From commotion to half an emotion
The transition from an arch-campaigner and chief contender for the top post in government to the Prime Minister finally taking the reins in his own hands has been lubricated with tears for Narendra Modi. Whether orchestrated or spontaneous, the tears that choked Modi for a few pregnant moments were both of joy and throbbing historical awareness – that of finally achieving what he had been striving for, not through months but years. Modi’s first speech in Parliament’s Central Hall marked his metamorphosis from a strongman to a statesman, even though only time will tell if his bid to emotionalise what has hitherto been a politics of calculated commotion is more than just a well-played move. Modi’s gesture of ‘stooping to conquer’, kissing the steps of the ‘temple of democracy’, bode well for the 125-crore-strong Indian nation, which had only some months back had witnessed Parliament dwindling into Pandemonium, being held hostage to the whims of lumpen legislators, preferring disturbance over dialogue. That he left behind his trademark combative posture for a softened, almost vulnerable stance is indicative of definite shifts in style and mode of governance that might be expected from the new prime minister’s office. The emotionality, brief but conspicuous, would go a long way in serving a number of causes for the new Indian PM, adding one more feather to his cap of effective and mass communication skills on one hand, while oiling the wheels of collective amnesia that allows a communally-imbalanced country to forget, forgive and ‘move on’, on the other. Modi’s emphasis on ‘era of responsibility’, on working for the poorest of the poor, on accountability, augurs well, insofar as the process of political transition (a rude and shocking one at that for the Indian National Congress) is concerned. Moreover, that answers some of the residual grievances of that section of the electorate, polity and intelligentsia that is still coming to terms with the advent of this new period in Indian political history – one that has probably severed its cords from a colonial relic of administrative system and instead embraced the diktats of the market.
While the mandate has been both anti-incumbency, slowing growth, weak leadership, extreme corruption, it has also been, and decisively so, for Modi himself and the dream of growth that he brandishes. Whether that vision has holes in it and whether the idea of ‘growth over identity politics’ masks a majoritarian corporate wet dream will be for the future to tell. At this juncture, what we can see is that realignments have already started occurring insofar as international relations and diplomatic posturing are concerned. There’s palpable admission on the part of the global community that paradigm shifts in the manner India will do its parleys, domestically and internationally, are underway. Caste and other demographic dividends have given away to a political momentousness, which is probably a concoction of master spin-doctoring and propaganda blitzkrieg. How far Modi can sustain this political bubble and rewrite the contours of political imagination will be for time to tell.
For now, it’s a job well-begun.