1. The reason Delhi elections are important to Modi & BJP is that it threatens to destroy the biggest myth Modi trades on: he’s invincible.
— Puram (@puram_politics) February 4, 2015
It has now been eight months since the NDA – or to be honest, Narendra Damodardas Modi as his suits tell us – took power after the general elections in India. It was a most authoritative parliamentary performance, though with the share of the vote they won, it appears that they were mostly successful in campaigning rigourously where the Congress atrophied rapidly – in the Hindu heartland among other former Congress strongholds. In terms of the public debate, Modi won absolutely hands down.
The venal cable and print media made much of Modi’s poor record in protecting Muslims in his state from a pogrom, though mainly through innuendo and without a direct discussion of the facts. At the same time, all we heard was wide-eyed, gushing coverage of the “Modi wave” and how he presents a decisiveness, authority and charisma that no one else really has. The master soap opera director Arnab Goswami played this at once mystifying and clarifying role in his famous interview with Modi before the election. Previously – and subsequently – known by his trademark bombast and an almost heroic inability to allow his interlocutors to get a word in, he was struck dumb in Modi’s presence, and spoke with a respect usually reserved for one’s priest during an important ceremony. Arnab, as we affectionately call him, was writing for us a popular and riveting story: “Here’s this seemingly awful, but powerful and charismatic man. We are at once drawn to him but also repulsed by him. Will we really vote for him? He speaks very well, right? Isn’t he so decisive?” For Arnab and the “bazaaru” Indian media (“for sale”, or “in the market”, a term lovingly given by Modi himself in response to their coverage of the BJP’s defeat in these state elections), Modi was the bad boy that the public craved but didn’t want to introduce to its parents, i.e. the US State Department.
The verdict was clear. We all knew that the BJP, the RSS, and the Hindu Mahasabha have been involved in the darkest episodes in India’s history, from the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, to riots in Bombay in the 1990s, and Gujarat in 2004. We knew this very well, but the Congress proved so abysmal in government, we would happily pick anyone else. Even more encouraging, this anyone else promised development, pride, self-sufficiency – all in homespun Hindi rhetoric and the gravitas of a mafioso. Business interests in western and northern India saw which way the wind was blowing, and expected from him what he had offered in Gujarat as Chief Minister – sufficient deregulation and privatisation for the establishment of new oligopolies and monopolies. Riots and pogroms aren’t bad for business, as long as they are limited to lower-caste peripheries of major cities or the rural hinterlands. We were thus promised economic growth and we knew well enough to expect the growth of violence and hatred. We lived with the certainty that the hatred of the RSS hasn’t really affected us until now so why will it in the future? “Yaar unko humse kya lena dena? (“dude, what would they have to do with us?”).
Filed under India, Politics