Years before the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat, the political psychologist Ashis Nandy had interviewed Narendra Modi and felt he had met a “textbook fascist”. It goes without saying that it would be terrible if Narendra Modi ever became prime minister (PM) of India.
The first to feel the heat, already, are within the Hindu Divided Family, the RSS “Parivar”. There are those within the Parivar who are publicly hailing Modi but privately fuming that there is no space left for “dissent” in the party. And I thought leftists used words like dissent! Well, leftists would use it a lot more if Modi did become PM. Mr Modi does not like dissent, disagreement or debate. If Modi becomes PM, a lot of people should be ready for sedition cases and income tax raids.
However, I don’t think it will be cataclysmic for India’s Muslims. He has done to Gujarat’s Muslims what he had to, and achieved what he had to. It will, however, be another symbolic blow to the Indian Muslim’s right to live as equal citizens that a leader who is liked by his core constituency for having “shown Muslims their place” becomes prime minister.
And yet, in a cynical, masochist way, I have a death wish. I think Narendra Modi will also be good for India. He will be good because India’s left-liberals, “centrists”, constitutionalists, radicals, freethinkers, Communists, Congressis, Dalits, Muslims — a lot of people, will unite to cry “Fascism! Fascism!”, from morning to evening. They will bring such scrutiny upon every action of his as there hasn’t been on the Congress-led coalition that has ruled India since 2004.
A journalist recently met a senior minister in Manmohan Singh’s government and asked, sir ye kia ho raha hai? Why is your government in such bad shape? The minister said, “Hum raj kar rahein hain.” We are ruling.
When I heard this anecdote secondhand, I completely believed it, because of the attitude of the so-called United Progressive Alliance government. They bought over votes to pass a bill for a nuclear deal with the US in 2008. The 2009 elections were held six months after 26/11. The BJP made national security an election issue. To its own surprise, the Congress increased its seats from 145 to 206. Urban and rural voters alike rewarded them for what they thought was good governance. This return to power went to their heads.
Virtually since the beginning of the second term, this government has battled one crisis after another. And their reaction to every crisis is brazen arrogance. They did not save the day for Commonwealth games when they could have, they blamed the auditor for exposing a telecom scam, they put Anna Hazare in jail for asking for a Lokpal and even killed a Baba Ramdev supporter asking for a similar demand. Students came out to protest against rape and they responded with tear gas. They put Muslims in jail in fake terrorism cases, they hanged Kasab and Afzal to appear strong, weren’t able to do anything about anti-Muslim violence in Congress-ruled Assam, let the situation in Kashmir worsen again, allowed the economy to tumble, let Maoists get the better of them, slapped sedition cases against those who don’t want a nuclear power plant next to their house, put people in jail for criticising the government online, and can’t even pass legislation they think will fetch them votes. Is the Congress a good-looking BJP?
And how do India’s centre-left-radical intellectuals and activists respond to such a government? With some exceptions, by silence. Why? They think criticising the Congress will help the BJP. But the Congress’s decline is anyway helping the BJP. And thus, our leftists make themselves even more politically irrelevant because they have nothing to say.
If Modi becomes PM, our leftists will have a lot to say. Even if the BJP gets enough seats to cobble together a coalition, the coalition partners are unlikely to support Modi as PM. Ideally we need a Third Front break to show the “national” parties their place, but it is still possible that the Congress may be able to put together a UPA-3 (a UPA government for the third time). And that is scarier than Modi-1.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2013.