'Uninstalling Modi'

Mala Jay

'Please be Patient. Your Country will be restored soon'. This is the line in a WhatsApp message that is going viral under the headline 'Uninstalling Narendra Modi'.

Obviously inspired by the electoral eclipse of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in three heartland States, the tongue-in-cheek missive shows an image indicating that the process of deletion of the Modi programme to be 75 percent complete, which is perhaps rather optimistic.

Till now social media jibes have largely been targeted against the Congress party and its leaders but the hat-trick of defeats for the saffron symbol in the recent Assembly polls seem to be correcting the imbalance. Numerous creative minds are coming out with clever and geeky ways to poke fun at Modi and his two Man-Fridays Yogi Adityanath and Amit Shah.

There could be a deeper message in this new trend. That people in general love winners and loath losers. Those who capture power are blindly worshipped as heroes who can do no wrong. He who fails to get the vote is verbally horse-whipped and mercilessly lynched by the mob.
Such generalisations however do not apply in the present historic context. There could be diverse ways to interpret the results of the Assembly elections in the Hindi heartland States. But the WhatsApp humourist who holds out the assurance that "your country will be restored soon" has somehow hit the nail on the head. Saving India from a fate worse than death is the crux of the matter.

Governments come and governments go. Since 1947 the country has had 15 Prime Ministers, some memorable and some already half-forgotten. Whatever their individual faults and foibles, lapses and grave errors of judgment, none of the 13 men and the one woman who ruled prior to 2014 sought to knowingly inflict pain and suffering on an entire population or to deliberately dismantle the very institutions that keep the world's largest democracy intact.

It is highly unlikely that history will view the draconian and entirely unjustified demonetisation with kindly eyes. Rahul Gandhi's assertion that note-bandi was not a mere blunder but a major scam could well be proved right, once all the facts and circumstances are brought to light by some future government.

Nor will posterity see the systematic and brutal poisoning of the national psyche through incessant emphasis on archaic and arcane tenets of religious purity in the past five years as anything other than an agenda of ethnic cleansing and racism.

The relentless attempt to emasculate institutions by forcibly injecting doctrinaire thinking will similarly be viewed in hindsight as a calculated stratagem to undermine the sanctity of the Constitution which has been the bedrock on which all the diverse sub-national identities have co-existed for seven decades.

The hope that "your country will be restored soon" is, therefore not just wishful thinking in lighter vein. It is vital for the survival of India as people know it. It is that flicker of Hope that has been kindled by the December 11 assembly election results.

Undoubtedly, the loss of power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh represents a severe blow to the BJP. But that is not enough—it has to be the one small step towards a giant leap back to safety and democracy, howsoever chaotic and cantankerous it may be. The alternative is despotism.

Unquestionably, the installation of Congress chief ministers in Bhopal, Jaipur and Raipur signals a remarkable resurgence in the political fortunes of the grand old party. But that is not enough—the momentum has to be carried forward to the bigger mission ahead. When the fate of the country is at stake, it is not the time for squabbling over the loaves and fishes of high office or the puny power and pelf of ministerial privilege.

Without a shadow of doubt, the electoral success marks the coming of age of Rahul Gandhi as a political leader of substance who, within a year of becoming Congress president, has demonstrated his political maturity to turn political adversity into electoral triumph.

The hat-trick of victories in the just-concluded polls, viewed in the sequence of the party's performance in Punjab and Karnataka earlier and also the robust campaign in Gujarat before that, is evidence not only of Rahul Gandhi's personal charisma as a vote-catcher but also speak to his innate negotiating and decision-taking skills even in tense post-election situations. Whether other Opposition parties prove dependable or unreliable, self-centered or quixotic, he has to find ways to draw on their collective faith in democracy and to leverage their innate distaste for totalitarianism.

For the Congress party, it might appear from the latest round of contests in five States that the positives outweigh the negatives. The sheer thrill of smashing the saffron stronghold in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan is a sufficient cause for celebration.

But after the self-congratulations, must come cold-blooded strategies to carry forward the momentum. The loss of power in Mizoram and losing out in Telangana to a regional player with ideas of his own may seem of lesser consequence. But there are lessons to be learnt from this and compromises to be struck. The real adversary has to be vanquished. The country has to be restored. Soon. ooo

Vol. 51, No.29, Jan 20 - 26, 2019