Crafting a fresh idiom of political discourse
by Sandhya Jain on 05 Nov 2013 34 Comments
As a conglomerate of once-impressive ideological and regional stalwarts (some still formidable in their respective States) met in the capital to explore the contours of a possible Third Front alliance for the 2014 general elections, one noted the visceral hatred for the Gujarat Chief Minister across large parts of the political spectrum and associated fellow travellers. So primeval is the loathing that it must be motivated by deeper reasons. The Gujarat riots of 2002, by no means the most abhorrent since independence, seem increasingly like a ‘working excuse’ to keep one man down – and out.


One reason, which explains the raw anger of Congress party president and Gandhi family matriarch Sonia Gandhi, the tenacious resistance of Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart LK Advani, the Left parties and regional satraps, is that for the first time since the palpable decline of the Congress in 1967, India may be moving towards a new one-party dominance under post-independence leaders.


Narendra Modi stars among a host of BJP leaders who have served their respective States with distinction and improved the lot of their people. They have excelled in ‘bucking incumbency’, with citizens appreciating their efforts to raise development indices (bijli, sadak, pani et al) and returning the party to power, often with an improved margin. Such leaders do not easily succumb to intra-party mischief (Vasundhara Raje was partly responsible for her agony).  


The BJP is a post-independence party, not a colonial legatee perpetuating itself through some variant of divide and rule, targetting and exploiting specific groups to craft a winning electoral arithmetic. In its original incarnation as the Jana Sangh, it was not overly enamoured of the British Raj and proposed an alternative to the Nehruvian model of nation building. For complex reasons, its growth was limited. It may be mentioned, however, that the mysterious deaths of Jana Sangh stalwarts put the party in the hands of leaders without firm ideological convictions or drive to conquer; they rose when the tide ebbed for Congress.


Today, we are at the cusp of a new phenomenon: the political order dominated by the Nehru-Gandhi family is in visible decay; its rejuvenation unlikely. Should the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance be voted out in 2014 (as seems likely), this order will wither away, opening the hitherto invincible leadership of the Gandhi family to serious challenge. Viable chief ministers may find better traction as regional satraps.


Narendra Modi heralds the new order gestating in the nation’s womb. When powerful historical currents operate below the surface, one man becomes the symbol of the change and seems to drive it. The larger forces tend to coalesce around the personality of the leader, who serves as a crystallizing point; this is why the writings of early historians tended to be ruler-centric. Marxists understood that more impersonal forces were at work, but they de-personalised the process to the extent of taking liberties with chronology and historical facts.


Narendra Modi does not represent the RSS consensus (though RSS has endorsed him) or the traditional non-Congress consensus (a la Third Front or NDA minus core BJP agenda). In a fundamental sense, he continues the Jana Sangh quest for a non-Nehruvian paradigm in which trade and industry get legitimate respect and are not stymied by petty inspector raj (achieved handsomely in Gujarat); this real economy stimulates development, growth, investment et al. The state confines itself to the macro picture (roads, highways, infrastructure, power).   


If this assessment is correct, then Narendra Modi is not just leading the Bharatiya Janata Party to power at the Centre, but to the commanding heights of the polity, the pole position around which other players adjust themselves, in alliance or in opposition. This seems plausible for reasons larger than one individual.


The foremost is that Narendra Modi has succeeded, where LK Advani failed, in crafting an affirmative idiom of political discourse which is not defensive vis-à-vis the majority or minority community. By appealing uniformly to all on a platform of growth and development, opportunity not entitlement, he has dealt a body blow to the de-energizing and disempowering concepts of socialism (read patronage, crony capitalism, and the dead weight of corrupt bureaucracy) and secularism (read undue weightage to non-Hindus, including the army of anti-Hindu Hindus who populate the ranks of our so-called intellectuals).


This has taken the sting out of the charge of ‘communalism’, hitherto the most virulent form of political abuse in India. Unnoticed by most commentators, over the past few decades, a huge intelligentsia (middle class of varying degrees of prosperity) has grown across the country which is neither apathetic nor apologetic about its Hindu identity. This class is truly contemporary (this is also the most appropriate meaning of Sanatana Dharma) in that its aspirations are modern and conform to the Hindu goals of kama and artha (material well being), which translates into education, employment, physical security, cultural pursuits, and the freedom to practice faith without hindrance or denigration.


As an unselfconscious Hindu, Narendra Modi is endorsed by Hindus who want to be Hindu without ifs and buts. His modest background (no Ox-bridge, LSE) adds to his appeal as a man who educated himself and rose through unsparing hard work, without compromising personal integrity – a sharp contrast to others on the political spectrum.


Narendra Modi represents the spirit of an India that could never reconcile with the imposition of Jawaharlal Nehru as political heir to MK Gandhi, an act which exposed Gandhi’s artifice of not being a member of Congress when he called all the shots all the time until the British nudged Nehru to sideline him. Strange none of our eminent historians has seen fit to assert this truth. This India is fiercely nationalist; one day it will force the truth about Netaji Subhash Bose into the open.


It is no surprise that of all the three issues the BJP put in cold storage in order to lead the NDA Government, Narendra Modi unerringly honed in on the one issue that modern India regards as critical to national integrity and sovereignty - Article 370. With terrorism repeatedly raising its bloody head in the valley, and now increasingly in Jammu province where Hindus face the danger of another ethnic genocide, it is time to undo the combined blunders of Gandhi and Nehru and nix the nonsensical talk of ‘accession, not merger’. A new India can only be led by a wholly Indian leader.

The Pioneer, 5 November 2013 

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