The Trouble with Modi
The mall-frenzied classes in India are firmly convinced that Narendra Modi is coming to power like the Kalki Avatar or the Messiah of the Old Testament. The Congress and its camp followers are lost in a trance singing the same tired verses about communalism, fascism, secularism and Hindutva terror. Some Muslims and other minorities have been suckered into believing that “growth” trickles down and it’s all for the good ultimately, like the coming of the Imam Mahdi. It is time to take stock of what Modi will actually do when and if he ascends the throne.
Carefully, but craftily, he will amend India’s entire history and philosophical basis into a cow-belt thesis on “Bharatiyata”. He will change the syllabus, change the school books, restock and control the libraries and will redefine India’s history, playing upon the widespread and unsubtle media bias against “invaders who plundered India.” Lord Ram will be invoked as a rite of passage or ritual in oaths, in public ceremonies, as well as privately as a way of observing birth ostentatiously. This will be in contrast to how it is observed quietly and privately by Hindus, when accepting truth in death (Ram Nam Satya Hai). Baptism will become an Indian ritual, by decree. Baptism into a creed that has no tolerance for others. Today, in Faizabad, he proclaimed that “this is Lord Ram’s land.” Never mind the pussy-footing complaints to the Election Commission by the Congress, the reality is that he has realized that the time has come to incite his following and stop dribbling around behind the anti-dynasty-anti-corruption façade. Blood-curdling slogans followed his pronouncement, from the crowd. And that is the mood he needs, to drive his agenda. That is the mood he needs to build a consensus against Muslims, as he had done yesterday again regarding Assam, by talking about “illegal immigrants.” It is the Togadias and the Amit Shahs who are his real handlers. The BJP is akin to the Svoboda party and the Rights sector in Ukraine. They are hard-boiled race nationalists. And they will enshrine that as fast as they can in their work-style. Just as Russian has been banned in certain areas of Ukraine, Urdu will be de-legitimized under pressure in certain areas of India.
IAS, IPS and IFS officers and imported NRI “whiz kids” who have demonstrated unflinching faith in the “Gujarat Model” –of highways, show-piece electrical power grids, forced damming, tax holidays, export-processing zones and gas field allocations- will be carefully selected by Modi and deployed at every level of a new bureaucracy that will bypass all existing government functioning and in fact violate the basic tenets of the constitution. It is happening in advanced capitalist countries, so why would it not happen in developing countries? In fact, administrative functioning will be gradually bypassed into private hands. Central government employees will find themselves set aside from their file-shuffling and fly-swatting ways that they have been used to, for ages. Suicides will follow, just as has happened to the farmers. After all, railing against bureaucracy and corruption is as hip as being preachy about spitting and pissing publicly. It is the new consciousness. It goes hand in butt, so as to speak. It’s the NDTV/Times Now uber-indulgent, uber-condescending Bollywood Khan-level intellectualizing that has scored significant hits with India’s restless new middle class. That is a good thing, is it not? To be restless and disgusted with our poor civic sensibilities as well as simultaneously with our poor? The trick is to make it all look like it is so “modernizing! Cleansing!”, whereas it is the classic pre-industrial method of introducing grass-roots cronyism or you may wish to call it khap-capitalism. All trace will be lost later, as the current crop of barons and billionaire oligarchs who will have floated small companies and lobby groups to capture commodity contracts at the local level will later on merge and acquire these scam outfits later. As they did at a much higher level during the 2G scam. India will get privatized one panchayat and one municipality at a time and one fine morning, we will realize that German-Indian joint ventures and/or 100% American-owned companies will be advising us on vastu in Bandra suburbs, or how to compost in Barasat refugee colonies or how to get tax subsidies for using LED lighting in homes in Azamgarh. The Gujarat model will have been fully implemented and the federation of India will have been dismembered considerably. NGOs that have thrived so long on mistaken notions of social philanthropism, will also have a tough time competing for the tears of the poor.
Carefully and craftily and in a phased-in manner, all the bluster about “national development” and opposing “foreign interests” will dissolve and any and every international conglomerate that is interested in cutting down trees and forests (paper/mining etc) , ploughing through hills (full scale open-pit ore mining and displacement of aboriginal habitat), using up India’s water resources to sell heavily sugared pineapple juice and Gatorade, or anybody who wants to convert sustainable agricultural produce into cash-crops using GMO seeds will be invited in. Granola/Muesli and Quinoa will replace sattu, dal and besan. Of course, the immediate picture will be of producing jobs in the service sector for these products, for the displaced trans-rural people. Well-trained, tie-wearing, lipstick-ed yes-people from the rural areas will flock to the malls to learn the ins and outs of “customer service.” One must note that this was also PC Chidambaram’s ideal and dream as well. That ogre however may quietly fade into history, unpunished, un-convicted for his shady and murderous involvement in the IMF-Davos inspired schemes for “urbanizing” India very rapidly, almost in a reverse Pol Pot style.
When it comes to drop-out rates amongst secondary school students (especially amongst tribals, dalits and minorities), health care for the poor and maternal mortality-the “Gujarat Model” is a disaster. Everyone knows that and everyone on the non-Modi spectrum keeps repeating it ad infinitum. So what good is that? Is he going to do anything about it on an all-India scale? He and his crew will definitely invoke a “Sati-Savitry” ethos and start asinine schemes about “home-businesses” for women—to stitch, to sow, to cook and stay at home. Forget going to University and becoming doctors, engineers and lawyers. Instead goofballs like Baba Ramdev will be teaching Yoga- on- the-Net for women at home, to be accessed by even cheaper tablets ”made for our girls,” by mindless start-ups in Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Palo Alto. Minority education? He will initiate programs to dissolve the concept of madrasahs, step by step. It will go down well amongst his Muslim-baiting following. Dalits? He will cut out all equal opportunity programs. Reservations be damned. After all “level playing field” was always the fall back of rednecks who complained about “reverse racism” in the United States.
Militarist tendencies, accelerated secretive nuclear programs, reinforced patriarchal and settler/occupier value systems will be engendered and there will be gradual ingress of such a mindset into civilian life by the introduction of products and equipment for “self-protection and self-defense” and “hygiene and middle-class well-being.” Packing a small firearm will become an easy affair. Slow ingress of military hardware into civilian India under Modi will be a natural. An armed-to- the-teeth surveillance state, working closely with Hi-tech Israeli companies will follow. They will add to the anti-Arab/anti-Muslim hysteria (that was not really a part of India’s ethos, but always left festering under the bed sheets as a disease) will be unleashed as an “anti-terrorist” and anti-Pakistan package. So, Israeli companies will come and sell their stupid Sodastream machines to the mall-rat class, in their stupid gated complexes, along with their surveillance equipment and this after having already deployed their drones to pick out and destroy tribal strongholds in the mountains and jungles of India. If they are not already doing so, vacations on Israeli beaches will be the next best thing after the dull packages to Goa and Bangkok. Israel, arms, secrecy, surveillance, patriarchy and anti-Muslim rhetoric will become institutionalized as “culture.” India will be married to the Zionist cause, as an accomplice. BJP leaders have visited Israel frequently and made a big boast of India and Israel being “natural allies.” India will have Israel’s back in Asia.
The control and censuring of films, theatre and art shows will become an absolutely necessary first step that Modi’s Saffron gestapo will undertake. Starting from what can be shown and what cannot and how close can male/female or male/male or female/female lips encounter each other in parks and public spaces will become an area of great concern for the RSS/VHP/Bajrang posse . A pretense will be made of presenting Bills on public decency and while the Bill may not pass easily, the Guards will be out in the streets implementing them by violent means.
The same applies to literature, books, the distribution of international authors and the spread of “anti-national” literature and as well noodle soup made with beef stock. Because when hysteria takes root, Celsius 450 is not far behind (Ray Bradbury mixed up Fahrenheit with Celsius).
Foreign policy will become simplified. Does Modi understand the world of Post-Soviet oligarchs and the delicate affiliations of some of them to the West and as well of others to Mother Russia? Does the BJP have the acumen to understand the Baltic, the Brzezinski model of inciting ethnic fratricide around Russia, the geo-politics in West Asia, the Obama pivot towards creating problems around China? No, they don’t. There is hardly a single person in India’s foreign services currently (as opposed to the Nehru or even Indira Gandhi period) or in any future BJP-supporting “think tank” that has bothered to think beyond the subcontinent (other than opportunistically lap dancing with BJP NRIs). No one in the BJP has had enough exposure to European History or that of China’s past and will be available to explain that there is greater virtue in following an independent path of dollar-free development and diplomacy as has been the attempts of some Latin American countries. The shorter cut is to quietly follow the diktat of America. Thus India will finally cool all relations with Iran and strangely enough, chummy up with the Qatari-Saudi axis at the behest of the US.
Mr. Modi will rip into anyone who has any notions of democratic process, civil liberties, right to information and more importantly- a right to dignity. He will seek injunctions on newspapers and blogs that dare to print a semblance of truth; he will play hide and seek with evidence; he will put the Intelligence bureaus of India on full alert against India’s “internal threats.” His multi-faceted, multi-organization followers will do the nasty jobs for him, while he will smile laconically and say, that his party has nothing to do with such acts. He will threaten judges, journalists, lawyers and left wing activists or environmentalists every time they step out of line. He will ensure that the courts, the arms of justice will serve corporate power and not the interests of the people in general. He has no training in democracy. His best bet will be to rely on fascists tenets. But it will be fascism without the declaration of emergency laws. For that he can well thank the UPA government for their various well instituted detention-without-trial acts and the imposition of full impunity for the misdeeds of the Army and the Police in the border areas and Kashmir.
For those who think that Mr. Modi “will set Pakistan right”, they are uninformed. Fascists invade their own homes first. He will make routine threats to pander to his base, but be assured that he knows that it is not the Pakistani defense forces that he intends to spar with, but the unknown terrorist who will hit hard in the most unpredictable manner, if he goes after Pakistan. In that sense he will be a realist. He will make a lot of noise (unlike Manmohan Singh who made silent stares-his hallmark) and build a lot of threatening deterrence. He will cunningly assure Washington that he will leave Pakistan alone, and in turn Washington will insist that in the UN he does not vote with Russia and China on flashpoints like Syria, Palestine and Ukraine. Mr. Modi will slowly withdraw from the BRICS entente. If Mrs. Gandhi was paranoid and dictatorial, Mr. Modi will be distastefully underhanded.
Mr. Modi is a funny man, as well. He makes theatrical postures and creates populist expressions and plays with puns. He brings with him the churlishness of a town councilor propelled to Chief Ministerial stardom in a NRI-funded state. Gujaratis abroad have funneled billions into the Gujarat economy and that has been the real start-up basis of his “model.” The “growth” came later by attracting the Adanis, the Essars, the Ambanis and Tatas into sweetheart deals. So, those of you are so gung ho about his politics and his postures, think about the image he will convey as a representative of the population that is 50% below the age of 28. He is neither eloquent nor dignified; and he is historically un-informed and opportunist (his gaffes border on the territory resided by George Bush, Jr). He fits the image of the clumsy, posturing, petty-minded performer who has the pedagogy of the oppressor down pat, while indulging in stereotypical catch phrases that invoke his celibate simplicity. It has happened elsewhere, in Latin America, in Africa and even in parts of Europe where buffoons with financial backing have come to power and destroyed the democratic process.
There is no crystal ball that suggests where Mr.Modi is headed, but for sure it is nothing new in the history of world governments, where economic stagnation and rampant misuse of power has led to the election of unsavory elements.
Trevor Selvam is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents.org, where this column originally appeared.