Theatrical Postures Matter

Modi with a Machine Gun

Radhakanta Barik

Modi does not want to address the public but to make theatrical postures which create a public spectacle. Politics has been reduced to a theatre of power like any commercial films of 1990s where the hero could beat anybody to capture his heroine The electronic media has shaped Modi's persona to reduce politics as a theatre and he is the central figure where others are useless. Nodoubt unethical practices of the electronic media are suiting the interests of Modi-Amit Shah.

Who is Modi's model, it is a confusing question for a political scientist. Former Prime Minister Vajpayee once in his press conference made a comparison between India and Pakistan. A lady journalist in that conference asked the Prime Minister, "can you compare India with Pakistan, a small country with limited resources, if you want to compare please compare with a bigger country". Vajpayee admitted her point, then proceeded further in the press conference by answering more questions regarding politics and economy and foreign policy. He pursued a policy of dialogue with Pakistan by telling that one cannot change one's neighbour but friends. He had a dialogue with former President of Pakistan Musharraf in a place next to Taj Mahal in Agra by looking at the beauty of the monument. But that dialogue got collapsed under the pressures from people like Modi in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who did not want any friendship with Pakistan. There was one Prime Minister belonging to his Party who founded the BJP but for Modi he wanted to create a history by ignoring the history of India. Day and night he went on attacking Nehru, the leader and a statesman and indirectly Vajpayee as Vajpayee used to follow the path of foreign policy of Nehru. His minister writes against Nehru without any historical basis. Jaitley in his twitter wrote that Nehru was responsible for making China a permanent member of United Nations Security Council. History tells something differently that in 1950 in the era of cold war where Soviet Russia was the most powerful country as a rival to USA. China became the second Communist country. Soviet Russia supported the candidature of China and India as an Independent country supported China to be the permanent member. Jaitley does not understand the dynamics of international politics but blamed Nehru for making China a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Modi has incompetent ministers, he does not believe in any competence and efficient member of his cabinet which Vajpayee had although Jaitley was a member of Vajpayee cabinet. His rule is popularly known as two-and-a-half-man rule. He with Amit Shah plus a half is Jaitley who wrote nonsense against Nehru. As both of them do not have any respect for history, for them history is bunk. Moreover Modi as Prime Minister has not given any press conference once in his five-year rule. He speaks out his man ki bat without any dialogue with the journalists and intellectuals. For him history begins with him and ends with him. His abuses against Pakistan go on every day but newspapers carried an important news that India was having a dialogue with Pakistan. That means he speaks something differently and in practice he does something else. Is it his hypocrisy or as a leading historian and political analyst Mahesh Rangrajan used to say in 2002 that Moditwa is different within BJP politics. He was the Director of Teenmurti who was forced by his cabinet to resign and to turn Teenmurti, a historical research centre, into Hindutva akhada. Every day they hold meetings in abusing Nehru and other national leaders here in Teenmurti which was the place for serious historical research works.

Why Modi is interested to speak day and night regarding the war with Pakistan. After Pulwama violence and Balakot incident in all his election speeches only the terror incidents and fighter planes figured. Modi hears the noise of these fighter planes creating an echo in the election speeches. He wants to hoodwink Indian public as Indian economy is sliding down and down. The rate of unemployment is highest in the last forty five years. Workers are losing the jobs as many small scale and medium industries are getting closed, thanks to demonetisation and GST. Banks are in poor health. Educational institutions are under attacks. Modi and his followers are reciting Sanskrit slokas without any substance in the election speeches. But Indian public is discussing politics in the bus or train or park or road regarding the unemployment, job or corruption in Rafael deal. He should send IB people to these places to know the mood of people and can he file case against them as 'Urban Naxals'?

Modi experienced Hitler's style of functioning in Gujarat by destroying the public institutions such as independence of Police, civil servants and judges. Then he felt that the ground of his chair was little shaky, so he planned with the industrialists and RSS chief to come back to Delhi. But in the last assembly election in Gujarat he saved himself by chance but yesterday there was a massive rally in favour of the Congress. He feels the tremors of Ahmadabad.

How does one feel about a farmer in India? A man with 10 acres of land from Rajasthan working as driver in a car told this writer two years back that people with this much land were having the income which was similar to the income of a peon in government or a soldier in army. Such an observation is coming from him with a profundity. After Modi came to power the rural income for a farmer or a labourer has steadily declined. Published in Indian Express on March 11 by a well known journalist Harish Damodaran. Rural income of each section of society has declined over the last five years. This explains the sufferings of rural people being perceived by the traditional intelligentsia but not urban based intellectuals. They are scared of Modi for publishing the facts in relation to rural income and, rural distress is so deep in India that India's scholarship is too weak to capture their problems. Prof Yogendra Singh, a leading sociologist who used to visit his Village in UP said some years back that income from agriculture could not sustain a family without any urban linkage. This brings out truth that rural people are suffering from low income and low level of health facilities and low quality of education resulting in keeping them poor and in distress. Here Modi government being a Bania government is serving only big banias in India.

Here another public institution in India like the Election Commission is under the attacks like the CBI, Judiciary, CAG and the other administrative agencies of the state. The Election Commission being a constitutional body should have taken an independent view of the situation but it seems by announcing the dates for election in the Eastern India it is being guided by the BJP. As the BJP says that they have to concentrate in the Eastern India specifically Odisha and Bengal. They have gone for 7 phases of election in Bengal and four phases of election in Odisha, a small state. A State of 30 districts into 4 phases by which the Modi and Shah would rake the State into a playground for hitting their campaigns and showing their muscle and money power in each division. It is a sad commentary over the performance of the Election Commission. Any candidate from the BJP to contest the general election of 2019 has to fill up a detailed pro forma. The pro forma talks of one central thing that the possible candidate has to tell the party high command 'he or she can identify and locate 'martyrs' from the uniformed forces in his/her constituency.' He or she as a probable candidate of the BJP has to hold functions related to soldiers rather than working with the farmers. It is interesting to note here that the possible candidate has to identify the caste combination in that constituency. The BJP believes that all other parties are the caste based except their party but it proves too contrary. There is no discussion on issues related to farmers or workers or youths in that pro-forma. It brings out the truth behind the BJP and the Hindutva forces that the party has taken up one issue only—the militant jingoism by honing a soldier but forgetting honouring the farmers who committed suicides in each constituency and worker losing the jobs. There is a poster of Modi as a soldier carrying the machine gun. This is the age of war hysteria which Modi is representing now. He was the Vikash Purush in the 2014 general election and today a persona carrying the machine gun. This image is nauseating for an average ordinary voter.

The present prime minister Modi shows his desperation for power by declaring 175 projects in the late cabinet meeting. Here he shows his desperation for clinging to power, whereas the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never showed an element of desperation. This is an observation by nobody else than Shri Modi the present prime minister on the former prime minister. Interacting with civil servants for more than two decades as they used to say that one cannot find any difference between the elected people and defeated people in the election. They used to show their broad smiles in their faces both in defeat and winning. This is the characteristic of Indian professional politicians but exception to Modi and most of MPs belonging to his party. There is a story as the majority of MPs showed their nature clapping with any statement for Modi. They gave clapping by beating the tables more than five minutes. They are going to lose their seats in coming general election of 2019. Modi is no exception as he behaved as Roman king while he was Prime Minister. He visited more foreign countries without any official business than anybody in power. 'Modi has been enjoying power by going on foreign trips then he will retire and go back to Ahemadbad." He is a desperate person. This explains the element of desperation in announcing the 175 projects in the last cabinet meeting. Modi has brought the Hindutva politics to a climax that there cannot be any second opinion. There is no place for knowledge or questioning. Opinion needs to be framed by the top down and imposed on others. Nobody can question the activities of the army as it is defined by Modi as the only patriotic organisation. Patriotism cannot be questioned or the army cannot be questioned. This view of Modi is dangerous for democracy where many opinions and many views or many interpretations compete with each other. A plural democracy has no place for the Hindutva politics. They take Savarkar as the only voice, albeit his view of religion is a narrow one. This brings the opinion of Modi that Hinduism has no place except Hindutva where Manu Shastra needs to replace the Indian constitution. For them it is a borrowed text rather than carrying universal ideas of human rights and theory of contract.

This reflects in the everyday behaviour of an MP or MLA belonging to the BJP. Fighting in a party conclave between the MP and MLA belonging to upper caste and backwards respectively getting televised from Lucknow one finds an interesting sociological observation. The Caste hierarchy has got disintegrated but the language of the upper caste Hindus showing their power has not changed much. In every day conversation in the cow belt (coined by Prof Moonish Raza) among the upper caste people against the backwards shows—'beat them with shoes'. This explains the power relation and the brutal behaviour of these upper caste landlords. In a village dominated by the Kurmis within the peri-urban areas of Banaras while investigating the educational advancement in the locality and they faced obstructions from the upper caste landlords. Thirty years back a primary school teacher in the village got thrashed by the Brahmin Landlord. He was a sincere teacher which the landlord could not digest. One day he came to the school and gave kicks to the teacher and threw him out of the compound. Now a days he lives in Banaras. This explains the power relationship between the Brahmin landlords and backwards. In conversation with the students of School of Planning and Architecture a student belonging to Yadav community who was refused by the house owner for renting it out as he belongs to the backward. As this is happening today in the urban areas one can feel the power relation between an upper caste MP got exhibited by beating an MLA belonging to a backward caste with the shoes.

The ensuing general election of 2019 is going to be crucial for democracy and society as one has to prove the fight between constitutional democracy and the Manu Shastra pleading for revival of the Chaturvarna.

[Prof Radhakanta Barik, retired as Professor, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi,]

Vol. 51, No. 41, Apr 14 - 20, 2019