Saturday, September 19, 2015

Questioning Modi

In an interview with Newslaundry in 2012, Justice Katju made a very interesting point. In a democracy he said, the traditional hierarchy of power gets reversed. Instead of political leaders ruling over the public, now the public, at least in theory, sits at the top of the power hierarchy, and the elected representatives at the very bottom. The statement was in the context of a larger argument regarding the liabilities of public figures, but it was this point about the reversed hierarchy that I find very thought provoking. It also provides the clue on the state of public political discourse in the country at the moment, such as it is.

If democracy has placed the power and superiority with the general public, it would seem most members of the public have not received the memo. For we continue showering our leaders with the kind of reverence, loyalty and dedication formerly reserved for monarchs.

For the longest time since the country gained its freedom, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty enjoyed this loyalty by sheer virtue of bloodline. The most blatant display of the monarchical nature of Indian politics was when after the death of Indira Gandhi her younger progeny, a pilot, wholly inexperienced in politics or administration, and having never served a public office, was promptly pressed into service as the new Prime Minister. I was too young to recollect the genesis of that event, but there you have it, the Prime Minister with the Most Number of Things Named After Him, a person who got there with no merit to speak of.

Our political landscape is teeming with noble families headed by Lords and Ladies who enjoy the unwavering adulation of their people, and when the time comes, step aside and hand over the reins to the next generation. This holds true across state lines and political affiliation, and enough has been written about dynastic politics that I don't need to repeat here.

To the credit of the electorate, they did not allow our Central Cercei to plant her Joffrey on the Iron Throne nearly as easily. A good part of the credit for keeping little Joffrey in check goes to our current Prime Minister, the former Warden of the West who promised to change the paradigm. This man rose through the ranks on merit, and has over a decade of heading a State to show on his CV. That in itself is more than some of our former Prime Ministers could claim. And for what it's worth, we don't have any Modi-kids to worry about.

Yet this is not the end of monarchy in India. In an ideal world, the very people who threw their weight behind Modi's BJP and gave them an unprecedented clear majority in the parliament, should now be holding this government accountable for every one of their moves. Some of them are doing just that. So we had army men holding the government by the collar over their OROP promises. We have students of the FTII refusing to allow their institution to be given away like a piece of candy to a party loyal unworthy of its chairmanship.

If more of us thought of themselves as the masters in a democracy rather than as subjects, the tone of political discourse in the country would have been very different and very encouraging. Instead, we have a large and vocal segment of the public clinging to the new government with the kind of fierce loyalty that Congress once commanded. You see them everywhere - in drawing room discussions, social media, news debates, and overlong WhatsApp messages - people who continue campaigning for Modi.

They jump to the defense of Modi and his government every time someone questions either. They viciously attack those voices as if questioning Modi were the equivalent of supporting the Congress. It is not. Most liberals who view Modi with a degree of skepticism have no illusions about Congress or the Gandhi family either. Nobody in their right minds is taking Rahul Gandhi seriously, not even within the Congress. So chill. A lot of people who question Modi, simply do not want to let him or this government to get away with the kind of crimes against democracy that Congress did. Regardless of which party is in power, what their political leanings and convictions, however noble their intentions, constant and unforgiving public scrutiny of a government is always a good thing.

Darlings, put down the campaign banners. The Elections are over. Modi has won. You've done your service to him, by voting for him, by speaking up for him, by drumming up support for him when he needed it. Now let him serve you, like he promised.

(Sorry for the Game Of Thrones references. The bug does get you.)

1 comment:

  1. It is not an issue about questioning Modi but ii is important WHO is questioning. Whether one agrees or not It is a fact that Modi won the elections on ' Congress-reverse' policies. So he is trying to un-do the earlier what he feels is a MESS. He will be ready to implement his ideas only after he clears the earlier roadblocks'

    - R B