Millennium Post

What to expect, what not to expect?

On the 68th independence day of the country, the 15th prime minister of republic, Narendra Modi spoke extempore. The theatrical moment of ringing intensity of the occasion was not lost on Modi.

He sought to be the ‘Great Unifier,’ a man who claimed to harness the capabilities of a “peon” to the “Cabinet Secretary” of the government for a singular vision and purpose. But the question to ask after his big moment is “what is it that is new he said?”

At a basic level, he did send two important messages: one, he sought to make the society aware that it too needed to bear the burden of responsibility for the ills that are afflicting its core; and two, he did maintain some of the clientilist relationship that the citizens had with the government, albeit with a difference.

Of course, one can argue Modi is a reformer not a revolutionary. So when he had to take on his detractors about his cozy relationship with the bourgeoisie, he had to talk about schemes that would alleviate the pains of the marginal people through governmental intervention. But in that he sought to make even those people responsible for making a ‘swachha Bharat.’ He even put a deadline to it, the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi in 2019. 

He gave an interesting twist to the concept of bringing in private sector into areas where the government had a clearly defined role. He talked about private-public partnership and posed it in a manner that reflected his apparent ‘progressivism’ – of involving the people even in these tasks, thus share the responsibility of their success or failure.

These ideas were certainly new. Not since the emergence of Rajiv Gandhi has the country heard another prime minister lay down a vision of modernism in such clear terms. But there lies a duality in Modi’s political vision. It is a supremacist belief that it is his vision of the country that has to prevail – not by the force of the idea but by the force of the muscles that the likes of Amit Shah can generate. There lurks the danger.

 He removed the most important vestige of a command economy, the Planning Commission calling it a relic. But he could not say what he wants to replace it with. The fact that the idea he has is largely ideological is evident in the absence of the clear lines of his concept of the alternative.

In the build-up to the independence day speech, there have been a lot of breast-beating in those sections of the media that wants to partake in the pleasures of the new spoils, about how he has not seized the moment, which supposedly his election victory empowered him to do.

Various job seekers, from Jagdish Bhagawati to Bibek Debroy (he was once the director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Research, a body patronised by Sonia Gandhi), talked about their disillusionment with Modi – Bhagawati by his silence and Debroy crowing from atop the tallest terrace. 

Modi, on the other hand, knows what he wants to do with the country. If he has to replace the Nehruvian India with an India of Golwalkar and Hedgewar and of course his own, he has to make haste slowly. More importantly, he has to maintain the visage of a statesman who is above narrow self-interest, a camouflage that should hide the realities of 600-odd communal incidents in areas of 12 legislative constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, where bypolls are due to be held soon.

Appu Esthose Kumar, the young journalist of Indian Express who travelled through the districts of conflagration, recorded a conscious attempt by the grassroots level workers of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or Bajrang Dal or the like to sow divisions in the ranks of the non-privileged and the marginaliseds like the Dalits and the Muslims, that would break the back of their quest for justice through communitarian regional parties.

Amit Shah had called this ‘social engineering’ fairly openly in the recently held National Council meeting of the BJP. He has clearly been positioned strategically at the helm of the party to create a synergy between the party’s and the government’s agenda. The best evidence of this synergistic advancement is the communal riots of Muzaffarnagar between the intermediate castes like the Jats and the Muslims.

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s recent call to Mayawati to join hands, was not entirely without thought. And Mayawati’s refusal only reflects a study by Christophe Jaffrelot, the French researcher that how the Dalits of India are not so much moved by their class identity when it comes to the lure of cooption by the upper castes.

Both Modi and Shah, and their deepest support centres know it well.

The author is a senior journalist
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