Hindutva enters Boardroom
If there’s a takeaway from Verdict 2014, which handed over a thumping mandate to Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi, it is the mainstreaming of a certain brand of corporate machismo that was, until now, not a particularly ‘Hindu’ prerogative. Now, with BJP notching up 284 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats riding the Modi wave, which metamorphosed into a tsunami on 16 May, Indian boardroom gets a Hindu makeover, and overwhelmingly so. It is this concoction of a restored Hindu maleness that is wedded and inseparably welded to the ‘ideal’ of corporate clarity that in fact swept Modi to the Centre, who now intends to turn India’s future into a grand power point presentation. This is also the first time in the history of independent India that a rightwing, openly majoritarian government has been voted in with a resounding mandate. Says something about the changing idea of India itself!
The cult of Hindu machismo might be a recent development but it certainly has its illustrious antecedents. Not just in the cadre camps of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological nest of the saffron brigade, we can trace the need to reinvigorate the Hindu male as far back as Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s clarion call in Anandamath. At that time, the ‘Muslim marauder’ was the national/natural enemy, whose warrior-class enigma outshone the weak and supine, caste-battered Hindu in every respect. Fin de siècle 19th century saw Vivekananda, a definite Modi favourite, take Chicago by storm in 1893 when he sold a militant Hinduism to the Parliament of World’s Religions. Later, a pantheon of ideologues and interpreters, including Vir Savarkar, Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, MS Golwalkar, Deendayal Upadhyay, and eventually L K Advani, emphasised on the warrior-hero Hindu, whose divine distillation they found, naturally, in the mythical figure of Lord Ram.
Modi’s unique and important contribution to this rediscovery of maleness as an aggressive Hindu identity was to fuse it with a corporate clarity that saw machismo in the ability to deliver strong and snap decisions, a far cry from the ‘effeminate’ dynasts represented by the Nehru-Gandhi family and their lackeys in Congress party. Not just the decade of UPA rule, which was mired in explosive corruption scandals, Verdict2014 seems to be a write-off for the very idea of a ‘feminised traditional elite’, including the Oxbridge-educated crème de la crème of Indian politics, in other words the grand old party of the Indian National Congress. In its 129-year-old history, Congress has never had such a crisis of leadership, given that the late Indira Gandhi, the camp’s most formidable and authoritarian Prime Minister, was more masculine in her method and madness than her statesman-like, socialist, secular, polite dreamer father, Jawaharlal Nehru. Evidently, repeated branding of Rahul Gandhi, the campaign mascot for Congress until the penultimate moment, as the ‘toy-boy’ before the hypermale Narendra Modi was not a mere accident of election strategies. It is the gist of Modi’s message to his country, this son of the soil versus the superficial, ungrounded, born-with-a-silver-spoon scion of a dynasty that had by now long lost its moral authority to rule the nation.
Add to this the avalanche of support from the biggest names of corporate India. The Rs 10,000 crore worth of systematic and endless blitzkrieg that the Modi-led BJP launched was different from its Congress counterpart in its mathematical precision and blatant ribaldry. One part fired up the stifled imagination of an aspirational India, mostly urbane and entrepreneurially-bent, but perhaps wanting a freer hand. The other part looked at the lowest and basest common denominator – religion – to isolate and bring together hitherto fighting factions within the Hindus themselves, presenting Modi as the OBC and underclass messiah, former chaiwallah turned PM-in-waiting, indeed a leitmotif for a fairy tale. It was a brilliant and successful mix of Reliance and religion that added more inches to Narendra Modi’s inhumanly extended chest, which became a symbol of strong, ‘manly’ governance, an infinitely acceptable alternative to the feminised foil of the Manmohan Singh-led (secular) regime.
The emphasis on size is a universal honk in the Modi bandwagon. The monstrosity of Mumbai that is the 27-storey Antilla (residence of the country’s richest businessman Mukesh Ambani, a benefactor of the Modi campaign) will find its parallel in Modi’s repeated underscoring of exponential economic growth (with or without inclusive development), his showcasing of broad and clean and often imagined streets of Gujarat, and his maniacal attachment to the project of Statue of Unity, the over 2,000-foot edifice of Sardar Patel, whom Modi appropriated for his cultural nationalist cause. With neoliberal economists on one hand and sophisticated strategists of riotous unrest on the other, Modi appealed to the nakedly expansionist and bigoted majoritarian swathes of the 80-crore-strong Indian electorate.
Verdict 2014 is a wholesale acceptance of this clarity in obfuscation. It is world’s largest democracy’s benighted victory, which is blind to the simmering pockets of pain that are bubbling in a sea of fear. It is the attempt to resurrect a mythical golden age, after centuries of Mughal medievalism and British Raj and six decades of post-independent ‘sickular’ Congress rule. It is the fair and free election of a regime that propounds textbook majoritarianism, is openly anti-gay rights, posits communities against each other, tramples on our inherent cultural and historical diversity and imposes a selective monotheist diagram on the multi-ethnic, multi-religious book that is India. It is anti-dissent and against a wider, inclusive definition and practice of civil liberties. It is also India’s effervescent and unambiguous choice. Good days are indeed ahead.
The author is associate editor of Millennium Post