Friday, May 9, 2014

Bharat Bhushan - Low cunning, not low caste

Low cunning, not low caste
Asian Age. May 09, 2014

(there) are clearly serious flaws in the politics of this man who wants to lead India. They are being ignored because the middle classes and the opinion makers are seduced by his promise of growth and development. It almost seems as if a collective moral insanity has taken over our society. Why else would we see the Modi campaign’s lies, deception, intimidation and lack of regard for differences of opinion not as socially disruptive but as more or less acceptable?

As the campaign for this general election nears its end, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has shown that he also excels in low cunning. He was quick to pick on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s reference to his low-political discourse (“neech rajneeti”) and twist it to convert it into a caste slur against the Hindu lower castes.
 He has demonstrated that he can play both sides — growth and divisiveness. His public interviews are elevated, highfalutin and almost statesmanlike. His print interviews reflect a polished mind — or minds, as if they have been conceived, written and edited by sympathetic intellectuals. It is in his poll speeches that the kinks in his politics stand out.
 As the campaign has progressed, he has supplemented his initial development and growth plank with a host of divisive themes. Increasingly, the trusses of communalism have undergirded his campaign. For the votaries of Hindutva, a part of Mr Modi’s dubious “charisma” always came from his communal track record in Gujarat. However, when he found that reinventing himself as the new messiah of economic growth was insufficient to propel him towards the high office, he shed some of the ballast to soar high on divisive winds.
 That this would be tried in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — with a whopping 120 parliamentary constituencies — was expected. In Uttar Pradesh, communal sentiments were first fanned in Muzaffarnagar to divide Jats and Muslims. Then Mr Modi’s lieutenant, the wily Amit Shah, reaped the communal riots for votes. When pulled up for his inflammatory speeches by the Election Commission, he promised to behave. But he deliberately revived the communal agenda in a speech where he designated Azamgarh as a den of Islamic terrorism. When he was talking about who has converted Azamgarh into a base for terrorists, he might have paused to consider the role of those who demolished the Babri Masjid structure, his government which oversaw organised riots in Gujarat in 2002 and the Hindutva terrorists who bombed Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, Ajmer Sharif and the Samjhauta Express train to Pakistan.
 Mr Modi’s decision to contest from Varanasi, the suggestion that he had been “sent by Mother Ganga” almost as a divine intervention and then the attempt to convert the worship of the river (“Ganga Aarti”) into an electoral show were part of the same divisive strategy.
 In Bihar, the bomb blasts at Mr Modi’s rally were a great help in creating a communal atmosphere. When they did not prove effective, the OBC card was played by telling the electorate that Mr Modi himself came from an OBC caste. He apparently comes from the caste of oil-pressers — Ghanchis or Telis. Sushil Modi declared that the OBCs will relate to him in Bihar “because he is the first from their ranks to become the strongest contender for the PM’s post”. The OBCs account for 54 per cent of the state’s population.
 Having tried to reap the benefits of communalism in western Uttar Pradesh, it was back to the caste card again in central and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Like in Bihar, it was the 39 per cent OBC population of Uttar Pradesh which prompted Mr Modi to deliberately misinterpret Ms Vadra’s comment on his low-level political discourse to portray himself as a victim of upper caste snobbery — in effect implying that he represented all the lower castes.
 In Jammu and Kashmir, given the background of the Kashmir militancy and Pakistan’s role in fomenting it, he tried to incite anti-Pakistan sentiment and proclaimed that his political opponents were helping Pakistan. In Assam, he focused on illegal Bangladeshi migrants and threatened to throw them out. He also made the outlandish claim that the Congress government in the state was killing rhinos to make space for illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
 Given the long history of communalism in Bengal which was partitioned not once but twice by the British, Mr Modi raised this divisive theme once again. Besides calling for tighter immigration controls, he went on to say that those Bangladeshis who worship Ma Durga (i.e. Hindus) would be welcome to India but not the infiltrators. While there may be a good case for better immigration control and a clear refugee policy, that was not what Mr Modi intended. He ought to have been aware of the possible impact of his statements on the security and well-being of the Hindu minority in Bangladesh, or does Mr Modi prefer short-term electoral gains over the strategic interests of India in Bangladesh?
 These are clearly serious flaws in the politics of this man who wants to lead India. They are being ignored because the middle classes and the opinion makers are seduced by his promise of growth and development. It almost seems as if a collective moral insanity has taken over our society. Why else would we see the Modi campaign’s lies, deception, intimidation and lack of regard for differences of opinion not as socially disruptive but as more or less acceptable?
 As the shifting strands in his campaign strategy show, Mr Modi is less about growth and development and more about somehow coming to power. However, a large section of the corporates who have developed a taste for crony capitalism and the middle classes which saw a huge increase in their riches when the economy was growing, pine for someone who will lead them to El Dorado once again. They are prepared then to repose faith in Mr Modi — without bothering about the damage he has already done to India’s social fabric. They are desperate to see Mr Modi as Prime Minister in the expectation of breadcrumbs from his table. They are stakeholders in his potential success.
 Mr Modi has tended to skate on pretty thin ice as far as political norms are concerned. He has skirted all the criticism leveled against him by blaming others and instead portrayed himself a victim of motivated and false propaganda. Only the election results of May 16 will show whether the people of this country have bought this problematic argument.