Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The Liberal Folly: How We Made Narendra Modi
This is an admission of failure.
This is about Narendra Modi's rise to prominence, and his preeminent position in Indian elections right now. The fact that he may become India's Prime Minister soon is one of those dreadful prospects one has to live with. Whether this happens or not, though, this is one example how all those who cared about the 'idea of India' got it wrong.
Simply, the prospect of Mr Modi, with the blood of Gujrati Muslim's in his hand, enraged us so much that we talked about that all the time. When our self-interested friends claimed that it is not the genocide, but the stock market that matters more, we got so enraged that we talked about it even more. All this helped, rather than hindered, Mr Modi, who indeed turned this against us, with copious sums of money thrown along the way.
The fact that Mr Modi is the front-runner in polls today poses not just one problem - that a man of such terrible record could be elected - but several others. He is an authoritarian ruler who is surrounded by loyal goons, who has failed to protect innocent citizens and treats himself above the law. He depends, almost solely, on the distortion of the facts and avoid scrutiny at all costs. He is backed by powerful friends and his vision of India is to make it more of a tycoon economy. He flaunts a record of development in Gujrat which is phony. He is corrupt and unapologetic about it. He is backed by unnamed foreign interests, which will surely extract its pound of flesh.
But, in speaking about Gujrat 2002, we failed to talk about all this all the time. Swapan Dasgupta mocks us that we hoped that Mr Modi's record would stop BJP from electing him as the Prime Ministerial candidate, or that the BJP seniors will come in his way. He is correct: Mr Modi's rise caught us in a confusion: We wanted to believe that common sense will prevail and took too kind a view of BJP's leadership. And, at the same time, Mr Modi's apologists did two things: First, they used Gujrat 2002 as some kind of banner item - they wanted to take pride how they taught Muslims a lesson - and used the liberal anger to block any discussion; Second, they appealed to a narrowly self-interested middle class, with a promise to think of themselves at the expense of everything and everybody else.
Mr Modi, if he gets elected, will be a disaster for India. Three reasons:
First, because he would fail to deliver, and in his style, will try to distract attention with diversionary tactics, such as actions against minorities or a possible war with Pakistan.
Second, he would let his cronies eat, bigger and better slices than the Congress, because he has no scruples.
And, third, he would divide India. Friendships will be undone, and the assumptions about human nature will have to be remade. In the parade of carcasses, there will be little hiding place.
In the end, the Middle Class has to pay. Just as they did in Germany. But this failure will be a disaster for everyone, whoever is involved with India even remotely. And, finally, it is the liberals who ceded the place: Not just by failing to provide an alternative agenda, but also by walking into the trap laid by Mr Modi and talking too much about the genocide.
It will remain our mess to clear.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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