Modiji’s Victory, a Leader for All
Modiji’s performance has been amazing. He works 18 hours a day and has never taken rest during the last 20 years, says Amit Shah. No doubt, he deserves to win. You can’t accuse him of diverting money or favours to his family. “Raid my house,” he says, “if I have done anything wrong.” He is clear-sighted and pushes every programme to its conclusion with sheer grit. No wonder he has earned the admiration of all, including the Opposition who paid him their respects after the elections. Religious leaders did the same. Foreign dignitaries had nothing but words of appreciation.
The newly elected PM in turn thanked everyone. He humbled himself before the nation that had placed such immense trust in him. He elicited the confidence of the minorities who, he felt, had been “deceived,” as the poor “cheated” in the past. Whether it was a confession or an accusation, it was not clear! He asked the Opposition not to worry about their numbers in the parliament, and promised that “every word” of theirs would be valued. Modiji wants no distinction of caste or religion. What he is earnestly searching for is ‘consensus.’
He asked the MPs to avoid the language of hatred and communalism, to be “impartial” in the House, and to strive for the larger interest of the nation. He called for a “collective fight” against poverty, unemployment, pollution, corruption, flood. He wants to make India’s 2.75 trillion economy one of 5 trillion by 2024. He takes the pose of wanting to be a benevolent ruler with due respect to the Constitution. Even his critics admire his energy and single-mindedness . After the results were announced, he made sure to go with Amit Shah to pay his respects to the Hindutva veterans, Joshi and Advani, in spite of the fact the latter had criticized him.
During the elections, what was most touching was Modiji’s prompt reply to Mamata, who threatened to give him a “democratic slap.” He said he would consider Didi’s slap a blessing! After the exhausting days of aggressive campaign all that Modiji wanted to do was to withdraw into Kedarnath temple and pray. He spent 17 hours all by himself. In fact, he trekked 2 kms to the temple. If the social media communicated his movements, his ‘silence’ communicated even more. He addressed the ‘collective psyche’ of the Indian masses who are deeply religious. He had to win!
Painful and Humiliating Reality
All schools of Indian philosophy emphasize the need to search for truth amidst deceptive appearances. For Mahatma Gandhi Religion itself is Truth. It would be too cruel to consider Modiji’s gestures and postures mere techniques of deception, but if we are sincere searchers, we must search for the real truth. Priyanka asked, if Modiji’s tapasya were sincere, how he could be using ‘hate words.’ Truly, how does he surround himself with people who delight in inflammatory rhetoric, people like Giriraj Singh, Sakshi Maharaj, and Pragya Thakur who taunted, bullied, and baited minorities all through their political career?
It is well known that Pragya was found guilty of the Malegaon blasts of 2006 that killed 40, and that she considers Nathuram Godse a ‘patriot.’ A ritual of apology from her side does not change her mental attitudes. Similarly, Sakshi Maharaj hastens, soon after victory, to thank a colleague, who is in jail on rape charges, for the help he had given him in elections. Their political destinies are dependent on the other. Equally, Modiji is dependent on dozens of persons of that calibre, and his victory cannot be delinked from an approval of their conduct. Though they consider minority-appeasement villainous, terrorist-appeasement is necessary for their political survival.
So, these represent the “new India” of Modiji! Facts speak for themselves: this Lok Sabha has a greater proportion of crime-accused than the previous one, the larger numbers belonging to the BJP.
Similarly, Pratap Chandra Sarangi MP from Orissa was heading the Bajrang Dal when Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt alive in 1999; he is also accused of rioting, arson, and assault. So, in Modi’s “New India” terror-accused are recognized and rewarded. A “Majoritarian” social order has been enthroned; its social ethic will be derived from Majoritarian concepts. Street oppression or lynching do not make news anymore, they are life as normal in Modi-land. The saffron sovereigns now have time and freedom to carry through what they intend, about Kashmir, civil code, Ayodhya temple, NRC. Their call ‘Jai Shri Ram’ marginalizes citizens who are not of the same devotion. It is a war cry. Shooting of Muslims has become normal, as Mohammad Qasim was shot by Rajv Yadav in Kumbi village in Bihar. The quarrel was merely over a 10 rupees difference in price. Tabrez Ansari died in Jharkhand after being compelled to chant “Jai Ram.”
Planting “Fear” and “Inferiority Complex” in People in order to Project Modiji as the Saviour
The election slogan in the Hindi belt was, ‘Modi lao, desh bachao.’ Sitaram Yechury complained that jingoist nationalism completely crowded out people’s concerns. The song was: India is in danger, we need a strong leader to ensure security. This fanned fear in uninformed masses. Just think of it! Can Kashmir pellet throwers be a threat to India, the biggest purchaser of sophisticated weapons in the world? The impression created was: India is full of Pakistanis, we are surrounded, marginalized, ignored. None but Modi can save us. Amit Shah’s childish contention was that only a leader with a 56-inch chest can ensure our security.
Modi himself was on the forefront to aggravate the situation, fuelling the Pulwama scare, breathing fire and fury, stepping up his pitch to extol the armed forces and their performance at Uri and Balakot. He boasted how he had got “India’s might” recognised worldwide during his frequent foreign trips. This was how Modi magic was built up. It was based on the myth that only Modi would cater to Hindu pride, interests, security. For people, Modiji was slowly emerging as the Machiavelli’s “Prince,” an insensitive go-getter.
Perceptive people look deeper. They know that a people in fear project the image of a diminished nation, that its international image sinks. This has been the achievement of Modiji. No wonder that The Guardian in London described Modi’s victory as “bad for India’s soul.” They see things more objectively. For them it is clear that harassing minorities within the country and bullying a weaker nation in the neighbourhood as something demeaning. This is the humiliation that Modi has imposed on the nation. Neutral people at a distance wonder why Modi is all eager to bulldoze a younger brother (i.e. Pakistan), while he exercises a dignified restraint before an elder one who is stronger (i.e. China). Before China’s aggressive postures, they notice India’s stoic passivity and deferential silence! There is little reason to boast. Moreover, a nation, held in slavery to the cattle genus, can never win the esteem of genuine humanists anywhere in the world.
A greater damage that Modiji has inflicted on the Indian psyche is that he has planted an “inferiority complex” into it merely to project himself as the architect of Hindu pride. A neutral person sees immediately something incongruous about the whole thing. Does a civilization that is 5000 years old need a chaiwala or a chowkidar (as he calls himself in humility) to prop it up? But his henchmen have been at work in every village. The frustrations of individuals and the problems of the local community are given a Hindutva explanation by their BJP mentors. Their personal grievances are looked at from the point of view of communal prejudices and a biased understanding of history. Gradually they get accumulated and transformed into rabid hatred against their Muslim neighbours and Pakistan. There are un-enlightened RSS cadre nearby ever ready to act as their pedagogues. For these people, the BJP victory is not a political achievement but a ‘cultural revolution’ undoing the harm that started 800 years ago with the Muslim invaders.
So it turns out that the present display of pride and arrogance is nothing but a weird expression of the “inferiority complex” of a great society that Modiji’s supportive team has consistently cultivated to project him as the defender of Hindu pride. The consequence is that this community has grown uncertain about its identity, expressing itself in infantile self-assertion forgetting its own sense of dignity. It finds insecurity everywhere, Hinduism in danger, and Jihad at every corner. Polarisation has accentuated. It has left behind a wound that has no healing with the present day approach. It is likely to fester and take the shape of an abiding phobia, profound sense of victimhood. It is the rare case of a majority community sorely afflicted by a “minority complex” manifesting most of all in non-performance.
Thus, they are caught into a vicious circle: inferiority complex leading to non-performance and non-performance leading to minority complex. No one can save them (and save the nation) from this situation until their RSS pedagogues grow a little better informed about world affairs and human processes. The tragedy is that they keep passing on this virus to others. India’s national performance will take a definitive turn for the better only if a casteless society emerges, with equal opportunity for everyone, including Muslims and Dalits, and quality education for the entire population. This is exactly what the obscurantist brigade seeks to prevent. The greatest danger today is that during the era when India will have the greatest number of people in the ‘working age’ we shall be busy making each other sing Vande Mataram and despatching dissenters to Pakistan!
It Was Not a Vote “For,” It Was a Vote “Against”
One can speculate forever the reasons for the BJP’s election success. Ruchir Joshi attributed it to the clever handling of money. Buying of MLAs and MPs is part of BJP culture. Mamata accused them of carrying bundles of notes in helicopters and ambulances; Sonia of misuse of the EVMs; Congress of promoting a culture of defections. There have, of course, been cases of money distribution, bottle handouts, defections, coercion, intimidation, brain-washing, horse-trading, sabre-rattling, cheap boasting. All these have played their role to ensure the present results. Hope for freebies and loan wavers served as an enticement. Voters and dissenting leaders have been bribed, opponents have been appeased, deserters have been welcomed. All parties have benefited from these strategies, but those who commanded the bigger resources benefitted more.
What then made the decisive difference? It was certainly not Modi magic or a Hindutva wave. It was definitely not an approval of his policies, much less of all his foreign policies. Here, let us exclude the loyalists, fanatics, sycophants, chamchas, and flatterers in every party, who infallibly vote for their own “idol.” What the average Indian voter sought to do was not to vote for Modi, but to vote “against” a Divided Opposition. They did not want to surrender the destiny of the nation into the hands of a coalition – cobbled together over vague promises and compromises – that can make no decision. Even ardent secularists were confused with parties which professed to be secular but were more committed to cow welfare than the BJP, at the neglect of child welfare and farmers’ grievances; for whom temple-hopping and Ganga-trip were more important than rising prices and failing education policies.
Amartya Sen rightly said that it was not the “battle of ideas” that Modi won. In fact, the Modi magic is all about the abolition of intellectual debates (“public reasoning” as Sen would call it) from India’s political scenario. The battle or competition today is about puranic boasts, bovine breed, yoga centres, devotions and ablutions. Digvijay, for example, claimed to have 7 altars in his house and surrounded himself with godmen and gurus as he went around campaigning. His poor performance as a CM turned the votes against him. And Pragya was the beneficiary. From all the votes “against” a directionless Opposition, Modiji was the greatest beneficiary of all. There he stands tall, though for negative reasons. He should not over-estimate himself. The voters saw no alternative. A “Congress Fatigue” had overtaken the nation, despite its original idealism and initial performance; what people notice are corruption charges, vested interests, inflated egos, factious leaders, absence of vision. True or untrue, I am unable to judge. But it is time for everyone to do a certain amount of soul-searching.
It is time for the Modi-team, too, to sit down and evaluate themselves objectively. Was it demonetisation that helped them win UP? Was it GST that led them to lose Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and MP? Did it do any good to them to give “masala” (as Modi called it) to the press? Does it add to their stature making communal statements, epic boasts, or engaging in large scale lynchings? Let them not read too much into the high praises that foreign dignitaries bestow on the PM during his foreign trips. They are paying their respects to 1.3 billion Indians with their proud achievements of centuries. They are also interested in the rising ‘purchasing power’ of the upwardly mobile millions who will ensure a market for them.
Japan and Vietnam have their shared anxiety with India about China’s long term designs. It was not Modi’s ‘diplomatic hug’ that brought them closer to India. As for his pro-American policy, the much trumpeted Trump-Modi rapport is a dream that is fast changing into a nightmare. India has never been bullied by the US as during the Modi era... certainly not in Nehru’s times. They are dictating to us where we should buy oil and where not. The only parallel I can think of is the way the Yogi-brigade dictates to fellow-citizens what they should eat and what not. There seems to be a cosmic relationship. Karma is no mere fiction. As for neighbourhood relationships, even Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal are turning to China who is giving robust help, and not merely referring to puranic bonds in Modi style.
Modiji’s Greatest Success: Surgical Strike against the Intellect, Intelligent Thinking, Scientific Temper
Ramchandra Guha contends that Modi’s surgical strike that hit the mark with unerring precision was the one against the Intellect, Universities, and Research centres. The PM has weeded out persons with independent thinking from his ministry and packed it with compliant individuals and persons of low intellectual stature. In the name of preventing excessive foreign or Marxist influence in the field of social research, he has brought together a bunch of carefully chosen RSS men, ultra-orthodox in tone, inferiority complex ridden fanatics, Veda-boasters, third-rate Hindutva ideologues; they will do the thinking for the BJP brigade. Modi’s government is the most anti-intellectual in Indian history, says Guha. India’s official statistics and government reports have lost world credibility. He has undermined research institutions, weakened innovation, enfeebled India’s social and economic future. Scientific temper is a forgotten concept. What thinking people say is that under him idiocy has triumphed, ignorance has become fashionable, anti-intellectualism dignified, irrationality a badge to be proud of.
It is this irrationality that is taken to Pulwama blunders, Balakot illusions, Doklam self-abasement, Kashmir muscle-flexing, and harsh suppression of Maoists. Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thampu describe how Modi has turned India into a “republic of anger.” Emotion-led muscle-flexing is all about insensitivity, irrationality. It has consequences. While 101 militants were killed in Kashmir this year, 50 new young men have taken up arms; their number is growing. Referring to Balakot operation, Modi claimed: ‘Modi went into their homes (in Pakistan) and killed them.’ Every word of that nature gets registered in the hearts of millions of young people across the border. There are bound to be consequences. Every enemy that feels “wronged and humiliated” is bound to grow stronger and stronger, says Taj Hashmi; every blow adds to their strength. It is in this sense that I say: “When you are strong, then you are weak.”
Toxic nationalism undermines its own strength. It plants the seeds of resistance. The election results in the far South has shown that Hindi belt swaggering makes no impression elsewhere, that Yogi-model Hindutva is a horror beyond the cow-belt, that BIMARU is likely to remain BIMARU for the foreseeable future. The effort to impose Hindi has united the South and the East. Mamata is asking people to use Bengali in Bengal. She responded to Jai Shri Ram with Jai Bangla. People in Assam cry Jai Aie Ahom.
Recently, Modi accused Congress of “crushing India’ soul” through Indira’s Emergency. What do we have today but an undeclared Emergency? During the term of the last Lok Sabha 45 presidential ordinances were promulgated. Mahua Moitra of the Trinamul charged the government of propagating a “xenophobic” brand of nationalism, subjugating the media, mixing government and religion, and showing complete disdain for intellectuals. He says, this sort of nationalism is superficial, narrow. Lynching is condoned, hate crimes have increased 10-fold; five of the largest papers are controlled, directly or indirectly; “fake news is the norm,” manipulating minds and creating fear continue unabated; the army is used to honour One Superman.
When D. K. Barua cried “India is Indira, Indira is India,” the nation sat back stunned. The tide rises and falls in the affairs of every man. If Amit Shah cries today “Modi is India” and all sit back in approval, a day will come when our compatriots will say, “The BJP under Modi crushed the soul of India in 2019.”
(Published on 08th July 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 28)