Since everything that is personal has become political now and everything that is private has become public, it would not be out of place to bring upfront what is generally ignored or utterly underplayed by the media. Even the otherwise hyperactive social media which goes wild about any real or fake news or rumour about the Nehru-Gandhi family, has been absolutely silent about our messianic Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wife Jasodaben.
Last week she met with an accident, which could have been fatal, but except a few lines in stray newspapers, no media thought it was a news. In fact, most people don’t even know that Modi is married. Indeed, Modi and his celibate RSS partners maintained the myth for quite some time that he was a full-time bachelor Swayamsevak. Even in his election affidavits he never declared his marital status, till 2012, when he began to aspire for Prime Ministership. Even then, his status was known merely as “married”!
Those journalists who tried to find out who his wife was, were forcibly driven away. A Delhi based weekly magazine traced Jasodaben in a village, believed to be working as a schoolteacher. But before the correspondent left the village, her camera was taken away and was threatened and warned not to come there again. Since then, nobody has dared to take her interview or do a photo session or publish a bio-sketch of the lady.
The lady came to Mumbai about three years ago, in the famous Azad Maidan, with a placard protesting her neglect and even stating that she, despite being a wife of the Prime Minister, is facing insecurity. Within a couple of hours, she was whisked away by the police, from the Maidan, as if she had come there with a huge morcha!
There were a few reporters and even camera team of a channel. But not a single channel showed any visuals of her protesting nor did they carry a scroll, that no less than the PM’s wife was protesting and complaining about her insecurity. One newspaper did slightly dare and printed in deep inside pages a story about her visit and protest. But nothing about police whisking her away and not a word with her! Who were they afraid of? And why? Were the channels or papers apprehensive of getting booked for sedition or treason or espionage? Where were the champions of freedom-Arnab Goswami (then with Times Now) or other loud mouth anchors? And brave reporters?
One Gujarati newspaper did dare to carry an interview with her around that time, in which she said that she was constantly being followed by “security persons”, and yet they are less concerned with her safety. She fears, she said, she could be physically harmed. (Was the accident she met with was a “natural mishap”). Not only her existence is denied, by denying her even a passport and that too on the ground of her not having marriage certificate! She is not divorced (not even Hindu Talaq). Not physically challenged, nor bedridden and yet not invited even to the swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister. Her husband comes so many times to Gujarat, but never visits her, nor is anybody “allowed” to meet her.
Now let us imagine some counterfactuals and how media would have dealt with them. Imagine Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister deserting Sonia. Or Sonia neglecting her children. Or Robert Vadra throwing Priyanka out of the household. Or Priyanka walks out of the Vadra marriage. Rahul is not married (Thank God!!) but if he had and had ignored his wife or deserted her like the Hindu Iconic current Prime Minister! Night after night, our anchors would have followed the story raising the “fundamental” question of “Does the Nehru-Gandhi family know great and glorious Hindu traditions? Of how marriages are solemn and blessed in heaven. How a Christian mother cannot imbibe the profound Hindu “sanskaras” and the “original” Nehru was a “womaniser” and how his daughter was “promiscuous”.
Condemn Nehru-Gandhi family for everything, even after they are dead. But don’t question Narendra Modi even on straight facts. Nehru, Indira, Rajiv held frequent press conferences. Modi conducts “fixed” interviews or does “Man Ki Baat” every month but will not face media even once. He will address planned public meetings but will not let even his colleagues in the ministry on the stage. He will tirelessly shout and scream from whatever platform, in India or abroad, will lie through his teeth, give brazenly false historical and political references. But nobody will question his ignorance, his twisted arguments and his just bulldozing the counter-arguments. However, he will keep the media and people in permanent election mode, knowing that the opposition has lost nerve and the media has lost verve.
The predicament of Jasodaben has descended on the country. Nobody attends to her, nobody talks to her, nobody cares for her and she feels constantly insecure. Indira was not India but Jasoda is indeed India!
Who could replace Modi in 2019?
I don’t like the expression, “dark horse” because it sounds demeaning and even racist. But to use that conventional terminology, there indeed are several “ dark horses” who are being brought into drawing room discussions. Everybody agrees only on one point. And that is: no Party will get its own simple or even thin majority.The coalition then would be inevitable, either led by the BJP or some Opposition Party. So it could be another NDA or yet another UPA or Third Front and well, perhaps even the Federal Front! There are some self-proclaimed PM candidates, and some quietly working on the possible election outcome. One such permanent “Future PM” is Sharad Pawar. But he is a straight-faced poker player. He will neither reveal sentiment nor strategy!
The other (dark horses) in the race are Sam Pitroda and Ram Madhav. And also Rajnath Singh and Mamata Banerjee. While Prakash Karat lobby in the CPM describes Mamata as “fascist”, the Congress thinks the real “fascist” force in India is led by Narendra Modi. The Mamata backers argue that she would “punish” the “Modi-Shah gang” if the BJP loses power. The Congress, given its moderate nature, would never take such hard line!
A section in the CPM believes that the RSS is a fascist organisation, but BJP is only communal! However, conflicts in the CPM were sorted out by their politbureau, by some semantic skulduggery. At one point, Nitish Kumar had emerged as a front-runner in the race for PM. But it appears, he committed political “Harakiri” by suddenly changing loyalties and joining the NDA. Now again he is trying to distance himself from the “communal” BJP! Then there are some creative political crystal ball gazers who would not rule out even Pranab Mukherjee!
Ram Madhav could be the candidate of the RSS and Sam Pitroda of Rahul Gandhi. A famous Hindi TV anchor in fact recommended Sam Pitroda ’s name. Pranab Mukherjee’s name could come as a compromise of the Opposition parties when they fail to arrive at a consensus. After all, most parties had supported him as a President.
All this speculation is of course completely wild kite flying and image building by ambitious politicians. But then who would have thought that the offer would go to Jyoti Basu in 1996 and his party would refuse him the “NOC” to take charge as PM and take the plunge. Basu himself described later that refusal as the “Himalayan Blunder” of the Party. There was also some lobbying to rope in VP Singh as Prime Minister again. But he categorically refused. Nobody ever thought then that eventually, Deve Gowda would become the PM followed by Inder Kumar Gujral. Similarly, the name of Dr Manmohan Singh was also a startling surprise in 2004.
Such questions were never raised in the fifties and even in the sixties. There were no speculations and no “dark horses” in the race! As long as Pandit Nehru was alive, it was considered natural that he would be the PM after general elections—in 1952, 1957 and 1962. The question did get posed in 1967, but not too seriously.
That was (1967) the first election after Panditji’s death. There was an interregnum of about 20 months during which Lal Bahadur Shastri was the Prime Minister. He had to face war with Pakistan in 1965, which ended in a kind of stalemate, though India could retain its image and pride. But Shastri’s death in Tashkent (former the Soviet Union) forced an internal election in the Congress party.
The Old Guard chose Indira Gandhi but another section of the party thought Morarji Desai would be a better choice. Desai was a well known Right Winger and also stubborn orthodox Gandhian in personal lifestyle. But the Old Guard (which came to be known as Syndicate), thought Indira could be manipulated to take the country Rightwards. It was clear that though they swore by the name and legacy of Nehru, they wanted a break from his political philosophy. To them, Indira was a “dumb doll”.
Moreover, they also calculated that to win general elections in 1967, daughter of Nehru would provide a perfect foil. Though the party had lost Pandit Nehru, the towering leader, there was no Opposition worth the name to challenge the Congress. The Jan Sangh, a political party floated in 1950, by the RSS was slowly spreading its tentacles it never thought that it had potential to come to power on its own. Congress was like a colossus.
The parties that were getting popular appeal were the Communist Party and the upfront Right Wing outfit known as Swatantra Party. The Communist Party had come to power in Kerala in 1957. (that was the first ever democratic victory of the communists in the world). There were socialists, mainly breakaway factions of the Congress but they were in the political wilderness, constantly splitting and repositioning.
It was Ram Manohar Lohia, the socialist ideologue and a maverick politician who first conceived the idea of “Congress-Mukt” India. But for that idea of “anti-Congressism” fifty years ago, there would not have been the BJP or Narendra Modi today. Lohia forged the non-Congress alliances in 1967, to challenge the Congress led by Indira Gandhi. She returned to power, though with a small majority in Lok Sabha. In as many as eight states the Congress lost power giving hope to the Opposition.
No political pundit or even the party ever thought then that the Congress would be dethroned at the centre. The Grand Old Party was just too deeply entrenched in Politics and in the minds of the people. The question as to who would be a Prime Minister never really arose. The split in the party in 1969 raised the hopes and ambitions of the Opposition parties. But Indira Gandhi’s single-handed landslide victory in 1971 (the famous “Garibi Hatao” election) reinvigorated the Party and her leadership. But after the Emergency, Indian politics changed at the core.
It is from 1977 that the general elections acquired the “suspense dimension” and the question of who would be Prime Minister began to be discussed in the media. Actually, even the Janata Party could not agree on any name for quite a few days despite its historic victory. They differed with each other intensely on the names of Morarji Desai and Jag Jiva Ram and Charan Singh. Madhu Dandavate’s name also floated for some time.
In 2014, Narendra Modi’s name could not have been challenged. He as well as the party, the media and the pundits had all seen the aggressive campaign, the super confidence, his way of humiliating Party colleagues, eliminating all competition. From Day One, he gave the impression, and it was believed by the corporates as well as the middle classes that he is invincible. He used to say, loud and clear, that he would be the Prime Minister for 10 or even 15 years. The Congress would cease to exist! His dream was to make India “Congress-Mukt” forever. His weapon was massive hate campaign, mainly through social media. That proved to be successful for First three years. Modi-led BJP captured as many as 19 states! But then the tide began to turn.
In the last four years, his confidence has waned. His policies have failed. His dramatic and dubious decisions like demonetisation have boomeranged. His policies of “friendly neighbourhood” have fallen wayside. Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka do not even respect him or India. Neither terrorism has been brought under control, nor Pakistan has been tamed. His Kashmir policy has further alienated the people of Kashmir. His “blow hot, blow cold” relationship with Pakistan and China has exposed the thoughtless and visionless foreign policy. He has failed to get black money and miserably lost the war against corruption. The money that he and Amit Shah deploy in every election is a visible evidence of the power of black wealth they have generated for their party.
Time for the liberals to unite
Face of Fascism
Intellectuals and political sociologists have been arguing and interpreting for almost 70 years as to what we mean in India, by the terms-Fascism and Secularism. Even Nationalism! Influenced by the Western philosophical and political traditions, some argue that all these terms have roots in Europe’s history of the last nearly thousand years.
So to condemn the broadly accepted interpretations, they will question what Fascism means, what is the connotation of Secularism and of course what is the content of the term Nationalism. So let us begin with the controversy about the term Fascism. The great Marxist intellectual leader Prakash Karat famously said that it is the RSS is Fascist, but not the BJP which is communal. Everyone knows that the BJP is a political front of the RSS. Yet he dared to say this.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had presciently warned us exactly seventy years ago, in precise words, of the dangers of Fascism in India. But we, meaning all of us, the Leftists, Liberals, Media, Academics and Intellectuals were either complacent, indifferent or irresponsible. We took for granted that we as a nation, we as a civilisation, we as a culture (“and for some, we as Hindus!”) will never succumb to the forces of Fascism
In a letter to the chief ministers, on December 7, 1947, just a month and a half before the murder of the Mahatma, he wrote, “We have a great deal of evidence to show that the RSS is an organisation, which is proceeding on the strictest Nazi lines, even following the technique of organisation. The German youth drifted towards the Nazi Party because of their negative programmes which did not require an active effort of mind. The Nazi Party brought Germany to ruin and I have little doubt that if these tendencies are allowed to spread and increase in India, they would do enormous injury to India. No doubt, India would survive, but she would be grievously wounded and would take a long time to recover”
There are some myths, believed even by liberals, that Hindu civilisation by definition is plural and multi-cultural and will resist the regressive and unicolour forces of fascism. Then there are some naive intellectuals who think that the various public institutions are so entrenched that they will defeat the fascistic design. This faith has been belied totally.
One of the most naive and too simplistic an argument has been that the BJP led by Narendra Modi has been elected by the people and should be given undisturbed five years as it is the people’s will that he and his party (and their mentors, the RSS) represent. Indeed, Adolf Hitler too was elected and even Mussolini represented their people.
But according to the well-known political sociologist, Bertram Gross, even in the developed western democracies, fascism can come to power. His book, “Friendly Fascism”, written in the late seventies, says even in America fascism can come to power through electoral politics. His fears have almost come true with the election of Donald Trump as a president. He wrote the book, with the subtitle “The New Face of Power in America”! Similar winds are blowing in Western Europe, as the global capitalism faces deeper and deeper crisis. The Marxist dictum that Fascism is a manifestation of “final solution” of the capitalism with its anti-people policies and actions.
The state governments under the Modi regime are virtually at the feet of the Prime Minister. From their budgetary allocations to the so-called smart city plans. And from loan waiving programmes to who should be included or dropped from the state ministries. The interference of the Prime Minister’s office is so sweeping that even the chief ministers cannot act on their own. So let us see the validity of the argument that our so-called “strong institutions” will not let fascism enter here!
Take the most prestigious and truly independent institution-the Reserve Bank of India. We saw how the RBI surrendered its autonomy to the executive led by Narendra Modi. The disruptive demonetisation which brought misery to a vast number of people was announced and implemented without proper scrutiny by the RBI. The Non-Performing Assets of banks have been playing havoc with the system and the RBI would not even declare the names of the (crony) capitalists.
Even after 17 months of the demonetisation, we still do not know how many notes came back to the RBI. Now many people suspect that more notes came back than what was believed to be in actual circulation. Some others feel that the old notes are being clandestinely getting exchanged even now and the RBI is keeping eyes closed. The reason appears to be that the RBI is gripped by “fear psychosis”. The fear of the Modi-Shah duo and their massive and threatening organisational machine, partly of the RSS and partly be the Intelligence bureaucracy.
Take the Election Commission. It just repeats what the Prime Minister says. One Nation, One Election, was one such idea, announced by Narendra Modi. The obvious absurdity and impracticality of the idea became obvious soon. Suddenly it has gone off headlines. The non-cooperative approach of the Election Commission on the issue of EVMs and restarting the ballot papers method, is another example.
The so-called autonomous status of universities is so completely undermined that everything is dictated by the HRD ministry-from appointments of vice-chancellors to even the syllabus and campus rules. Earlier, even the police could not enter these supposed temples of knowledge. Now the police enter the campuses without any compunction and the government wants to display military tanks at the gates as a display of patriotic spirit.
All grant-in-aid educational institutions have to follow the diktats of the government. The books on history and politics are being changed with a view to erasing the roles, Pandit Nehru and other tall secular leaders. They want to erase or distort the very history of the freedom movement under the guidelines of the RSS. Now according to the fresh diktats, all 15 lakh National Cadet Course (NCC) students are supposed to be the parallel armed force, with their cell phones and mail ids submitted to the PMO.
The Intelligence agencies, the IB, the ED, the CBI and NIA have become tools of the government to blackmail and terrorise political leaders, writers, journalists and artists—filmmakers and painters and poets and cartoonists. The bureaucracy was always subservient but now it has become a slave. The judiciary is cunningly circumvented by using all means—sam, dam, dand, bhed that is persuade, bribe, reprimand or terrorise and divide to rule. The judges are transferred at the shortest notice, kicked upwards, bribed, jailed or even killed!
Some intellectuals obfuscate the issue of fascism by saying that the situations in India cannot be compared with those in Italy in the twenties and in Germany in the thirties. Of course, no situations in different countries could be in a ditto format. There will be variation in different countries, different cultures and different peoples. But we have to identify and diagnose similar attributes and elements that define the fascistic rule.
Those elements are: systematic creation and spread of fear psychosis, persecution of rival political parties and leaders, controlling the media and terrorising the opposition, blackmailing the critics and detractors, using violence as means of dividing the communities on religious and caste lines, and generating hyper-nationalistic and jingoistic, xenophobic mindsets. All this by actively promoting obscene personality cult and setting up a caucus that rules bypassing the Parliament, cabinet, parliamentary bodies etc.
The Indian version of fascism is based on majoritarianism, Hindu communal consolidation, isolating minorities—mainly Muslims, threatening and terrorising them, destroying their places of worship, killing helpless and hapless Muslims, raping women and so on. Using tradition, religion, culture, language and superstition for establishing unidimensional and uniform power structure.
The educational institutions have lost the spine and autonomy. From textbooks to the courses and syllabus are now controlled by the State led by Modi. The upper caste families in particular, despite their higher education as well as exposure to the developed countries, have been supporting communal and fascistic organisations. The media, which is supposed be the watchdog of the people, and defender of freedoms and civil liberties have become lapdogs, barking at everyone else, but the Master!
Fascism indeed has many faces. Indian fascism is no less anti-civilisational, no less brutal and no less authoritarian than that of Hitler, Mussolini or Franco. It is time for all those who believe in democracy, secularism and liberal values to stand up and fight.
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