Millennium Post

Race to the Racecourse

If one can convey time in spatial magnitude, one can say the 3,000 km steeplechase that can be called a general election in India, is just about beginning. The distance runners at the starting line are warming up, doing stretch exercises, and loosening the muscles, taking the kinks out of them.

Last fortnight, the country witnessed the two top contenders of the political run, relating their individual visions that would be achieved, only after the end: after they breast the tape first, in 2014.

Like two top runners, with the most amount of bets upon them, they strutted their stuff. Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi began perfecting their sales pitches; one on a video-link to overseas Indians but widely publicised within the country; the other telling the owners of capital domestically that he has the pulse of the poor, down pat.

The differences in the stylistics of the two are reflective of their ideational differences, one talking about a Hindustan that is bound feet and mouth and attached to an exclusivist agenda; the other, of India, where the moth-eaten ‘American Dream’ has to be relived all over again, only this time as an ‘Indian Dream.’

Rahul’s nine years of what can be called Bharat Darshan, quite co-incidentally, tallied with Modi’s 10 years at the helm of the Gujarat government. Out of these two experiences the Congress and the BJP poll narratives are to emerge. Let us examine the two and place them on the anvil of the
reality. Modi ruled the western state with a severely polarising hand, one that had the Hindus and the Muslims in tightly held pockets; where the scarce arable land in a largely arid state could be given at throwaway prices to industrialists, without a sound of protest rising from those who were dispossessed. Each Rs 1 lakh Nano car that comes out of the Tata factory carry a subsidy of Rs 63,000 each, according to some calculations made by people who are busting the Modi myth everyday.

His significant other, Rahul, the Nehru-Gandhi scion has remained true to the family legacy of borrowing ideas from the West and supplanting them in India. They did not need to be essentially modern – one that could be civilisationally progressive or generally on the historical continuum – but they had their genetic codes that have originated in Europe and/or the USA. Take the early socialism of Nehru. It was based on equitability; on redistributive justice, be it of land. So, when Nehru sought to implement the idea in the country soon after independence, he was thwarted by his own party-men, who in their own right were powerful leaders in their pocket buroughs.

His daughter decided to push the populist socialism of her early days down the gullet of the people, she ended up creating a crisis of mammoth proportion that gave birth to the first authoritarian regime independent India encountered.

Her son, Rajiv Gandhi brought in some fresh air of modernity, but if one considers today’s  cellular phones to be the descendants of car phones that he and his people espoused in 1984-1985, one could almost feel pity for him as being ahead of his time. Result: to win the next general election, he was told to reopen the gates of a disputed Babri Masjid so that Hindus could pray there. Far from being a harbinger of a time suffused in scientificity, Rajiv became a victim of a pre-modern narrative that could only aggravate a five-century-old festering wound.

The Congress under Narasimha Rao sought to take Rajiv’s ideas a few steps ahead, and brought in ‘globalisation.’ While not only did it give birth to massive corruption even at the highest echelons of power, it also created deepened the divide between the privileged and those who were at the bottom of the food chain.

Now, of course, the Congress Party in an alliance is so bereft of ideas that one could not even call Rahul a dimwit, because he took nine years to know the country. The old and structured party’s communication channels broke down a long time ago. Rahul has not done anything yet to create a complementary structure that could uphold the Party of the old, or the new.

On the other hand, the BJP’s clever, but old, attempt to portray the coming elections a two-party affair early on, would unravel the moment a Nitish Kumar refuses Modi, entry into Bihar for a poll campaign to say the least, it would take the wind out of the sails of the presumptive prime minister of the RSS camp. Modi, of course, has an uphill task to undertake. Out of the world of the bhens and bhais, he has to prove that even without a Bharat Darshan, he knows the country lies between Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and Bengal to Maharashtra.

The author is a senior journalist
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