Product of cutting-edge research and written from the perspective of the free-market economy, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (Profile Books, London), by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, offers a fine analysis of the history of economic and political development in large parts of the world since the early modern era. The book presents many examples of the disastrous consequences in societies where democratic practices are suppressed by autocrats: they allow a handful of cronies to loot natural resources and control the market in the most arbitrary manner–paving the way for widespread corruption from top to bottom and wretched poverty all around.

By contrast, in nations where inclusive institutions of democracy are properly enforced by modern liberal law, a level-playing field is provided for all stake-holders: cronies will go to jail, business can be done with small start-up capital, corruption of the license raj buried, state has enough revenue to ensure right to education for all, healthcare facilities are in good shape, joblessness and poverty controlled, and other basic infrastructure such as roads properly maintained.

A society like ours where large sections of Dalits, Muslims, Christians, and other socially and economically suppressed people are marginalized and pushed in a corner, with little hope from casteist and communal politicians and intellectuals with dubious credentials, the polity will be badly affected with the malaise mentioned in the first category of failed nations mentioned above.

However, if democratic practices are properly followed and inclusive institutions allowed to function with proper rules governing them, there is hope from a large and politically mature population of the country as we keep learning from the results of every election. Despite the rising tide of intolerance and the culture of violence creating widespread anxieties, there is no reason to fear India is going the way of Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh in terms of religious and ethnic intolerance creating an anarchic situation. The country’s established political practices, deep-rooted democratic institutions and government machinery can work in tandem to ensure that the broad-based, secular and non-religious character of the republic will remain intact.

It is in the interest of those in power to control the handful of mob occasionally getting berserk, which is essentially a law and order problem. A substantial majority population has nothing to do with right-wing Hindu violence; they are not anti-Muslim, nor in favour of any forcible and ludicrous ghar-wapsi of Christians; and they want a just and peaceful society even if caste- or religion-based discrimination and prejudices remain part of social reality.

Those in power have to take responsibility. Political strategies apart, it is not difficult for the Chief Ministers of Karnataka or Uttar Pradesh to ensure law and order is in control. Quick and strong action would mean any Sena extremists would run for their lives. Remember, these two most violent-prone states are being ruled by the Congress and the Samajwadis. Delhi and Bihar election results have shown the way, in terms of the mandate of the public–punishment or reward depending on what you deserve on the basis of various indicators now cumulatively known as good governance, both in theory and practice.

This is not to blame Mr Narendra Modi for everything, but the Prime Minister of a vast country like India, with unity in diversity being the time-tested mantra, must necessarily be above petty politics of caste, religion or region–no matter how legitimate the aspirations of identity politics around these categories might be. Compulsions of electoral politics does require politicians getting involved in mud-slinging and even resorting to violence as a political strategy, for some dividends at least, but once in power they are expected to make sincere attempts to address problems facing the people–widespread joblessness, wretched poverty, and various kinds of social and economic injustices.

Just as the constitution of the country and the law of the land cannot discriminate between communities of people on the basis of caste or creed, those representing the State cannot be seen to be biased in favour of or against one community or the other, no matter what might be the ideological position catapulting them to power. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mr Manmohan Singh have previously shown, some degree of distancing from everyday politicking, even occasionally maintaining tactical silence, and adhering to the broad principles of governance–Rajdharma in Vajpayee’s memorable counsel–can go a long way.

The bottom-line is mob violence in the name of caste or religion has to be crushed, for, except a small section of mad-caps, no one wants the country to be caught in a perennial and embarrassing cycle of irrational violence, which not only badly affects the social fabric but also adversely impacts a tottering economy. And, it was the market that proved to be the waterloo of the previous PM; it is another matter that he was the architect of our modern day economy, which, in turn, proved to be his nemesis; tearing of the social fabric can be much more damaging, though History has taught us that extreme violence is not the way to salvation. Law of the land must prevail over everything else, and equitably.