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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 7, February 8, 2014

Of Tea and Dynasty

Monday 10 February 2014, by Badri Raina


All my life I have regarded a few things as highly as tea. Back in America during the seventies I recall persuading a clutch of American friends to switch from instant coffee to tea if they were serious about ameliorating their everyday tensions. For the reason that, unlike instant coffee, indeed all things instant, tea demands its own time, and, once brewed, flourishes only in company and conversation. A regimen, if followed with all the caressing that tea invites, may in time lead to much salutary rethinking on the deleterious consequences of the rat race and the relentless fever of profit maximisation that breeds it.

Thus all those who know of tea, who brew it, and who vend it are among my loved ones. What a pity, therefore, that vendors of tea who spread such good cheer make so little money. There is hence something most heart-warming about our own Narendra Modi’s nostalgia
about his tea-vending past, a nostalgia that, understandably, he never tires of articulating among whole masses of people whom he soon expects to lead as the Prime Minister of India.

Yet, what an incomprehensible pity that Shri Modi, through the long years of his undisputed reign as the Chief Minister of Gujarat should have pursued policies that benefit not the tea vendors but those money bags whose shenanigans do nothing but oppress and keep under foot tea vendors and all their honestly labouring ilk. A deep mystery that baffles much, and invites the thought that, after all, people born in higher places than Shri Modi who think and do rather more for the aam aadmi may be more deserving candidates for high offices meant to cause the lot of ordinary Indians to be better than before.

A thought that takes me from tea to the subject of dynasty, one that is much in the air as campaigns for the coming Indian general elections are fiercely underway. I think particularly here of the agony that the thought of dynastic politics causes India’s main Opposition party, namely, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The troubling consideration in this regard does not issue merely from the plethora of dynasties alive and kicking within the BJP itself—the Rajnath Singh dynasty, the Jaswant Singh dynasty, the Prem Kumar Dhumal dynasty, the Vasundhara Raje dynasty, the Kalyan Singh dynasty, to name but the major ones—but from two far larger facts that are rather little known and often forgotten.

ONE, that throughout its history, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has regarded the Hindu monarch (now thankfully disempowered) of the neighbouring country of Nepal as the monarch as well of the Hindu Rashtra of India, since it has always considered India to be in essence a Hindu nation. Thus the ideological remote-control of the BJP has not merely espoused a monarchical dynasty but a foreign one at that as most suited to rule India. Just chew on that a bit, Bhayiyo aur Bhehno (that is, brothers and sisters).

And, secondly, the fact that the chief of the RSS, its Sarasanghchalak, is always a nominated head, and always a male one at that—one who then, all disingenuous disclaimers notwith-standing, nominates in turn the President or the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Think that but for that nomination, Shri Modi may never have made it to the Prime Ministerial candidate status within the BJP.

Not to forget that the RSS which arranges the life of the BJP has neither any constitutional legitimacy nor ever participates in India’s electoral processes.

You might then say that within the RSS/BJP currently, tea and dynasty are rather intimately entwined, although in a more devious sort of way than within the poor Congress party wherein the Gandhis have been regularly a part of the democratic/constitutional process, duly endorsed both by the party and electorate. Truth to tell, because they have traditionally worried as much about the disenfranchised hoi polloi as about the money bags, they find their wares harder to sell now to the very uppities whom the Congress’ own policies spawned over the last two decades or more of market fundamentalism.

Thus, like it or not, as India goes to the hustings, everything about the Congress is tainted, and everything about the exclusively big-business-loving BJP/Modi teflon. Be it tea or be it dynasty, India’s corporate electronic channels have talons but for one creature, and padded paws for the worse one whose raucous deceptions suit their purposes, having come of age on all that the former had to offer but who no longer promise quite as much more, hell bent as they seem on wasting resources on tea vendors and the like, legislation after legislation.

In short, erstwhile tea vendors who promise to serve reigning money bags, indigenous and foreign, are the flavour of the season. And “dynasts” who aim to do good to the hoi polloi are “dynasts” first and last. Indeed, dynasts several times over for being bleeding heart do-gooders.

Twice before now was the club of “corruption” wielded effectively by the corrupt Right-wing in India to bring about a regime change conducive to further the corrupt concentrations of wealth. Each of those times the results proved shaky.

Remains to be seen what this third campaign of 2014 will yield. There may be more happening than the corporate channels blare.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His latest book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012.

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