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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/18/14

What the Narendra Modi-led BJP regime means to the future of India

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Message Prakash Kona

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi
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The reasons that precisely defeated the BJP a decade ago in 2004 paving the way for the Indian National Congress -- interestingly those are the very reasons why the BJP-led NDA under the leadership of Narendra Modi is going to take power in the bitter and unrelenting Indian summer of 2014. A repressive state, a state that will not intervene positively on behalf of the weak and the downtrodden, a state that will enforce a corporate-based meritocracy which means significant sections of women, minorities, working classes and political dissenters must bear the brunt of exclusion -- interestingly, the existential fear and trembling that an entire society is going out of hand, has left voters no choice but give Modi and his party conclusive victory.

I don't understand what pedantic and superficial articles like the one written by Pankaj Mishra are trying to do except repeat cliches for a liberal western media that wishes to hear its own voice in as many versions as possible (click here). It seems as if a draft version of the article was written six months prior to the general elections in India. I presume Mr. Mishra kept two articles on his system: one if Modi wins and another if he loses. The pseudo-left camp simply doesn't get the idea that across India parties that claimed to be spokespersons of the poor or Dalits or minorities have lost. Also, it does not explain why Modi might have garnered the votes of middle-class Muslims and Dalits without which the kind of mandate that his party acquired in the Parliament would not be possible.

The media rightly observed the "policy paralysis" under the Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi-led UPA-Congress regime which created a void for anarchic elements mostly from caste-based groups to call the shots, thoroughly weakening the day-today functioning of state institutions and putting fear in the hearts of the voting classes that the nation itself might be crumbling to pieces. At all levels in any society people everywhere fear the absence of order. Whether there is an element of historical inevitability or not, with Manmohan Singh as the eminently forgettable Prime Minister of India, the wily Sonia Gandhi who frankly had no interest in either India or Indians, the pea-brained Rahul Gandhi, the greedy and corrupt son-in-law Robert Vadra and the sleep-walking wife Priyanka Vadra who decided to wake up before the elections to defend her unethical husband, there is no doubt that the past five years were a free for all where proving might became more important than being right. The fear of social upheaval has thrown the Oedipal public into the arms of an unlikely father-figure, an almost single male Narendra Modi, thanks to an imaginary need for security. It is a grave psychological void that Modi is fulfilling in his middle class voters. The poor might have more practical reasons for voting Modi or BJP.

The backlash leading to the stunning victory of the Indian Right has to be seen against this background. The middle classes are sick and tired of anything that remotely looks like a welfare measure given as a form of appeasement to the downtrodden classes. Reservations are looked at with nothing but contempt by the upper castes and interestingly even by the self-hating, embarrassed beneficiaries of affirmative action. The fact that the poor get too much without deserving it is seen by the public as the sole agenda of political parties. Apart from the anti-incumbency wave, if Narendra Modi as an individual can rightly take a large part of the credit for the party's victory, it is simply because people see him as a solution to the prevailing disorder albeit knowing full well that this means a severe curtailment of civil and political rights. Somewhere I think that a similar sense of insecurity might be the reason why George Bush Jr. could come back to power the second time.

What Narendra Modi will seek to create is a meritocracy along American lines where the fittest get to survive and the "unfit" have to fend for themselves. The welfare function of the state at all levels including reservations of various sorts will eventually be cut down and the repressive function will be strengthened. At the ideological level, they have Hindutva to do the job of excluding minorities and others who don't wish to be a part of this ruthless system. In effect what Narendra Modi will do is divide India along class lines and successfully so.

There never was any serious left-wing party in India that could root itself culturally and politically in the lives of the masses. The unfortunate conflation of caste with class has destroyed the possibility of a serious left-wing alternative like in the Latin American countries. By and large the popular perception of the Left is that they are a bunch of crooks who talk a lot of impractical nonsense and will not hesitate to steal given half the chance. I don't completely disagree with this view of the Left.

I don't understand the ridiculously misused phrase "civil society" for anybody who is not in a government job. Everybody is a member of the state as well as civil society. They are almost interchangeable terms. The so-called Leftists who sit in government positions and call themselves anti-state should either resign from their jobs or should give away their incomes to the poor. Otherwise the phrase anti-state is a meaningless one. In a country where the majority of the people are poor, communism ought to have flourished in one form or another. Shamefully, the elites and the deeply communalized middle classes that rely for identity on categories of caste, religion, region, language or dialect, have conspired to make sure that there is no trace of a real Left that voices the rights of the deprived classes in this country.

The poor see no hope in this election or in any other election to come. They are too caught up with real life problems such as inflation and the lack of a decent livelihood. They look for immediate remedies and even if they did not see Narendra Modi as a solution to their problems they definitely see him as an alternative to the Congress Party which had long abandoned them. In fact I observed the untold misery caused to the poor by the Aadhar Card (providing a Unique Identification Number something along the lines of the Social Security Number in the US), devised by an unbelievably foolish brainwashed Americanized technocrat Nandan Nilekani who, I say with great joy and relish, has been crushingly defeated in this election. I hope these sick paranoid men know what harm they do the poor thanks to their infantile notions of what is good for the public.

Modi will write the obituary to the Nehruvian vision of a mixed economy that combined public enterprise with private initiative. In fact what this electoral victory might signify is the corporatization of the state where merit and conformism to the political order become the primary criteria for the ideal citizen. There won't be "victims" of social and political injustice any longer. In fact, Modi will gradually make sure that the word "victim" is erased from our political vocabulary. There will only be two categories of people: the deserving and the undeserving and this won't have anything to do with the social or economic background of the person.

With the poor polarized as ever before along caste and communal lines it is virtually impossible that this government should meet any resistance from the masses for whatever policy it undertakes guided by the World Bank and IMF. The so-called Gujarat model of development is more like the China model of development that gives no rights to workers, only deadline-based targets. Filling a dangerous void this electoral triumph will perfectly justify Modi's illusions of grandeur. A wave of relentless repression seems to be an expected reality.

In his short treatise The Prince, Machiavelli says, "A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves." The cunning of the fox and the forcefulness of the lion are the ideal qualities of a Machiavellian leader. In Pareto's theory of circulation of elites the foxes are distinct from the lions and one will be replaced by another. Joseph V. Femia in Pareto and Political Theory explains how Pareto's elites work in practice:

"All power elites, he (Pareto) asserts, govern the masses through a combination of 'force and fraud' -- that is, by means of coercion and guile or cunning. Generally, however, they exhibit a preference for one or the other"The personality type defined by Class I residues (foxes) governs by consent, by appealing to prevailing symbols and sentiments in order to build alliances and strike deals. Cunning and rationality are preferred to force and faith. The Class II personality type (lions) is dull but idealistic, fond of continuity and order but receptive to clever theories and contrived images that foster the cohesion of the social aggregate -- the family, the nation, the class, the community"The Class II politician fears the disruptive potential of dissident voices or behaviour and is therefore inclined to use force to attain his objectives. The language of persuasion and compromise is foreign to him. And unlike the foxes, who take pleasure in clever debate and logical solutions, he burns 'no incense to the goddess Reason'"To wit, an elite of lions will be deficient in the spirit of innovation and compromise, and this shortcoming will eventually undermine its ability to keep the masses satisfied; conversely, an elite of foxes will lack the will power to use force, and this will eventually erode its authority, perhaps to the point of social anarchy."

Part of the reason why Narendra Modi looked attractive to the voters on the election day is because he might be the image of "force and faith" -- the lion-type personality that Indians are looking for at this point in time. One thing Pareto seems certain is that though the governing elites change life at the bottom remains the same. The interests of the economic elites are never fundamentally different from those of the ruling elites. In a country such as India which is difficult to govern given the numerous languages and ethnicities, it would help Narendra Modi to add a bit of foxiness to his style of leadership. Fraud is the twin brother of force and to keep it that way is not a bad idea at all.

On a less ironic note, I agree with George Carlin that politicians are simply one of us. If we don't have great politicians it simply means we are not a great people. An idealistic generation breeds idealistic leaders that take cultures forward. A crooked and self-centered people will have crooked and self-centered leaders. If Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India despite the role he played in the Gujarat carnage of 2002, this is exactly who we deserve. Where there is no innocence, the result is a society which sees nothing wrong with violence as an end in itself.

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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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