(1) The delusional Narendra Modi
(2) NITA Is The New TINA
The first, most troubling aspect is his uneasy relationship with Indian Muslims. The interviewer asks him whether he dreams of Akhand Bharat, or undivided India, a concept that the Rashtriya Syawamsevak Sangh (RSS) talks about. This was a valid question because a report in 2010 quoted the current RSS chief, Dr Mohan Bhagwat, as saying: “We should start thinking how to be Akhand Bharat once again,” he said. The report added that “Bhagwat pointed out that all nations, including China, Russia and America, made no secret of stretching their land by harbouring expansionist tendencies in the national interest — and to be stronger nations”. “It is only this country where her own citizens live like refugees away from their homeland,” he said with respect to the Kashmiri Pandits. “Land,” he said, “is an important factor in today’s geo-politics.” The report said that “this is not the first time that the Sangh has articulated the Akhand Bharat idea. The previous RSS chief, KS Sudarshan, had made this pitch on several occasions, particularly with regard to the Kashmir imbroglio.”
When asked the question, Modi turned the thing around. He felt it was a Muslim conspiracy, saying: People who think of empire are talking of Akhand Bharat. In Pakistan, there is a movement to unite Pakistan, India and Bangladesh so that Muslims are in a majority. Your mouths are watering these days at the prospect of creating a Muslim-majority nation in the name of Akhand Bharat. And getting all Muslims together, with the Indian Muslims at their head, to create strife. Isn’t this a dream of yours?
These are not the words of a responsible man. We cannot imagine associating any of our former prime ministers with this sort of nonsense. It is amazing that Modi has got away with this.
(2) NITA Is The New TINA
On its official website, liberally done up in its favourite colour, saffron, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) says, ‘Devotion is not business. It is sheer self-surrender.’ There must be some merit in what the RSS propagates in the virtual world—considering that this election season, self-surrender is what the Sangh outfit is practising.
(3) Modi RiseThe Sangh has indeed surrendered. And all this, out of devotion to its own pracharak, Narendra Damodardas Modi. For the first time in its 89-year history, the self-declared ‘non-political nationalist organisation’ has given in to aggressively participating in electoral politics. After all, the 2014 elections is no ordinary affair. For the Sangh, 2014 is the extraordinary battle of an old, ordinary pracharak and swayamsevak, Modi, fighting against all odds to occupy the top post in the country. In that sense, the battle for power is not Modi’s alone. The pracharak’s battle is also the RSS’s battle. The gamble is not just on Modi’s charm but also the Sangh’s own reputation and pride.
The liberal project has faltered because it has never convincingly made the case for liberalism. The one which argues in favor of science against superstition. The one which places liberal values at a higher pedestal than ephemeral electoral triumphs. The one which opposes Muslim fundamentalism as much it rages against the likes of RSS and associated groups. The one whose electoral triumphs reflect the virtues of its beliefs and not merely the fear of the opposition.
Indeed, the liberal project in India has almost made no attempts at electoral solvency and has become a hostage to its political godfathers. It is completely reliant on the appeal of certain political parties who often confuse liberalism with short-term religious appeasement. Or confuse pluralism with secularism. Or the desire to accommodate religious demands with the ability to navigate the complex minefields of India’s multiple identities. It had a good run so far disproportionate to its political influence but Modi is likely to be its nemesis.
(4) India's Holiday From HistoryHowever, it also represents an opportunity to re-evaluate the goals and the future of Indian liberal project.
Recall that I wrote my lament at a time Indian economy was still growing strongly. In every visit, I found a country bubbling with endless optimism and limitless energy. There were no takers for my growing unease with what I was seeing. I myself didn't fully understand it. As India has slowed, the nascent unease has crystallized into full blown despair.
Just because we were busy chasing riches doesn't mean we had advanced into modernity. Caste politics still dominates the Hindi heartland. Regional divisions are tearing apart Andhra Pradesh. Liberalism is in all out retreat. Religious bigotry passes for political debate. Racism - to our own people as well as towards foreign guests - is routine. Gay people may not practice love. Gated communities proliferate while children panhandle for change. Khaps are defended by all political parties and rape is blamed on victims by supposed advocates for women's rights. Even justice is accused of lust and the army is sought to be divided by faith. Soni Sori is tortured by an officer who India then decorates and Irom Sharmila still starves.
(5) India set to challenge US for election-spending recordAll this ugliness has been here all along. Dazzled by wealth and blinded by hubris, we willfully denied what was right in front of our eyes. Well, India's holiday from history is over and the time has come to deal with the ghosts we thought we had left behind.
Indian politicians are expected to spend around $5 billion on campaigning for elections next month — a sum second only to the most expensive US presidential campaign of all time — in a splurge that could give India's floundering economy a temporary boost.If you haven't already, I recommend following Sonali Ranade.