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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/26/18

The Politics of India's PM, Narendra Modi

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Message Prakash Kona

Shri Narendra Modi addressed rallies in Punjab
Shri Narendra Modi addressed rallies in Punjab
(Image by narendramodiofficial)
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's formula for an "exam warrior" in politics has been unbelievably simple: communalize the masses and corporatize the government. I use communalization in the broad sense of the term: almost every social group has begun to adopt reactionary positions either as supporters or as opponents of Modi and his policies. India as a nation has never been as polarized along communal lines as it is now since the Modi-led BJP government took power.

A consummate politician, Modi is the Salman Khan of Indian politics; he knows the pulse of the masses and "acts" accordingly. Modi is more than aware that the Indian mindset is a product of Bollywood cinema: you just have to sell people fantasies and they will happily consume them. In a Bollywood film there is usually a hero who beats up all the bad guys in order to set things right. That fantastic hero transplanted to real life is Narendra Modi in the Indian political unconscious. This simple strategy of acting out the fantasies of the masses has worked brilliantly towards Modi's success. As far as presenting the fantasies to the masses is concerned, he follows the same style of simplifying everything in metaphors the masses comprehend, something that new-age spiritual gurus are constantly doing. Given the ability of the Modi-led government to sell fantasies with the skill of a spiritual master we literally have had a fantastic government in power for the past nearly four years that would put to shame both the makers of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series.

The biggest fantasy on a 100% discount sale is the India that middle-class Indians want it to be, which Freud would see as an unfulfilled wish lingering in the subconscious. This is an India where you don't have poor people living in our neighborhoods or stray dogs on our streets. This is an India where everybody is dressed to party, and where folks sing and dance (with background music playing) at the drop of a hat. This is an India that comes out of the narcissism of the middle-classes who want to be Americanized as far as commodities are concerned and remain Indians as far as their mentality goes -- a contradiction that doesn't work.

Modi has been able to successfully present himself as a strongman who can deliver a fantastic India to the masses, as a so-called protector of India's borders and as someone who can maintain law and order across the country with an iron hand. To enhance this image, Narendra Modi struggles really hard to be a benevolent father-figure, one thing for which he is completely ill-qualified; this is an image that we see in the ex-prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh and to a certain extent in the late President Abdul Kalam. With a tainted history in politics, especially with the presumed role of the state in the rapes and murders of innocent Muslims in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, there is little to credit Narendra Modi with by way of benevolence or fatherhood for that matter.

With a weak and divided opposition whose policies are as anti-poor as that of the BJP government, Modi himself has little to fear as far as the next elections are concerned; despite the fact that the majority of people are tired of being force-fed fantasies and are beginning to see that at the ground level literally this government has done nothing to prove that it cares for the people.

A communalized India is a perfect recipe for both present and future conflicts. The government's policy in Kashmir is nothing short of absolute force used to achieve a semblance of "order" which is like subjugating an entire population that is resisting the subjugation. It just means that the government has no solutions, is not looking for one, or sees the use of army and police as a solution to the problems in Kashmir; in my view it is all of the above. The Kashmiris, who are otherwise a peaceful people, are deliberately pushed to the brink of complete marginality. It is an unacceptable situation and successive governments, especially the current one, have literally created a Palestine within India's borders.

If Modi was politically inclined to Hindu nationalism we can be sure that it is not the plank on which he stands today: corporatization and Hindutva are unlikely bedfellows. Modi is a corporate man; he cannot endorse a world-view that looks at the past; corporatization is about a futuristic world where elites are completely at the helm of affairs and only one story is told, the story of what happens in the lives of the few men and women at the top while the rest are simply there in the background. Ayn Rand's novels are all about these few people as opposed to the rest who are numbers that don't matter.

This only means that what will finally expose the dangerous game being played by the political party at the center with Modi as the steersman, are the contradictions within the official discourse of both the political party, the BJP and the organization to which it owes its existence, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). Undoubtedly, Modi himself owes his success to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) which overtly espouses Hindu nationalism and in fact he is the creation of the RSS. The constituency of the RSS is the small traders, the lower-middle classes and middle-range caste groups who wish to be culturally Indian and economically western. As an organization with a strong urban slant, globalization has enabled the RSS to spread out across India deep into the small towns thus enabling the victory that the BJP saw in the 2014 elections. Modi's policies of demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) directly impinge in a negative manner on the lives of common people thus eroding the trust that the RSS built over decades of struggle.

My own observation is that small traders and lower-income groups have been bitterly hit by Modi's policies with their businesses having to make way for corporate interests. The poor are becoming desperately poorer and the lower-middle classes are being crushed to the bottom of the heap. As an organization that promises to stand up for these particular social groups who happen to be Hindu by religion, the RSS and its ideology of equating Indian with Hindu nationalism are bound to take a severe beating.

On one hand, Modi's objective of globalizing India falls well within the larger agenda of global elites which is to create a class of wealthy people across the world. On other hand, Modi has to win elections to stay in power. In my view, globalization or corporatization and an exclusionary kind of nationalism whether Hindu or Indian, cannot go together. What Modi can do to make himself credible in the sight of the RSS and the Hindu masses who might be a potential vote bank for the party is to harp on the weaknesses of the opposition.

The dishonesty of so-called progressive left politicians and intellectuals both in and out of the universities has contributed to justifying Modi as an answer to liberal hypocrisy. The Congress-led UPA policy of appeasing social groups through sops whether from backward communities or minorities only for votes while ignoring their real needs and while toeing the same corporate line as Modi, is sickening to say the least. Modi is only too aware that even if the public does not like him, it is enough for him to show the opposition in a more dislikeable light, for him to stay at the top. The public only has to hate the opposition enough to ensure that the BJP is a lesser evil of both. Again, to Modi's credit this is simply not a bad strategy at all as far as winning the election is concerned.

However idealistic it may sound, honesty is the antidote to dishonesty and truth is the answer to lies. If I have to select a government between two liars I might end up choosing the stronger of the two rather than the weaker one. Why on earth would I choose a weak and dishonest opposition to a strong and dishonest party in power! That's how common people think.

No matter how much people don't like you as a person, if they are convinced that you are consistent and that you mean to do good, in the end you earn their respect and trust. We need serious intellectuals who can faithfully record what is happening to the masses and committed public men and women who seek power only to make a difference to the people.

The intellectuals in India are a bunch of copycats with no moral content, and the politicians are criminals who are outside of jails instead of in them. As human beings we have a right to expect better, but as individuals it only means we also become better than what we are. As George Carlin puts it: "Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says, "They suck". But where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. No, they come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, American businesses, and they're elected by American voters. This is the best we can do, folks. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out." Replace "American" with "Indian" and we have the government that we do and the society that produces the leaders of such a government.
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Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is currently Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.

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