#PoMoneModi: Fig-Leaf For Stark Elitism Of Old Media

Aravindan Neelakandan

May 14, 2016, 03:05 PM | Updated 03:05 PM IST

Narendra Modi (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Narendra Modi (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
  • Old media is unable to conceal it’s elitist contempt of Modi. #PoMoneModi is yet another fig-leaf it lapped up to conceal that.
  • Narendra Modi, during an election rally in Kerala, stated that the infant mortality rate (IMR) of Scheduled Tribes in the state was worse than that of Somalia. Hardly had he uttered the words, that all hell broke loose in social media. A modified dialogue from a Mohanlal movie, #PoMoneModi meaning ‘get lost sonny Modi’ became a top trending hashtag.

    The passing remark made by the Prime Minister in an election rally was intentionally distorted. Both the ruling UDF of the Congress as well as the opposition, Marxist LDF reacted with high stung regional jingoism. Memes were made to make Modi learn his geography lessons. Many reactions arose from the wrong understanding that Modi had compared Kerala with Somalia.

    However, when sense returned after the initial furore, it was discovered that there was more truth to what Modi said than what many would have us believe.

    Three years ago, in 2013, after visiting the tribal village of Attappadi in Palakkad district, Marxist veteran VS Achuthanandan had stated that the infant mortality rate of the tribal populations there was as bad as that of Somalia. Pinaryi Vijayan went one step further and compared the life conditions to those existing in Ethiopia. Of course, in terms of absolute numbers Kerala fares better than Gujarat, which was governed by Modi for more than a decade. However, the disparity in Kerala model, which is supposed to be progressive and egalitarian, lends itself to harsher criticism. So, his comparison of the health of ST children in Kerala with that of children in Somalia may be exaggerated but not off the mark.

    Then there’s Pavlovian old media rhetorical question —’what about Modi’s Gujarat’?.

    In terms of absolute numbers Modi’s Gujarat was definitely one of the worst suffering states in the infant mortality rate index. However, that was more due to the preceding Congress regimes than the rule of Modi. Under Modi’s rule in Gujarat, the IMR had fallen to 38 per 1,000 in 2012 from an abysmal 57 in 2003- a drop of 33.3% – more than the 30% national decline.

    One reason for this was the special village oriented schemes launched by Modi to care for the pregnant women in rural Gujarat. The 2005-2006 public-private partnership programme to reduce the rural maternal and infant mortality rate, called the Chiranjeevi Yojana scheme, encouraged and enabled the village women to have their delivery in private hospitals. The scheme made free of cost infant and mother care available at designated private hospitals for women below the poverty line.   

    The amusing thing about the whole #PoMoneModi affair is the fury with which social media was engineered to react to a passing remark that was not far from the truth. There is a pattern in every attack made against the Prime Minister from day one. One can see an invisible elitism bordering on racism here. Modi was a chaiwaala. He does not belong to the elite ruling class that is usually derived from one dynasty. Thus every word he says is scrutinized and every perceived or real slip he makes is attacked way out of proportion.

    Narendra Modi in a ‘chai pe charcha’ session (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images))
    Narendra Modi in a ‘chai pe charcha’ session (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images))

    Remember the advertisement Congress made against Gujarat with pictures of children from the Sri Lankan civil war (incidentally the civil war and the trauma faced by Tamils there were the result of Congress apathy)? Congress could do that and get away with it. But photoshop blunders done by overzealous Modi-supporters would be blamed on Modi. What may be the reason behind this visceral hatred ?

    The official biography of Mahatma Ayyankali, the great Hindu social reformer of Kerala has an interesting event. ‘Swadeshabhimani’ Ramakrishna Pillai, the first biographer of Karl Marx in any Indian language, opposed children of scheduled communities and other Hindu children studying in the same school. Mahatma Ayyankali had to persuade him strongly to make him understand the fallacy of his views. Despite the pretensions of equality, the Left has always supported the belief of innate hierarchies in the society.

    Thus Chinese Marxism in action supports Han superiority and views Tibetans as inferior. In India, Nehruvian secularism as well as Marxism have a strong upper-caste elite undercurrent to them. A manifestation of this elitist and casteist mentality was in full ugly exhibition recently. The same mentality was there against Vajpayee too. How could the son of a lower middle class schoolmaster occupy the throne preserved for the dynasty? This writer remembers how the Tamil Marxist daily made fun of Vajpayee’s English pronunciation. ‘Clinton had a tough time understanding Vajpayee pronouncing Walt Whitman as ‘Vitamin’ ‘.

    Other than the English educated circle of socialist elites and of course the first dynasty anyone, who comes to govern India will have to face this wrath of the old order. This clan-elitism of India’s old media is worse than the clan-violence that one finds in Africa - that continent ravaged by colonialism of the West and the slave rides of Arabia.

    Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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