of minority empowerment in a democracy, Chicago proved it last week. How I wish that our Prime Minister also takes the Chicago cue, and chooses to get elected from Kishangarh in Bihar, that has India’s biggest Muslim electorate. That would be a stirring celebration of the real Preamble of India’s Constitution.

Raghav Bahl is the co-founder and chairman of Quintillion Media, including BloombergQuint. He is the author of two books, viz ‘Superpower?: The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise’, and ‘Super Economies: America, India, China & The Future Of The World’.