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A Call For Clarity: Addressing The Prime Minister – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

A Call for Clarity: Addressing the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not actually say Congress would give the gold of poor women, and the silver of tribal families, to Muslims. He said the Congress would carry out this metallic expropriation for redistribution among “those who have many children”, to those who are “infiltrators”. Who has many children, and who are infiltrators?

Prime Minister Modi Denies Hindu-Muslim Divisive Tactics, Criticizes Congress for Alleged Policy Missteps

We are happy our PM does not do Hindu-Muslim, but what is he accusing Congress of? Wanting to steal ‘mangalsutra’ from poor women to give to poor men?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a much-misunderstood man. He is being accused of creating or manipulating divisions between Hindus and Muslims, of calling Muslims infiltrators and “those who have more children”.

He was shocked, said Mr Modi, on being accused of talking along the lines of Hindus and Muslims — he would not be worthy of staying in public life even for a day, if he were to do such a loathsome thing, he said.

And everyone knows that the poor have more children than the rich. Why automatically assume that any reference he makes to “those who have more children” is to the Muslim community, he asked. Wherever there is poverty, there are more children, regardless of the community of those who are poor.

People left confused

This leaves a lot of people confused, especially his ardent followers, who, after his speech at Banswara, Rajasthan, had got busy on social media, amplifying what they understood to be his message, tweeting excerpts from his speech, creating memes, WhatsApping them in their circles and to other groups for further circulation and propagation.

They understood Modi’s message to be as follows: the Congress intends to snatch Hindu women’s mangalsutra (a piece of gold that, said Mr Modi, is not for show but, as the symbol of matrimony, is tied to their dreams and aspirations, besides their necks) and give it to Muslims.

What he said, what we heard

PM Modi did not actually say the Congress would give the gold of poor women, and the silver of tribal families, to Muslims. He said the Congress would carry out this metallic expropriation for redistribution among “those who have many children”, to those who are “infiltrators”.

Then how did his followers and ordinary listeners get the impression that the target recipients of looted gold and silver would be Muslims?

That is probably because the PM prefaced his reference to groups characterised by reproductive fecundity and infiltration with the statement that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that Muslims had the first claim on the nation’s resources.

This recall was made after raising the question, to whom would the Congress redistribute the expropriated bits of gold and silver? Then, he seemed to describe the group identified by Manmohan Singh as those who have more children and as infiltrators.

So, what did he mean?

Now, he says he never described Muslims as the exclusive group with large families. Socioeconomic backwardness, he suggests, induces large families. The poor have large families.

This leaves his bhakts and ordinary listeners even more perplexed.

If he meant the poor, when he said those with large families, why did he suggest that it was a crime to make them beneficiaries of redistribution? Did he accuse the Congress of taking bits of jewellery away from poor women for redistribution among the poor at large? Is the Congress gender-biased, to boot?

Which group did he have in mind when he referred to infiltrators? Are the poor the ghuspetiyan, infiltrators, in question?

Who are the infiltrators?

Are we to understand that in the glorious decade of Modi raj, India’s poor have all clambered above the poverty line, and that all the remaining poor are illegal immigrants?

If so, immigrants from which place? It cannot be Bangladesh, because the people there have small families, even the poor.

The total fertility rate (TFR) in Bangladesh, that is, the number of children Bangladeshi women have, on average, is 1.98, lower than the rate of 2.1 required for a population to neither grow nor decline. Bangladesh’s TFR is lower than India’s, not to speak of Uttar Pradesh’s rate of 2.3 and Bihar’s 2.7.

The small family norm rules out Sri Lanka as well.

The usual suspect

Nepalis do not need to infiltrate — they can ride a bus into India and work anywhere anytime, completely legally. Bhutan is one of the happiest countries in the world, and why would anyone leave Bhutan to come to India, a country that has steadily been going down multiple global rankings on hunger, freedom and corruption?

That then leaves Pakistan, the usual suspect.

Is the PM then hinting at a gigantic conspiracy by Pakistan to send a section of their population, most of whom are poor, leaving aside a thin layer of the elite, who are filthy rich, to India to undermine India’s ever-rising prosperity?

So, what is Congress guilty of?

We are happy that our Prime Minister does not do Hindu-Muslim. The master communicator that everyone knows he is, should probably clear all the doubts his clarification has created as to what exactly he meant when he made his resounding speech at Banswara.

Is the Congress guilty of wanting to steal from poor women to give to the poor at large, thus transferring wealth from poor women to poor men?

Are India’s poor all infiltrators?

What was Manmohan Singh and his clumsy reference to the minorities doing in the PM’s speech, if he was not referring to Muslims?

Prime Minister Modi owes a guarantee of clarity to his ardent followers, if not the people of the country.

TK Arun is a senior journalist based in Delhi.

The article was first published in The Federal as ‘How about a guarantee of clarity, Mr Prime Minister?‘ on May 17, 2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

Read more from the author at:

Why narrative changing rapidly: General Election 2024

Coalition Politics and Economic Progress

Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Mansi Garg, a Visiting Researcher and Assistant Editor at IMPRI.

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