The lot of Hindus (generally speaking, all poor, but Hindus are the most numerically visible and most associated with the image) as poor, wretched, 'dirty' and backward - scrawny people with beseeching looks on their faces - is something Modi strove hard to fix from 2014. A lot of people were underwhelmed when in his 2014 I-Day speech, he spoke not about foreign investment and growth, but about village toilet building. I remember tracking that in the econ thread, and being a little surprised myself. The press responses were rather elitist then, asking why the first PM with an absolute majority in a generation is talking about toilets in front of phoren dignitaries at I Day (shades of Indian censors trying to cut parts of people eating with hand in Mother India in the 1950s, lest phoren people be put off by the sight).
However, having tracked Swachh Bharat and Saubhagya missions over the years, the data is nothing if not stunning. Feel free to go to SBM site
and play with any states cumulative coverage graphs since 2014. There's only one state left to cover. Same for Saubhagya site
. It would be easy to dismiss these figures as optimistic babu-generated fantasy numbers, except the people of India gave their opinion on the same on May 23 too. Swachh Bharat Mission itself cost $10 billion so far.
Modi seldom talks of his grand plans as such. Unlike Rajiv, he doesn't state grand "humko yeh banana hai, woh banana hai" banana republic plans. He didn't go to Cambridge under a fake name, and doesn't know anything about the escape velocity of Jupiter. He just announces a series of action items and keeps talking numbers, like some UPSC mid ranker IAS person. Stepping back and looking at his actions, one can visualize his plan - he focused on trying to quickly get rid of the picture of India as the land of an overwhelming number of poor and wretched people - the blame and cause of which conveniently was placed upon the lap of Hindus, since that is the most visible image. And why not ? India was led by a succession of western educated and cultivated elite, who obviously couldn't be wrong as they're western educated. And yet the place was a hellhole. Must be something about the religion and backward thinking native culture, the argument went.
In 2014, despite ~25 years of liberalization, India's villages were sh*t - 60% of the rural people had no road, no power, no water, no toilet, people scrounged for food and scrounged more for firewood and then went and pooped in the fields where it leeched into the water and food and made them grow into small stunted unhealthy people. Even our greatest cultural cities were poor crowded messy and filthy (i.e. Varanasi). We all felt that unease, seeing how some of our greatest religious and cultural places are badly managed, dirty and nothing like the grandeur in imagery of Vatican or Mecca. Admittedly I didn't expect progress on these to be so incredibly rapid. But as it did happen, it was tracked here. Simultaneously he sought to clean the Ganges and basically demolish and rebuild large sections of the Kashi waterfront. Likewise, there was a conscious effort to ensure that the Kumbh was an efficient, clean and modern experience, not a crowded heaving mass of people known for its lethal stampedes.
Fast forward to 2019 and we have a second administration brought to power with an unheard of mandate, where nearly 20 states/UTs gave Modi absurd voteshares north of 50%, some coming close to 70%. Even Nehru at his peak didn't command such numbers. On a multi-dimensional index, a lot of factors that made rural India no better than sub-Saharan Africa, have been addressed. There's essentially universal road/electricity/sanitation coverage, access to banking. India no longer hosts the largest population of the desperately poor
- a 'throne' we picked up around 1996-97 from China. Nigeria - with 1/6th of our population, holds it now.
The larger picture becomes clear now. Modi wants to fix the reputation of India and Hinduism as one of overwhelming wretchedness and poverty. People who aren't subjected to indignities from the moment they wake and need to take a sh*t, grow prouder and more assertive of their own culture and faith. Who loses out in this ? The entities engaged in conversion, for whom this huge mass of wretched people was a target rich environment, and Muslims, who are still socio-economically stronger than the weakest sections of Hindu society. Both entities find themselves marginalized when these changes happen.
I think most of BRF itself doesn't grasp the extent of the change that's happened at the bottom of the pyramid. This is not about 'GDP growth'. Our GDP growth has been great for close to 30 years of liberalization, but the improvement in quality of life of the very poor in the past 5 years outstrips the cumulative improvements until 2014. That's right - in 2014, only 45% of rural India had access to roads/electricity/cooking gas/sanitation/banking . The figure across the board now is between 93-99% depending on which measure you look at. That is why 2019 mandate is what it is, even though no one spoke of RJB, temples or anything else.
A people who have their basic quality of life issues met, become much more assertive of having their spiritual void fulfilled, and then a bottom up sentiment can drive the 'Hindu causes' that many here chafe about 'having been placed on the backburner'. Arguably they were never placed there, as much as a completely different plan of action undertaken.