Narendra Modi, I imagine, should take it as a back-handed compliment that there are so many in India who loathe him so much. The interesting thing is that the congenital Modi-haters, if you look at them carefully, are neither the mythical aam aadmi over whom many crocodile tears have been shed; nor are they Muslims who allegedly bear Modi’s much ill-will after the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
No, the fact is that the Modi-haters fall into several categories: a) fans of the Congress and the Nehru dynasty, b) entrepreneurs who are making hay from divisiveness, c) vested interests with malign agendas and d) media entrepreneurs.
The first category is obvious. The Congress party is for all practical purposes a vehicle for the glorification of the Nehru dynasty, and not incidentally for assorted hangers-on who make out like bandits through large scale loot (perhaps you remember 2G, CWG, Bofors, and numerous other scams).
A genuine case can be made that Congress will adopt any and all techniques, including borderline constitutional coups, to stay on in power. A few examples will suffice:
1. The overthrow in 1959 of EMS Namboodiripad’s Communist government using the dubious means of Section 356, alleging failure of law and order.
2. The manner in which the 1975 Emergency was imposed.
3. The 2008 cash-for-votes scam which saved the UPA regime that was about to fall.
4. The 2009 electronic voting machines, about whose integrity serious questions have been raised.
Thus, it should not surprise anybody that the votaries of the Congress have indulged and will indulge in any subterfuge to get rid of inconvenient foes. For instance, there was the appointment of a governor, whose only apparent brief was to get rid of a state’s chief Minister, by hook or by crook, which was achieved by utilising the lokayukta or ombudsman. The very same tactic, by the way, is being rolled out in Gujarat as well.
But this is to be expected. A number of Congress people and friends have become enormously wealthy by exploiting public funds to enrich themselves. A case in point is that of Andhra Pradesh, where the late Chief Minister YSR Reddy apparently built up a private empire of staggering proportions by judiciously manipulating the loaves and fishes of office. The ongoing trials and/or travails of A Raja, Dayanidhi Maran, and others – former friends of the Congress – proves this point.
Thus, it is fully in keeping with Congress tradition that all sorts of allegations should be levelled against Narendra Modi. They seem to believe Modi has committed an enormous crime: he is not taking bribes in Gujarat, nor is he allowing anyone else to! This strikes at the very root of the crony-capitalist culture that the Congress has nurtured – you scratch my back and I yours, and we shall both benefit at the cost of the alleged aam aadmi.
What do you do with those who threaten the status quo? Why, you silence them, that’s what you do. A famous example is Galileo Galilei. Naturally, he was to be burned at the stake, until he recanted. Another example is from the outstanding film Z by Costa-Gavras – a clean candidate for the presidency in Greece is eliminated by the ruling junta.
There is a new book by Stanford professor of history Richard White, titled Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, which describes in detail how a small band of entrepreneurs, often called ‘robber-barons’, was able to divert public wealth into private pockets via the expedient of laying rails across that country. These tycoons plundered the public through large grants of land, repeated bankruptcies that were bailed out with public funds, and the fine art of creating arbitrary railroad lines where none were really needed or wanted.
The author compares this to the daylight robbery by investment banks that led to the financial meltdown in the West in 2008-2009. A better comparison would be to the political entrepreneurs of India, most significantly those of the Congress and its best friends such as the DMK, who have mastered the art of making public funds vanish in clear sight – see 2G, CWG etc. (In passing, is anybody amazed that there has been no progress in following the money trail into Liechtenstein, Germany and Switzerland to locate assets held by Indians in banks there?)
It is clear that the best way to make money in India these days is to be a political entrepreneur. Their rags-to-riches stories are legion; MPs and MLAs are no longer impressed by their peers’ exploits unless the take is measured in percentage of GDP: mere crores are nothing. And here comes that Modi swearing to shut down this lucrative business. Politicians and bureaucrats are, quite rationally, concerned: can you imagine what will happen if Modi becomes PM, perish the thought!
I read some time ago that though Modi is generally popular in most parts of Gujarat — if I remember right, he won his last election with a two-thirds majority — there is one place in the state where he is very unpopular. In fact he lost elections there — in the capital Gandhinagar. Quite rightly, the babus are voting against someone who is subverting their main mechanism of making money.
The second group are the NGO mavens, or those that can be called, loosely, Quangos, or quasi-NGOs. Many of the Quangos are so closely aligned with the Congress government that it is hard to tell them apart. One example is an NGO headed by an individual who has been repeatedly accused of outright perjury and witness tampering (by former aides and indeed the witnesses themselves), a felony in the eyes of most judiciaries. However, instead of being treated with suspicion, this unelected individual is tight with the powers that be, and in fact deeply involved in creating legislation!
Another Quango person, also unelected, but also deeply entrenched in the business of creating impractical and unfair legislation, is infamous for his purple prose about the Gujarat riots — he threw in every atrocity that he had ever heard of anywhere in the world, including Holocaust Germany, and attributed it to alleged mobs in Gujarat, claiming to be an eye-witness.
The fact that his writing was pure fiction – and that it was libelous and slanderous – has never stuck to him, Teflon person that he is. He has moved on, as they say, to bigger and better things.
There is an entire cottage industry of Quangos in India, as has been described in an explosive book by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak titled NGOs, Activists and Foreign Funds: Anti-Nation Industry. More recently, there were revelations that many NGOs have been involved with or funded by a) the Ford Foundation, or b) Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri-American who was recently arrested by America’s FBI as a front for Pakistan’s ISI. These are not exactly bodies that have India’s best interests at heart, to put it mildly.
A third group are the religious entrepreneurs who are looking to convert Indians to their respective faiths. Quite clearly, the second best way of making money in India is religious entrepreneurism. Interestingly, it was such a religious businessman who initially fed the British embassy the canard of “2,000 Muslims were killed” in Gujarat in 2002; which was happily repeated ad nauseam in the West, implying that it was a one-sided massacre.
In fact, the UPA government itself (and it has every reason to inflate the numbers) says 754 Muslims and 290 Hindus were killed: which is of the nature of a riot, rather than a massacre (or ‘genocide’ as the pundits pontificate solemnly).
Another pundit tweeted when there was a 6.8 Richter earthquake in Sikkim and vicinity on Sunday, and I quote verbatim: “Once in a while the earth does shake, or is it Modi’s stomach rumbling” [sic]. A singularly tasteless remark, considering that people were dying. And strangely reminiscent of Rajiv Gandhi’s comment in 1984 on the Sikh genocide: “But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”
And that brings us to the Fourth Estate, the fourth category and possibly the most venal of the lot. India is singularly unfortunate to have some of the most thick-skinned journalists in the world. In other countries, lying journalists utter mea culpas and slink off into oblivion: as seems to be happening to Johann Hari of the UK Independent. I am disappointed, as I personally have liked Hari’s writing, but it seems he made up some of the quotes from others, and so he has apologised and has taken an unpaid leave of absence. At least there is some self-respect there.
Not so in the Indian english-language media. They report only “the news fit to report”, which generally means only those things that feed into their (generous) prejudices, or that which will bring them awards and goodies from the government. I will not go into the brazenness of the Den Mother of them all, who, caught on tape red-handed, did not have the decency to at least feign contrition and remorse. Well, it is quite lucrative to do what they are doing, so I guess they are also being journalist-entrepreneurs.
So all of these four categories of people have excellent reasons to hate Modi and to demean his fast.
However, they did not do the same thing to Anna Hazare. For several reasons: one is that the very same people latched on to poor Hazare. Half the crowd surrounding Hazare belong to one or the other of the above categories, so they knew they had infiltrated and rendered toothless his movement. No need, therefore, to attack him: he had already been neutralised, despite all his best intentions. Hazare might echo Pogo who said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
On the contrary, notice how Swami Ramdev’s movement was crushed with an iron fist, with fascist fury. It is indeed ironic that Ramdev attracted far more of the aam aadmi, the rural salt of the earth, than Hazare’s movement, which consists mostly of the urban middle class. But the four groups above decided that, obviously, politics was too important to be left to the people. It is only PLUs, people-like-us, who have the right to protest. No sama, dana, bheda; just danda for the hoi-polloi, such as 51-year-old Rajbala, whose spine was damaged, and who is paralysed.
The writing on the wall is clear. Ramdev threatened the status-quo-ists because he openly challenged them. But he was not sophisticated enough to realise that they would try to liquidate him, or at the very least impose tejo-vadham (humiliation) on him. Similarly, Modi should be very vigilant about what the power-hungry may do to him. But he is more savvy, and knows that at least from the point of view of the public, his obvious achievements in governance and in producing sterling results make him a winner.
But Hazare, that was a different story. They got him, didn’t they? The good Gandhian has been turned into, well… another Gandhi: an object to trot out piously now and then and make grand speeches about, but to ignore in general. That other Gujarati, Modi, isn’t going to stand for that; and that’s what makes him dangerous. He is a proven leader and a manager, a giant in a land full of pygmies. That of course does not endear him to the pygmies.