In a recent article in Washington Post, journalist Barkha Dutt complained about Narendra Modi and the ongoing election being stuck in the past. Here is an open letter in response.
John Steinbeck once said, “Power does not corrupt, fear does, perhaps the fear of loss of power”. I know the loss of power experienced by power-brokering elites of India has been nothing short of devastating. Your latest in Washington Post is a good example of the fear that a possibility of a second term for Modi evokes in the bosom of many. A short analysis of the double standards, bias and selective outrages is outlined in the piece that follows.
Allow me to open by discussing your assertion that “Aayega to Modi hi!”, the popular slogan of BJP supporters in India, is a tactic to induce fatalism in the minds of voters. There is no reason for BJP to induce fatalism into the minds of voters. The voters overwhelmingly support Narendra Modi in any case. The ones to shudder at the thought of a second term for Modi are the handful of elites who have been wielding disproportionate influence on Indian democracy until recently.
In this highly asymmetrical struggle the Goliath-esque elite hold sway over institutions, and have a near monopoly on many platforms. They can malign an entire country’s image in front of the world, if its unwashed masses dare to fall out of line, as they did in 2014.
The left-leaning elites thrived under the previous regime due to their ability to make connections needed for backroom deals, and also because the previous regime preferred controlling many through appeasing a few. The fact that the Indian media always had a dog in the fight was never in doubt, but what separates 2019 from all previous elections is how openly journalists are rooting for, and aggressively advocating for, a grand alliance of all parties with no common ideology except the need to stop Modi.
So when an ordinary Indian says, “Aayega to Modi hi”, she is giving voice to millions who understand the enormity of the challenges and they are saying, “Bring it on!” What you see as arrogance is in reality defiance.
To answer your question of why, if Modi is the hope for the future, he is stuck in the past (reference to his comments about Rajiv Gandhi)—Modi isn’t stuck in the past. He is being forced to go back there because that is where his opposition is stuck. When Modi’s opposition is not lying through their teeth about how RSS killed Mahatma Gandhi, it is telling cringe-worthy stories about how Rajiv Gandhi brought computers to India!
From nearly writing Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel out of India’s history to whitewashing murderous zealots like Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan, the well-oiled myth-making machine of the left has been systematically building every oppressor of the Indian majority as some kind of hero while destroying—either through neglect, or through slander —those who do not fit their narrative.
Earlier this year, Rahul Gandhi had called Indian freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar “a coward” and mimicked the latter ‘apologising’ to the British government on stage. In case you were not aware of it, Savarkar died in 1966, a full 25 years before Rajiv Gandhi, so when Modi speaks about Rajiv, he is not stuck in the past, he just hasn’t travelled as far back as Rahul has. The door Modi walked through was opened by his opposition with their rhetoric of the dynasty’s contribution to India as their electoral pitch.
While invoking a comparison between Modi and Donald Trump, you mention that Modi has a need to “construct” an enemy to go to battle. But tell me Ms. Dutt, who has been constructing the mythical enemy of “majoritarianism”, of “Hindu Pakistan”? Who has been painting a social service organization as a militia—a Hindu ISIS in a manner of speaking? Who has repeated ad nauseam how India is becoming more dangerous for minorities, women, and journalists?
The enemy was constructed by the power brokers, whose petulance at the loss of power was only exceeded by their recklessness in retaliation. These bullies were hoping this narrative will cow down decent people into submission. They were counting on ratcheting up the “if you don’t agree with me you must be a Fascist” rhetoric and reaping electoral dividends because that’s what used to happen earlier.
Instead, India resisted.
Your anger at the masses that you have ceaselessly tried to portray as barbarians has more to do with this failed narrative than any real widening of fault lines.
You further write “what is considered distasteful and coarse by liberals only seem to make Modi politically stronger”, but tell me madam, what exactly is considered distasteful by liberals like you? Surely it is not goons of a political party entering people’s houses and beating them up for social media posts, because your kind celebrated it. Surely it is not an authoritarian Chief Minister throwing people in jail for memes, attacking political opponents, and all but making it impossible to hold fair elections, because elites have celebrated her as the “match for Modi-Shah”.
From humanizing murderous maniacs by calling them “Headmaster’s sons” to swooning over the charm of a convicted politician in jail, there is no low that liberals haven’t plumbed as long as it has served their political goals.
What did we, the ordinary supporters, do that you find coarse and distasteful? Oh yes, we supported a politician you don’t want in power!
Lastly, about that comparison between Rahul and Michelle. For most parts, Michelle Obama has walked her talk about “going high”. Compare her dignified composure with the tantrums of an entitled son of a dynasty, and one realizes why American Democrats should be the ones to get angry about this comparison.
A carefully orchestrated hug doesn’t even begin to erase the uncouthness that the Congress president has demonstrated time and again in the last five years. Whether it is referring to a freedom fighter as a “coward” or repeatedly referring to your own Prime Minister as a “thief”, there is little doubt in anybody’s mind that our discourse is coarser today due to the Gandhi scion.
The social media team of his party, with his full blessing, has engaged in some of the most despicable and tasteless propaganda campaigns in the history of Indian politics. And yet, instead of questioning his unsubstantiated allegations against the PM, you have always tried to put the onus on Modi to clear his name. When Rahul’s chief advisor recently dismissed the 1984 Sikh pogrom as “hua to hua (it happened, so what?)”, the journalist fraternity’s collective reaction was: “Why did he have to speak now?”
The person you compare to Michelle was recently forced to apologise to the Supreme Court for lying and is currently out on bail in a financial fraud case. So forget going high, the lows we see in India’s discourse have Rahul’s footprints all over them.
And curiously, you were half-way right when you compared Rahul to the Clintons for being seen as a symbol of a corroded and entrenched corrupt system. In that light, your change of stance from Hillary to Michelle seems to symbolize your desperation more than any personal growth on the part of the Congress president.