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Mainstream, Vol LII, No 15, April 5, 2014

Messiah of the Middle Class or Demogogue?

Sunday 6 April 2014

by Arun Srivastava

Narendra Modi’s supporters and admirers claim that he is the most talented politician of our time. They may be right. Their perception is based on his oratorical skill and style to attract the people. In a democracy it is imperative for a leader to appeal to the human sentiment and muster their support. The interaction with the people is the key to democratic functioning. In a democracy the debate is done in two ways: first, through positive interaction by chiseling the argumentative skill and power, and second, blunting the people’s skill through exciting speeches. Inciting or exciting the people’s sentiment in fact amounts to sedating the sensibility of the mind. This is a most dangerous phenomenon. This is a crude form of demagoguery. It is most unfortunate that Indian politics has already transcended to demagoguery. People seldom get the opportunity to talk to their leaders in a democracy. It is the façade of interaction that makes them satisfy; feel happy. In the era of TV Talks, they are visible on the TV screens explaining the rationale of their actions and analysing the intricacies of their policies and programmes. In such type of interactions the people are a passive listener. They connot put straight and embarrassing questions. They are content with the TV Debates.

Rationale is the first victim of demagoguery. The leaders usually try to raise the passion of the people to accomplish their mission. They are least bothered about the resultant effect it would have on the body politic or even on the politician concerned. Modi might have appealed and attracted the people but has surely failed to interact with them. For him interaction means addressing them through rallies or delivering a “much-hyped speech” often a hate speech which is invariably in bad taste. Even his observers agree: “He doesn’t think anyone else has his brilliance or integrity. And he cannot bear to stand a rival.”

Modi aspires to become the Prime Minister of India, a country poised as the most powerful emerging economy, next only to China. People expect that their Prime Minister should be a person with a vision, a statesman. Ironically whenever Modi opens his mouth to say something he commits a faux pas. Only a couple of days back while addressing a rally in Gaya he identified tourism as the source of income for Biharis and cautioned terrorism would finish tourism. He said: “If tourism fails Bihar is finished.” Somebody should have told him agriculture, not tourism, has been the main source for the sustenance of Bihar. Tourism is for Goa. This was not the first time he was talking nonsense. Such mistakes are manife-stations of the fact that none of his party colleagues dare to advice him. For him the party leaders, cadres and common people are like cheer-leaders. He thinks himself to be omni-potent.

When logic becomes redundant, be cautious that demagoguery is taking over. A demogogue is a person who perceives himself as the sole emancipator. When he says leave aside the issue or question, then be careful. This is the right time for people’s intervention. It is an irony that even a demagogue cherishes for people’s support for his survival. He does everything in the name of the people. Modi during his election meetings talks of enabling development, condemns vote-bank politics and says “the government has no business to do business”. Significantly, a day after the Aam Admi Party chief, Arvind Kejriwal, announced that he would contest against Modi from Varanasi, the BJP leader turned angry and described Kejriwal as AK 49, an agent of Pakistan and an enemy of India. He also insinuated against the Defence Minister. He said: “Three AKs have emerged as a unique strength for Pakistan. One is the AK 47 (rifle) which has been used to spill blood in Kashmir, The second is Defence Minister A.K. Antony and third is AK 49. Surprising, how could a person stoop so low and speak in the language of road -side ruffians? However, Kejriwal was quick to respond: “Kya PM ke daawedar ko ye bhasha use karna shobha deta hai? Modiji muddon ki baat kyon nahi karte? (

Do use of this kind language behove the prime ministerial candidate? Why does Modi not speak of the issues?)

He just responds by using foul language against me. This is not proper.” Antony also criticised his statement. Had this speech been delivered by a man without knowledge of history or an image, it would have impressed. But coming from Modi it is really nauseating. One fails to make out where he intends to take politics.

Similar words he used for Nitish Kumar. While addressing a rally in Gaya. He said: “Desh ke vikas ke liya Bihar ki tarakki jaroori hai aur Bihar ki tarakki tabhi tej hogi jab yahan se Grahan hatega (Bihar’s development was imperative for growth of the country. This can only be achieved when ‘eclipse’ hovering over it is removed.)” His speech sounded more like a warning from the Godfather. Strange how could a leader aspiring to rule India use such derogatory language against the Chief Minister of a State; describe him as


(eclipse)? In Hindu mythology


is the worst omen. This episode reminds the obser-vations of Union Minister Anand Sharma: “He is a demagogue with vile vision.. I don’t consider he reads. We do not consider he is even wakeful of what is his function in a country. He is not famous for his grasp of economics and finally he has confirmed...he has no vision. He has no tellurian vision, no grasp of geo-strategic issues.”

In this backdrop the outburst of NCP chief Sharad Pawar against Modi did not come as surprise. Pawar till a week back did not find fault with Modi and even shielded him on the Gujarat pogrom. But he too took Modi as his target and described him as dangerous for the country. He even suggested that Modi needs to be “treated in a mental hospital for talking rubbish”. He said: “Modi is talking about a Congress-Mukt Bharat. Whether Modi knows the sacrifice and contribution of the Congress in the freedom struggle? Because of the Congress’ ideology, we got freedom.”

Little doubt Modi has “deep character flaws”. P. Chidambaram recently said: “He (Modi) cannot resist such derogatory remarks and perverse characterisation I am ashamed such a person aspires to be the PM and the party (BJP) that doesn’t point out these flaws to him.” He also pointed towards instances of “perverse characterisation” by Modi, including of a former Chief Election Commissioner by calling him “James Michael Lyngdoh” in election meetings apparently referring to his religion. “Referring to people practising a certain faith, he had said ‘ham panch, hamare pachis (we five, our 25)’. When he referred to the Congress President sometime back, he said ‘das numbari’.”

Apparently it manifested infantilism, but a deeper look from an make it clear that he has been suffering from an acute sense of insecurity. Through such actions and languages he wants to impose himself on others for overcoming his sense of insecurity. Modi has the habit of turning the political differences into personal enmity. In his election speeches he has neither been focusing on the communal issues nor raising the issue of Hindutva. Instead he has been personalising the attack. For this Modi has adopted a harsher and tough stance against his opponents. The BJP’s expertise of instigating and exploiting the emotional issues has been quite shoddy. How could anyone forget that Modi is part of a political party that established itself by creating and exploiting the Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue? Somewhere Modi resorting to hate speech or demagoguery owes to this nature of politics. The BJP is the political arm of the Sangh Parivar, which is best known for using hooliganism as its primary weapon in a mission to safeguard “Hindutva” and “Indian culture”. Most of Modi’s supporters are members of the Sangh Parivar.

At no point did the RSS object to or suggest Modi to refrain from using such derogatory languages in his speech. The Sangh leaders get a sadist pleasure and often come out in his defence. Strange how could the flag-bearers of the Indian tradition and culture indulge in such a nasty game? It obviously implied that the RSS wants the BJP undergo a major transformation, emerge as the face of political Hindutva. Already churning has started in the party and the manner in which the dominant Thakur-Brahmin leaders have been marginalised in the party to promote this new political culture speaks loud of the future strategy and plan. This makes clear that soon, precisely after the Lok Sabha elections, irrespective of the fact Modi comes to power, the people will witness completely a new party. Leading this transformation would of course be Modi with his new found ideals of Modilogy. Already the preamble to the new party’s Constitution is being written. The message is clear—that Modi is not only an individual but a vision which will save India. He is the panacea to all the malaises. Modilogy is the new political economic ideology which packages the all-round economic growth and development of the country, which has no contradictory dialectics.

India has seen Indira Gandhi of 1975, now we would be gearing to witness Modi in a new incarnation with soft fascism as the new social order. The urban middle class which is enamoured by his messiah cult would not prefer to oppose him. The Modilogy based on the foundation of crony capitalism and demagoguery would give the impression of being the savior of their class interest. It is for the middle class to derive: What is Narendra Modi: a visionary or a demagogue?

The birth and rise of Modi and his Modilogy owe to the disaffection and alienation of the middle class with the prevailing political system and parties. It is not that they are for BJP. No, if they are angry with the Congress, they are cut up with the BJP too. Incidentally it is the Modi quickfix that has been keeping them closer to the BJP. It is a historical fact that the middle class has led the movements and agitations for change throughout the world, but it is also a bare fact that they have not been averse to bowing before fascism for the sake of their class interest. Modi has succeeded in selling his ideas to this section. The contours of his message are simple: “Indians are great people, but our leaders are corrupt. If we have firm and decisive rule, the Hindu nation will become a world power again.” Apparently it may appear to be simplistic but in essence it is stupid. Modi’s ideas are indeed coloured with hatred towards the democratic institutions.

Surprisingly, the RSS has been promoting the no-nonsense image of Modi. This is the primary reason that he has risen and shone within his party. He eclipsed L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh, Sushma Swaraj directly from this. The intere-sting aspect of Modi is that he genuinely believes the things he represents. In Gujarat, he pushed away the powerful leaders because he cannot share power with them. He is highly insecure and only works with those who accept his absolute supremacy. On the lines of the Congress, Modi is and will be the high command in the BJP. Modi has turned the BJP into a loyalty-oriented party as the Congress.

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52@gmail.com