In an interview with Scroll, Ankit Bhuptani eulogised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure (“View from the Margins: A queer rights activist on why he prefers Modi and the BJP”). First amongst his claims is that the Modi government has enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act, which fast tracks citizenship for certain persecuted minorities based on religion. Notably, absent amongst the persecuted minorities are Muslims. Bhuptani argues that this has been the “civilisational duty” of the government. But there is an error here: governments, in a constitutional democracy, are not beholden to civilisational values. They are bound to act according to the Constitution and nothing else. Ministers or representatives are not elected to perform civilisational duties but constitutional ones. Strangely, we seem to have forgotten it.

The second claim that Bhuptani makes is the brilliance of the “Gujarat model”. But I have failed to see the brilliance of the Gujarat Model. What I have seen, however, most of my life growing up in Ahmedabad, is the ghettoisation of Muslims and legally-sanctioned apartheid through the Disturbed Areas Act that prohibits the sale of property from those who belong to different religions without an approval from the collector’s office. But as Bhuptani sings praises of the roads that he travels in the state transport corporation buses, he seems to ignore how the state fares on social and economic factors.

For instance, Gujarat had 39% children who were stunted and 39.7% children who are underweight for their age. The state has a literacy rate of 78% and serious questions are raised about the quality of education. Compared to other states that have been wealthy, the maternal mortality rate in the state was around 5.1 which was still higher than the other wealthy states. The state also boasts of a staggering poverty rate, and all of this is thanks to Modi’s focus as chief minister on infrastructure development (which is also questionable) while other areas such as health, education, and social welfare suffered under budgetary crisis.

In the next part of his interview, Bhuptani says that he is unaware of a law or a government scheme in execution that discriminates against an oppressed group. Let me remind him. Modi’s government opposed queer marriages before the Supreme Court, calling it an “urban elite phenomenon”.

Whether it be the supposed anti-conversion laws – commonly called “love jihad” laws – or the tacit approval of Modi-led regime to the lynching of Muslims, we have failed minorities. Modi has himself, in the election season, chosen to dog whistle against Muslims, calling them “people with more children”, “jihadi vote bank” and more. This disenfranchisement has also taken other forms, including the shutting down of Maulana Azad Education Fund that provided education to Muslim women, the mass killings and rapes of the Kuki-Zo people in Manipur and the crackdown of civil liberates in Kashmir.

While Bhuptani sees a “father figure” in Modi, I see an autocrat whose party wants to change the Constitution and clear India of its minorities, a clampdown on civil liberties and fidelity to Hindutva. Modi’s second term is also characterised by the collapse of accountability measures, either through judicial review, media, or through fourth branch institutions like the Election Commission.

At the same time, civil society, opposition parties and anyone who has opposed the regime has been met with long incarcerations without trial. It might seem trite and glib to say that these elections are for the very soul of this nation, but it is true. For those of us who put the Constitution above all else, and owe our allegiance to it, a third Modi term will spell disaster. This mirage of civilisational values over constitutional ones poses a grave and imminent threat to fundamental rights, the Constitution, and to this great country that our founding fathers and mothers gave us. – Rohin Bhatt