By Jyotirmaya Sharma
Aug 3, 2010
NARENDRA Modi is back to doing what he does best.
Cornered by the Supreme Court and the CBI, he has once again invoked the question of Gujarat’s pride in order to deflect attention from the steady stream of skeletons tumbling out of his regime’s closet. A day will come when Modi will have to answer questions to the very same public who gets carried away by his pathetic rhetoric and his demagoguery. As the poet Faiz said about tyrants, Modi’s day of judgement will not come elsewhere, in some other world, but here, and in this life.
The only thing that is utterly sad is the way the Gujarati middle class continues to support his splenetic outbursts against every civilised norm in this country. Since 2002, the Gujarati middle class has put its stamp of approval over every single misdeed of his in the guise of democratic legitimacy.
His party, the BJP, turns a blind eye to his actions and his impetuosity. Despite building a highly individualistic and megalomaniacal style of leadership, something that is in theory anathema to the RSS, the Sangh and the parivar seem to perceive Modi as their ultimate saviour. Corporate India loves him and he manages to charm the editors of even newspapers that have radical pretensions. What makes Modi survive and the Modi myth endure?
The Indian middle class loves someone who takes on imaginary and real villains. It cannot do much to make buses and trains run on time, it cannot wish away pollution that is caused largely due to its fondness for cars, and it cannot effectively ensure regular supply of drinking water and electricity.
It is impotent in the face of corruption and helps feed the corruption spiral by its sheer impatience. It loves words like efficiency and development, but gets worried when the same development leads to the naxal problem. It believes in nothing and stands for nothing.
It lives with the contradiction that there is no safe drinking water in large parts of the country but there is mobile phone connectivity almost everywhere. It celebrates shopping malls and American fast-food joints but knows that there is a fair chance of one never emerging the same as before after being inside an Indian hospital, be it public or private.
It speaks of merit and excellence but pays donations to get into colleges and universities. It hates the noise and the bustle of India but remains glued to reality shows as the only form of reality it can take in.
It swears by Indian traditions but is ready to flee to the United States and Europe at the slightest provocation. It calls Hinduism as a way of life but is oblivious as to whose way of life it is or who determines Hinduism. It celebrates India as the largest democracy in the world but envies countries like Malaysia, Singapore, China and Israel. Modi is the embodiment of this class: he too stands for nothing and believes in nothing but himself. That is why Modi and sections of the Indian middle class never suffer from any form, whatsoever, of contrition and think of honest self- reflection as a form of liberal indulgence.
If this is the case, Modi and his natural constituency do not believe in such ‘trivial’ institutions as the Indian Constitution.
Democracy only means mobilising the masses in order to come to power.
Neither is the idea of a formal and impersonal rule of law of any consequence.
Everything is personalised; everything can be twisted to suit political expediency of one kind or the other.
Therefore, when Modi imputes that the demand to take cases against his government and ministers out of Gujarat is an assault on the judicial system, it is just another rhetorical point coming from a rabble- rouser.
The truth is that Modi has politicised the police and the criminal investigation system to an extent where the judiciary cannot function and hope to deliver justice.
The suggestion by Modi that the Centre and the CBI were acting as if Gujarat was not a part of India is ironically true. While large sections of the Indian middle class admire Modi, the rest of India has not gone the way of Gujarat.
Rather, Gujarat refuses to be a part of India, subverting every civilised norm under the leadership of Modi.
Slogans like Ajmal Qasab ne biryani, police adhikariyon ni pareshani ( Biryani to Ajmal Kasab and trouble for police officers) only underline the efforts to convert Gujarat and India into a banana republic. These slogans have a salience in Gujarat despite evidence that some of its senior police officers allegedly killed innocent individuals in fake encounters.
Is there a way to neutralise Modi? The best and the most effective way to defeat Modi is for the media to ignore him and the bile he spews. He makes good copy according to current journalistic standards, so the most effective tool to defang him is to ignore him.
Starved of the fuel of publicity, Modi would be reduced to a cry in the wilderness.
Part of the other reason for Modi’s longevity is the complete impotence of the Congress in Gujarat. It has refused to effectively take on Modi for fear of alienating the so- called Hindu vote. In doing so, the Congress emerges as weak, ineffective and confused.
Also, in the long run, the way the UPA government functions will have a bearing on the fortunes of the Congress in Gujarat.
If it continues to falter and waffle the way it is currently doing, it does not portend well for the Congress in the states either, especially so in Gujarat. The abiding myth that Modi has created is that of a strong, decisive and purposeful leader.
Only a similar alternative, though within the democratic framework, can challenge his hold over the people of Gujarat. If this is not done soon enough, come 2012 and the RSS will anoint Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. The Congress and the UPA look suspiciously incapable of handling Modi’s manipulation of the media and his propaganda skills. The country will only have the Congress to blame for handing over the ideas of India to a man like Modi.
The writer teaches politics at the University of Hyderabad
Source: Mail Today