Tuesday, 22 April 2014
I have long believed that the greatest problem India faces is that it’s people don’t have a strong sense of pride. There is so much division among people on the lines of class, caste and religion that we neither have an affinity towards our fellow citizens nor for our towns, cities and states, for that matter, not even for our elevators and stairwells where people litter, spit and even pee, with total disregard. Poverty doesn't disturb us. Oppression doesn't bother us. General lawlessness doesn't alarm us. It doesn't enrage us that we have been an independent country for more than 60 years and still we are a third world country. There are more starvation deaths in India than the sub-Saharan region. You can be killed in your own country just because you’re from another part of your own country. We feel privileged if we get electricity everyday and water twice a day for two hours. We don’t even like to smile at each other on the roads.
Whereas nationalism lacks glaringly, we are full of jingoism. We talk big but act small. We are crazy about a stupid game like cricket. We like to imitate rather than innovate or create. What’s the problem? Why do we have outsourcing companies but no big software development companies (just to give a small example). Why do most Indians excel abroad but not here in India? Why don’t heads roll when an entire cryogenic project is sabotaged and the career of a brilliant scientist is ruined? Why do we eagerly kill or die for a temple, a mosque, a church or a gurdwara but not for a hospital, a school or a playground? Legend has it that once in a town when there was a power cut during the telecast of the Ramayana serial the people of the town burned down the electricity board office. The same people never even raised a whimper when there were routine power cuts during the board exams and all the students had to study in darkness.
Everything boils down to we’re not proud of ourselves.
This is the void that Modi seems to fill. He exhorts people to work hard, excel in their respective fields and work for the collective betterment of the country. He doesn't want to create ladders of communalism and casteism to rise. For once there is a political leader who wants people to work for excellence rather than depend on government subsidies and doles. Finally the country has a political leader who has the guts to show the middle finger to the world. I don’t know how much he really means to do, but when I begin to compare, he is the only leader who says things that I really want to hear.
I don’t want to hear the same old secularism versus communalism diatribe not because I don’t want our country to be secular but because yes, without these diatribes our country is already secular (in fact it has remained the most secular country or region throughout millennia), and second, by continuously pandering to minority vote our political parties have developed a mindset that you only need to offer empty promises and raise doomsday scenarios in order to come to power. Development doesn't work. Progress doesn't excite. It’s caste and religion. Minorities are under threat. Dalits are being marginalized and exploited.
I’m not saying minorities shouldn't be protected and the rights of the Dalits shouldn't be protected. But the justice system should work for everybody not just for minorities and Dalits. If our justice system works, if our political system works, if our bureaucracy works, we don’t need affirmative action. We don’t need special status for minorities if development is inclusive and people are punished in a timely manner in case of communal bias.
You cannot constantly blame the majority Hindu community for historical wrongs its forefathers may or may not have committed on certain sections. Historical wrongs were committed against Hindus themselves so then why the Muslims aren't made to feel guilty about them (there, I just became an Islamophobe)? I’m not saying they should be, I’m just saying if the blame game needs to be perpetuated, why not create an equal playing field for every religion and every community?
This is the mentality that Modi opposes, and so do his supporters. These people get angry when they are made to feel apologetic about their majority status, about their festivals, about their rituals, about their gods and goddesses, about their patriotism and nationalism and about their “the nation first” approach. They’re fed up of the pervasive mediocrity in almost every field in the name of inclusion and tolerance. They want excellence. They want to compete with the world and when they talk about competition, they don’t mean competition with Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh or even Taiwan. They mean competition with the USA, with the European Union, with Japan and with China. They want to turn India into a global brand. Just as people respect “Made in Japan” and “Made in Germany”, people should respect “Made in India”. No longer we want to depend on our proverbial “jugaad”.
There is also an underdog feeling. Another thing that makes me support him is the witch-hunt he has been subjected to for such a long time. The greatest number of riots have happened under the Congress rule and its various offshoots. The Gujarat 2002 (well, how can something on Modi be complete without a reference to this particular period?) riots were contained within 2-3 days. There is documented evidence that Modi sought help from both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh that were both Congress-ruled states at that time, and both the states refused. There is documented evidence many from the BJP itself have been targeting Modi and the Gujarat riots were a part of the scheme. There is documented evidence that even Congress ministers were involved in the riots — the mob that set Ehsan Jafri eblaze also had member from the Congress party.
Modi has been maligned so much, the onslaught has been going on for such a long time, unmitigated, that many have begun to feel, what the heck is going on? No politician, no matter how vile or incompetent he or she has been, has not been targeted so much, both nationally and internationally. It can’t be just “divisiveness” because in the name of religion everything goes in our country. What is it? Communal riots are unacceptable, but they have been happening in India since time immemorial and there have been very few, very few instances of they being contained within a few hours. Recently Yagoendra Yadav of the Aam Aadmi Party said the Muslims will need another country if Modi comes to power. How can he get away with such inflammatory utterances and not Modi? Manmohan Singh said Muslims have the first right to national resources. Sonia Gandhi cried for two terror suspects. After the recent Muzaffar Nagar riots aid was provided selectively to the Muslim community, if at all it was provided. Salman Khurshid in his book wrote that both Sikhs and Hindus deserved the blood bath that took place in the 80s. In a metro like Delhi Kejrichandra says corruption is India’s biggest problem but in front of Muslims he says the biggest problem the country faces is communalism. For Rahul Gandhi, the greatest threat to India are Hindu organizations and not Islamic terrorists, Naxalites and Maoists. Shinde says the RSS runs terror camps. Why aren’t these people communal and divisive, and why Modi is? Why does Modi destroy the “idea of India” but not people like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Karunanidhi or even the infamous Owaisi brothers? Why aren't the communists taken to task by our intellectuals for totally destroying a progressive state like West Bengal? Why aren't the then chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra demonized for not sending help to Gujarat during the 2002 riots? I’m not even going into the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom carried out by the Congress party. Why aren't there inquiries set up for this dereliction of duty, this galling incompetence? Why does Modi become the all-encompassing evil all “secular” forces need to come together against? There has to be a reason.
The reason is that the beneficiaries of the status quo don’t want it to change. The nexus between politicians, religious leaders, industrialists, scholars, artists and journalists has been working for them for decades. They prefer this deep divide between the haves and have-nots. Mediocrity is the name of the game. You have muscle, money or contacts? Great! You have none. Good.
The best bet for a mediocre person is to curtail people from achieving excellence and this excellence can be from any field. They don’t want people to get educated. They want people to toil for even basic needs such as food, shelter, electricity, security, education, travel and health. They want to keep different peoples of the country perpetually divided because when you unite you can put up a united fight and this can jolt the status quo. One more problem when you unite as that there is a collective dialogue without a conflict and this is dangerous for people thriving on divisive and actually communal philosophies. Through doctored education and propaganda we have been divided into tiny nations, islands in ourselves.
When you need to constantly put massive effort into caring for just basic needs, when do you get time to become socially, culturally and politically aware? When there is nothing to compare, there is no accountability. India is dirty, well, it is because India IS dirty. India is poor, well, with so great a population, poverty IS inevitable. Remember that bureaucrat that said that the Indian benchmark for cleanliness is different from other countries (during the preparation of the Commonwealth Games) when dog shit was found on the bed sheets. With such a big administrative structure, corruption IS bound to happen. For everything there is an excuse.
The current arrangement has been good for many people. You get plum postings without ever working. You get elected simply by pandering to a particular community. Intellectuals promote each other and don’t allow alternative voices to come forward. Remember how Wendy Doniger was repeatedly being called “authoritative” by the same usual suspects? In the name of news channels we have reality shows. In the name of sports we have the colonial hangover of cricket destroying other games in the process.
Modi’s approach is that quality of life is your right, not a privilege. He doesn't want to give you “poori roti”, (a whole piece of bread) he wants to nourish you with healthy food. He wants you to work hard and become self-dependent rather than expecting the government to dole out goodies because of your caste or religion.
When he speaks he knows his facts. Of course sometimes he goes overboard and there is too much of “mitro Gujarat mei maine ye kiya hai aur vo kiya hai” but one, he’s normally talking to the masses so a little bit of rhetoric is needed, and two, he talks about Gujarat because that’s where he has worked.
The best thing I like about him is he has totally changed the narrative of the political discourse whether people like it or not. To the so-called secularists’ dismay, they are the ones who are constantly found to be talking about different castes, identities and religions whereas he talks about Indians. He talks about inclusive growth. He doesn't care whether you are a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Dalit or OBC. He has a firm grip on how resources should be used for maximum benefit. Just look the way he has cleaned up Narmada. Gujarat is quickly turning into the biggest producer of clean energy. Yes, there are kinks, and there are claims that Guajarat is a state that anyways does better compared to other states, and not being an expert I won’t be able to counter your argument.
He talks about concepts our other clueless politicians and highly biased intellectuals can never even think of even if they are born twice. To a person who really feels for the country, Modi seems to be taking the country forward and the rest of the politicians seem to be taking the country backward.
Will he deliver? Frankly I don’t know, I cannot vouch for him. I’m not a BJP propagandist and I’m certainly not working for Narendra Modi. I support him because, as I have already written above, he says things I want to hear. He has facts on his fingertips. He talks about solutions rather than problems. He is unapologetic about his leanings. He’s not bothered about his international image. He couldn't care less whether you term him secular or communal as long as he gets to do his job. His own party works against him. Despite such a prolonged hounding, he has risen and not disappeared into political oblivion. I mean look at that perpetually scheming Kejrichandra. He’s a total creation of the media as well as political machinations. Without these factors he and his bunch of jokers are nothing. Look at Modi on the other hand. He has borne the most vicious media onslaught. His own party men and women are constantly scheming against him. The entire English speaking intellectual class loathes him. Not a single media channel has done a real documentary on what are the real conditions in Gujarat. Why? Because they've got very little negative to show. Had the conditions being bad, do you really think an award winning documentary wouldn't have been commissioned and telecast in a loop, especially on NDTV?
What about his divisiveness? Doesn't he pose danger to the minorities, especially Muslims? You tell me which party isn't divisive in our country? Which political party truly works for the country and not for self-interest? The Congress party, the darling of the secularists, have milked the cows of communalism, casteism and poverty dry while letting Muslims die and remain backward invariably. DMK and the AIADMK are the epitomes of corruption. They say Karunanidhi’s sons are as bad as Saddam Hussein’s sons, or even worse. Communists have done what they are best at — destroyed multiple states. Laloo and Mulayam run their own fiefdoms and all Nitish Kumar wants to do is become the PM of the country even if we has to explode bombs.
An average Modi supporter is not as fanatical as he or she is made out to be. If that were the case, the Togadias and Singhals would have been mainstream politicians rather than fringe elements. Considering all these, I don’t think Modi poses a threat to Muslims. Besides, I believe that he has bigger goals and he knows that playing communal politics doesn't pay in the long run. He is intelligent. Most of our politicians are corrupt and nearsighted. They cannot see beyond the next elections. Modi on the other hand is farsighted. This, I’m sure, will keep the Muslims of the country safe, even if you think he is a hard-core Hindu nationalist.