Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming from the future. The future India would have had if it had not been run to the ground by dynasts and despots who, over 70 years, became national benchmarks. Here's the good news - Indians do not recognise them anymore and want them around even less. Headlines and television debates that now ask can Modi make India great again are also part of this devious game. Who sets the barometre?
A saying out of Africa has it that until the lion learns to write, all stories will glorify the hunter. Until India’s opposition parties in general and the Congress party in particular realise that they have failed to provide new blood, hope, leadership and direction, they will continue to fail with occasional flash-in-the-pan successes. They have lost the plot and introspection is not going to do the trick. Neither is better communication. Human organisations, much like the human brain, need a chain of command and connect to perform. Decay will set in if this is not renewed. For decades now, the Congress party and their allies have been referring every decision to something opaque called the High Command or the ala kamaan.
This post is a comment on the recent state elections, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) spectacular return to power in Uttar Pradesh (UP). "How the hell did almost all experts/analysts miss this wave in UP? It’s a tsunami not a ripple in a small pond," former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted after results were declared over the weekend. He also wondered who could stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi at this rate and wondered if ‘we’ should prepare instead for 2024. Presumably, the ‘we’ refers to leaders lined up against Modi.
Before I address the issues Abdullah has raised, I want to share a few thoughts about language, past and present tense and the future of India. They are intertwined. Language matters. It influences thinking in a very basic way directly and subconsciously. Which is why, historically, marauding or occupying armies have snatched a people’s tongue, their books, their culture, their foods. These are not accidents or history’s fault lines as some fancy calling it. It is deliberate and makes up that fig-leaf called 'dominant narrative' which is widely touted in fanciful circles. Who dominates?
Soon after the results came in last week the expected rush of commentary advised on what Modi must now do, how he should act henceforth, where he should take the country etc. Most views delved in the high-command engineered past because that is also how India’s political history has been written, mostly by courtiers seeking private gain and personal pelf. Their effort has been to freeze India’s 1.3 billion people into a permanent space where doles and handouts rule and where ambition is strictly defined. What most commentary missed is Modi is coming from the future, Indians are responding and willing to move with or without dead wood. They want to seize power democratically and this bumpy ride is neither rootless nor random – it is focussed on a search for a better living. The ala kamaan trap does not offer it, Modi does. He will get things wrong, but viewed against what he has enabled - real democracy - the rest must be negotiated with the electorate.
Now to the pond. It is no secret that numbers – economic, political or social – can be manipulated to reflect political platforms where a few speak to fewer. Frog-in-the-well analysis is a corollary of that shrinking space where interpreters of moods and swings will not recognise any other reality that could cut the branch that feeds their fear of losing power. The strident politico-media narrative against demonetisation was about this. The people who complained suffered the least. Echo chambers and palace intrigues are all about this. Fear that India is turning into a dictatorship is also about this.
In this shrinking charade, we lecture to first-time voters based on our own irrelevant analysis of India’s political history. We secure our interests first so we can walk around trying to ‘empower’ those who will not rock the boat. The toffee in town for the vainglorious since 2014 is development under which is the 'logic' of secular votes, Muslim votes, women, laptops, computers, doles, free everything except freedom. The election results in UP is not Modi's India as one commentator said. It is India, one which was denied opportunity and dignity by fools and court jesters.
Leaders who Abdullah is referring to will be in their mid-fifties and pushing sixties when 2019 comes around – the age where many American presidents leave after two terms in office. Age and youthfulness are not the same things. India's young understand that difference and do not want to live in the past.