Threatened by intolerance

Moody’s Analytics, N.R. Narayana Murthy, the well-respected founder of Infosys, and now Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, have all added heft to the chorus of voices warning that growing intolerance and bellicose behaviour threaten economic development, the promise of which had won Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party an overwhelming electoral mandate last year. In an unequivocal message, > Moody’s Analytics noted that controversial comments by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, including belligerent provocation of various minorities, had fanned ethnic tensions. Mr. Modi needs to not just distance himself from their nationalist jibes, but firmly rein them in, or his government risks losing credibility among global investors, the economic risk analysis sister unit of Moody’s Investors Service observed. Mr. Murthy, a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry during Dr. Manmohan Singh’s term, speaking in a televised discussion on NDTV, said there was > considerable fear among the minorities today. He cautioned that no country could make economic progress unless it removed strife and reassured its minorities. And Dr. Rajan, who has earned a reputation for being as measured as he is outspoken, stressed to students graduating from Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology that > tolerance and respect of alternative viewpoints were imperative for an economy to advance. Stressing that India’s tradition of debate in an environment of respect and tolerance was worth fighting to protect, Dr. Rajan said it would be a great patriotic act to do so. This was a not-so-veiled retort to the ultra-nationalists who are quick to question the patriotism of all citizens holding a point of view different to theirs. Clearly, none of this can simply be dismissed as “manufactured” dissent, as certain senior leaders in Mr. Modi’s government and in the BJP have sought to term the protests of scientists, historians, artists and writers.

Just 18 months ago, Mr. Modi termed his party’s electoral victory > a mandate for development. That he has since allowed or, more benignly, failed to restrain the extreme and divisive voices both within the government and outside among the BJP and its ideological allies in the larger Sangh Parivar, is a matter of grave concern, as their exclusionary and at times incendiary agenda militates against the very economic development that he has repeatedly stressed upon. Given the economic headwinds of tepid international demand for India’s exports, widespread market volatility and legislative hurdles to implementing reform measures such as the Goods and Services Tax, Mr. Modi faces a moment of truth for his leadership of the political economy. If he fails to decisively turn the tide and quell the belligerence of his party and its allies like the Shiv Sena, and to simultaneously reassure the nation’s citizens that he is the Prime Minister of all Indians, he may well end up risking economic growth as the fissiparous forces retard progress and demand.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 10:57:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-on-growing-intolerance/article7830177.ece

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