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Will PM Modi Return to Power? Academicians Remain Divided Ahead of Lok Sabha Elections

While a group of professors has started a campaign to bring Narendra Modi back for a second term as Prime Minister, a petition by a JNU professor is asking people to oppose his re-election.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:March 10, 2019, 8:28 AM IST
Will PM Modi Return to Power? Academicians Remain Divided Ahead of Lok Sabha Elections
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI Image)

New Delhi: With Lok Sabha elections inching closer, over 300 professors and research scholars from various universities across cities came together this week to launch 'Academics4NaMo' – a campaign to bring Narendra Modi back for a second term as Prime Minister.

On Tuesday, these academics met at Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi to float this front which is intended to counter the voices opposing the re-election of Modi. The group is meeting again next week on March 14-15 for the honing up of opinion makers. There will also be a workshop for “100 or more master trainers”, who can go back to their varsities and shape the narrative in favour of Modi.

On the other hand, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor G Arunima on Saturday started an online petition to counter the pro-Modi group. She asked for the support of 3,000 academicians to take over those 300 who are in favour of Modi.

In the past five years, there have been charges of sedition on JNU students for allegedly raising anti-national slogans. Rohith Vemula committed suicide in Central University of Hyderabad, Aligarh Muslim University was dragged in controversy over the portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and a professor of Jai Narain Vyas in Jodhpur was suspended for inviting JNU professor Nivedita Menon to a conference.

For Modi

The group standing in favour of Modi said there is data to show the good performance of the Modi government. “We will provide a complete picture of these numbers, and put things in context,” said Dr Swadesh Singh, a core committee member of the ‘Academics4NaMo’ group.

Singh sent out messages to those interested in the campaign, saying, “The general election of 2019 is just round the corner… on one hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become the rallying point for a new, assertive and emerging India, and on the other hand, the hegemonic and corrupt powers that were beaten in the last elections are once again gathering forces to stay relevant. The outcome of this election could spell the difference between a surging, ambitious new India or the India of the past steeped in corruption and hopelessness.”

The founding members of the group reached out to other like-minded people to provide their “positive perspective” on the five years of Modi government. The appeal was made to faculty members, scholars, journalists, panelists, columnists, thinkers and public intellectuals.

The campaign requires them to register in the forum, submit endorsements and articles at the website for Modi and his government, organise offline meetings and send photos.

“The group will meet again for a workshop to have master trainers, maybe more than hundred, who can take this forward. We have over 300 people registered in the forum,” Singh said.

Against Modi

In response to the 300 academicians showing allegiance to Modi, JNU professor G Arunima started a petition asking for 3,000 signatures opposing Modi’s second term.

Her petition reads: “In the past five years of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in India has marked one of the most dangerous periods in Indian history. We have witnessed a vicious campaign that has undertaken myriad forms of saffronisation, and has affected every aspect of Indian life, ranging from political freedom and liberty, the economy, education, culture, health, environment, and just the safety of large majorities of Indians.”

Accusing the Central government of cronyism and commercialisation, Arunima writes in the petition that “an equally pernicious process of corporatisation, where different aspects of hitherto public or common property resources have been summarily written off to strengthen the hands of select capitalist cronies, has accompanied this.”

The petition also claims that there has been a growth of Hindutva power, which has normalised terrorising and lynching of Muslims, and other religious minorities. “There have been attacks on Dalits and Adivasis and heightened conditions of violence against women; other than a concerted effort to undo secular traditions of education at the school, college and university levels,” reads the online petition.

Academia and Politics

Ahead of elections, a large number the academicians are coming out in open to support or oppose Modi. “This is not the first time this is happening. In 2014, universities created a narrative against Modi. When he was designated as the PM candidate, a signature campaign started to stop him from getting elected. Now, there are people who are trying to create a narrative against him. Our concern is to at least bring out the positive aspects of the five years of Modi,” said Prakash Singh, Delhi University professor.

Singh says he is supporting ‘Academics4Modi’ as “there is no strong leadership narrative in the opposition. Indian politics is all about the leadership phenomenon, and it was there from Nehru to Modi.”

He added that the universities standing in favour or against a leader is natural as universities are part of the society. “Academia are not out of the society. If the society is polarised over an issue, so will the academia,” he said.

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| Edited by: Divya Kapoor
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