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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 23, New Delhi, May 22, 2021

Modi, modern emperor of new India and his hatred for poor | Arun Srivastava

Saturday 22 May 2021


by Arun Srivastava

In his speeches Narendra Modi usually has a discernible note of boast, eulogy and self-flattery. Since he is sceptical of others he personally carries out the task of self-promotion. His greatest asset is his skill of oratory, the art to articulate. This is clearly manifest in urban middle class Hindus and rich people continue to repose their trust in him notwithstanding sharp decline in his charisma and popularity.

His self-boasting speeches are replete with rhetoric; “for me everyone is equal”, “I have done this” “ I have made the people conscious of their izzat and respect” “Those who have looted the nation and looted the poor will not be spared and cannot sleep peacefully” – and exhortations – “Bharat jodo“, “Let us create a new India”. One must admit that he has the art to create self-righteous images.

In reality this is not the case. He uses these as the toolkit to fool the Indians. He knows it well that the Indians get swayed by emotions and emotive speeches. Indians’ belief in worshipping the powerful, the strong person They worship animals and creatures those who pose threat to their existence. It is the part of the cultural trait. This is the reason that they fail to muster courage to oppose the actions and misdeeds of the strong, influential and powerful people. The trait of electing musclemen as their representatives has been testimony to this psyche.

But at the same time it is also a fact that his speeches are always devoid of substance and reality. He obstinately indulges in such practice. Almost all the leaders across the world are in this game. But Modi is far ahead of others; he is the super salesman. He knows the chemistry of the market and its ethics and also what sales.

Over the last 2 decades there has been a massive and significant change in Indian tradition, ideology, principals, faith and culture. Once what was considered a way of life or even culture has completely changed its meaning. Has it been for good or bad is a question to debate. In modern times everything revolves around wealth, power and influence, gone are the days when social values, respect for elders and education were the indices for being a noble person, what matters is how much wealth you possess.

The market economy has come to dictate the life, the ethics and the mind-set. Imperatives of crony capitalism have changed the approach and attitude of an Indian. The urban middle class for whom only money matters has altered the entire perception. For it money shapes the fortune, the destiny. Obviously in this backdrop the defining line has been the degeneration of the moral values.

On the pretext of practicing Hindutva and promoting the cult of nationalism, the RSS and the BJP have been promoting the culture of hatred and divisiveness. Their political mission was being implemented unabashedly by Narendra Modi. For RSS with his psychological complexes he has been the best choice to accomplish its mission. Under Modi nationalism has acquired the character of a political tool, used to silence the critics and opponents.

In the last seven years, Modi and Amit Shah have removed every institutional hurdle for achieving their mission under the garb of creating ‘new India”. The political frame of new India does not tolerate cultural heterogeneous and strives to replace it with a single homogenised culture that for Modi is Hindutva. Religious pluralism is pariah for it. Modi is determined to trample the very idea of nationhood on which India’s political identity rested ever since its geographical existence. During these years every institution, from executive to democratic, have lost their relevance.

A day after the Pulwama massacre --- and two months before a general election --- the bodies of the CRPF jawans were brought to Delhi. Modi was the first to pay homage to the slain CRPF troopers. No such gesture was shown to the soldiers who died in a faceoff with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh. Modi bowed before Pulwama victims as they paid him political dividends.

Till Bengal assembly election the one question which usually dominated the drawing room was If not Modi, who will be PM? But the election and misrule of Modi have thrown two names in the public domain; that of Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee. Some surveys continue to project Modi as the most charismatic leader having mass appeal, but the fact is otherwise. The results for the assembly elections held during the last couple of years reveal that Modi has consistently been losing his charm and appeal. Modi is no more indispensable. The latest being the election to Bengal assembly. This election virtually proved to be waterloo for Modi and Shah.

The fact is he himself is responsible for erosion of his image and charisma. He has failed to live up to the imagination and trust the people of India had reposed in him. The trajectory of his political growth would reveal that element of complex has played the vital role. His actions portray that he has been taking revenge on the people of the country for his early deprivation and miseries.

It is indeed a paradox that he is not moved by any development. No incident moves him. His stoic silence tells of some ominous design. An analysis of the personalities of the two leaders Mayawati and Narendra Modi would reveal unique similarities. Both of them believe in assertion of their authority and power. They love people worshipping them. Both indulge in the politics of revenge. In case of Mayawati it got manifested in building parks and erecting elephants and wearing massive gold ornaments. She enjoyed despising the upper caste people. Modi enjoyed sadistic pleasure in insulting his seniors. His move to erect the statue of Patel, naming the stadium or constructing the VISAT is the symbol of this psyche Like Mayawati he disliked the idea of listening to suggestions. He treats the advices as an affront to his status. Basically this is the reason that he has refused to talk to the farmers and has been uncaring of their plights.

This again manifested in his May 20 virtual meeting with the chief ministers convened to review the progress and what should be done to effectively fight the corona pandemic. Strange enough while addressing the meeting, Modi expressed happiness at the decline of the number of cases of coronavirus. Whereas the ground reality tells a different story that it is yet to fade. He suggested to tell the rural people to use soap and sanitiser to check the spread of corona in the rural sector.

It was shocking to know that he was unaware of the fact that corona has been ravaging the rural India. The invasion has been so acute that the people were unable to cremate or bury the dead. The dead bodies are dumped in Ganga and other rivers. If Modi is right in saying “corona has reduced” then he ought to clarify to the people of country “Why are so many deaths happening?”It obviously implied that in order to protect his image he was telling white lies to mislead the people. He was abdicating his duty to the people of the country, those who voted him to power. Nothing could be more shameful than this.

Mamata Banerjee, Bengal chief minister, who participated at the meet later narrated the woes of the participant chief ministers saying that they sat like puppets, no CM was allowed to speak at Covid meet. She said; "We felt insulted and humiliated. A dictatorship is going on. The Prime Minister is feeling so insecure that he did not even listen to the chief ministers. What is this fear about? We are not bonded labourers. “

True enough Modi’s speech confirmed the fact that he took the Covid situation “lightly” and “evaded” queries from states on vaccines, oxygen and medicines. Mamata also alleged “Today the federal structure was bulldozed. It is sad the PM has no time to listen to the chief ministers. The country is at a critical juncture but the PM is so casual. It was a super flop meeting. Delhi’s Shahhenshah is saying sab theek hai (all is well) when everyday people are dying. The Centre has turned Namami Gange into Mrityupuri Gange.”

Among the issues that went undiscussed at Thursday’s meeting were shortage of vaccine, rising number of mucormycosis, or black fungus, cases among Covid patients. Astonishingly Modi tried to diminish the impact of corona and black fungus by describing the virus as "dhoort" (sly) and "bahurupia" (shapeshifter). Even in this critical hour, he has been using the jargon of nationalism to keep his support base in humour.

Modi’s slogan of nationalism is a deceit. He has been using to keep intact his political support base. He is not a nationalist and this is clearly manifest in the manner he handled the corona pandemic. How could a nationalist refer to ignore his own people and allow them to die? He claims that he is the son of Ganga, but Ganga was polluted by the Hindus by dumping dead bodies. He preferred to be a mute spectator. How could he suggest to check spread of corona in rural India by using soap and steriliser? He could have discussed this with the chief ministers for evolving a well-defined strategy to fight it.

The RSS’s original base was higher-caste men, but, in order to grow, it had to widen its membership. Among the recruits was an eight-year-old named Narendra Modi, from Vadnagar, a town in the state of Gujarat. Modi belonged to the Ghanchi caste, whose members traditionally sell vegetable oil; Modi’s father ran a small tea shop near the train station, where his young son helped. When Modi was thirteen, his parents arranged for him to marry a local girl, but they cohabited only briefly, and he did not publicly acknowledge the relationship for many years. Modi soon left the marriage entirely and dedicated himself to the RSS. As a pracharak Modi started by cleaning the living quarters of senior members, but he rose quickly. In 1987, he moved to the political branch of the BJP.

He rose in ranks, but his past was always a baggage for him. He finally managed to throw away it after becoming the chief minister of Gujarat. The pogrom provided him with the opportunity to project himself as the maker of modern Gujarat. Now he is using the same trait to project himself as the creator of New India with the tacit support of Mohan Bhagwat.

The success of Modi’s leadership is based on the myth that portrays him as a strong and effective leader. In fact the word nationalism has acquired a rancid, venomous meaning in Narendra Modi’s ‘new’ India. It has become a weapon to be used against anyone who does not show blind faith in Modi and his policies. It is a version that exists in all totalitarian countries but should be considered an abomination in our proud democracy.

In a poll conducted on Twitter by The Conversation (US), on “Who did worst?” vis-à-vis the management of the pandemic, Modi outvoted other contenders, getting 90 per cent of the 75,450 votes, leaving far behind the likes of former US President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. chemes.

One question has arisen in a most emphatic manner. What blinded government to the devastating second wave of Covid? The country has not forgotten the manner in which he ill treated the daily labourers and wage earners during the first wave of corona. Not less than 450 migrant labourers died while fleeing to their native places.

On January 28, Narendra Modi while addressing the WEF in Davos had said: “We transformed the fight against coronavirus into a people’s movement and today India is among the most successful countries in saving lives … While two India-made vaccines have already been introduced to the world, many more will be made available from India … We guided the world on how India’s traditional medicine, Ayurveda, can help in improving immunity. Today, India is sending its vaccine to several countries and helping in developing the infrastructure for successful vaccination, thus saving lives of citizens of other countries”. This speech reflects a form of blind nationalism from three points of view.

According to the officials on an average 4,000 people die of corona daily. But experts confide the true number is closer to 25,000; Gujarat, UP lead in massive under-reporting of casualties. Gujarat issued more than double the death certificates between March 1 and May 10 than during the same period last year. The state issued 1.23 lakh death certificates compared to 58,000 during the same 71-day period last year. Interestingly, the Gujarat government’s official figures show that only 4,218 people died from Covid-19 during the March 1-May 10 period. However, 65,000 more death certificates than the previous year were issued during the period.

An eminent virologist Shahid Jameel who had said complacency had contributed to the ferocity of India’s second Covid-19 wave resigned on Sunday as chair of the scientific advisory group to a 10-lab government consortium tracking coronavirus variants in India. Jameel said several “superspreader events” such as weddings, local body elections, state elections, and religious congregations such as the Kumbh Mela would have provided opportunities for the virus to spread at a time when a more infectious variant had emerged in India.

It’s common knowledge that public health in India has been a completely neglected area. The Congress on Friday demanded a public report on vaccines, alleging that the Narendra Modi government had ignored suggestions for ramping up production and allowed exports violating the India-First policy. The report, tabled in Parliament on February 20, 2021, had said: “The committee also urges the ministry to devise a plan for the availability of the vaccine. For this to happen, the vaccine production capacity in the country has to be considerably ramped up for making vaccines accessible to its citizens.”

India’s anti-Covid vaccination plans are in disarray, and the Centre seems to be living in denial. On Monday, it lied to the Supreme Court. It assured the court that it is in control of the situation and said that it is working with private manufacturers to ensure equity in vaccine supplies; as reports abound of people being turned away from vaccination centres and states delaying or suspending the inoculation drive for the 18-44 age group.

India’s worst nightmare is coming true: Covid-19 is making its presence felt in the country’s rural areas. Already 533 districts are reeling under the pandemic: the positivity rate reported from these areas is — this is worrying — over 10 per cent. Rural India accounts for approximately 65 per cent of India’s population. The speech of Modi at CM’s meet makes it clear that he has not taken the situation seriously. He is not willing to devote monetary, medicinal, manpower to rural India.

A British newspaper has taken “India’s narcissistic Prime Minister” and “shameless demagogue” to task for building a Central Vista in New Delhi while “within a mile or two, people were still dying for lack of care in the dusty streets”. On a two-page spread on Thursday, The Daily Mail wrote: “The monstrous monument to Narendra Modi’s ego: As millions suffer in pandemic, India’s narcissistic Prime Minister is building a vast folly at a cost that could fund 40 major hospitals. Now his nation is in uproar.”

A hard-hitting editorial published in the medical journal The Lancet has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seemed more intent in removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the Covid pandemic. PM Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are “inexcusable”, it has said.

The editorial quoting The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by August 1. “If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s Government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe.”

Eminent economist Prabhat Patnaik writes; Narendra Modi government’s ineptitude (or call it complicity with monopolists’ extortions) knows no limits. In the midst of a terrible pandemic when there is a shortage of vaccines, there are three obvious things any government must do: first, distribute the vaccine free among the people, which is but a recognition of everyone’s right to life; second, introduce monopoly purchase of the vaccine by the government, no matter what the criteria and through which channels it chooses to ration it out among the people; third, fix the purchase price at a fair mark-up over unit prime cost.

In the backdrop of Narendra Modi facing the worst drubbing of his political life the four day exercise of “Positivity Unlimited” organised by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is unambiguously an attempt to protect him from further public denigration and rebuke. This exercise of Bhagwat in fact brings his own reputation and credibility under public scrutiny. How could Bhagwat prefer to hide the failures of Modi? It is really sad to listen to Bhagwat counselling lakhs of people who have lost their dear ones to the dreaded corona to remain positive. How will Bhagwat justify Modi’s insensitivity? At a time when India desperately needs billions of money for purchase of medicine and vaccine, Modi is busy giving a shape to his dream Taj Mahal, the Central Vista. This he has been doing when the people were dying for lack of care in the dusty streets.

His love for his own passion is widely known. During last two months nearly 3 lakh persons have died of Corona. But he continues to be unmoved. For him punishing his political detractors is the top priority. After the election in Bengal came to an end, spread of Corona picked up pace in the state. The state took it as a challenge and started gearing up the administrative machinery. But before it could take a shape, the CBI struck. Though the case is seven year old, suddenly the CBI came out of its slumber. No doubt the leaders who accepted bribe ought to be punished. But the two main guilty persons, the national vice president of BJP Mukul Roy and the leader of opposition in Bengal assembly, Subhendu Adhikari were not arrested.

Modi is aware that the number of affected persons has shot up as is the number of deaths. He may have sadist pleasure at the miseries of Mamata. But how he will explain the pain suffered by the crores of people of Bengal. Modi has been resorting to this game only for giving a bad name to Mamata government and impose the President’s rule. This is all being done at the cost of the lives of people.

It is indeed sad that Bhagwat instead of asking Modi to act has been trying to conceal his failures. To protect his failures he ironically has been putting the blame on the healthcare system. No doubt the healthcare system has been completely ravaged by the second wave of dreaded Corona. But does it mean that Modi should abandon his moral responsibility? Should he wait for good time? It would not be an exaggeration to say that the four day lecture series was an attempt to deflect public ire over Narendra Modi’s failure to handle the pandemic. To achieve his goal he even disguised a rainbow of eminent social and cultural personalities to exonerate Modi for his outrageous failure to handle the crisis and instead present him before the Indians as the most concerned ruler.

It was pleasant to listen Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev saying that being angry all the time (with the government) “will only affect immunity.” Obviously it implied that the Indians tolerate all acts of the Modi government without any whine. Suggestion of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living founder to the people to focus on philosophical aspects as telling people to use courage and compassion to induce positivity did not come as a shock as he borrows the ideas of RSS. It was nice to listen to him saying; “We have to awaken the faith in God within us. We have to have faith that there is a God”. The only speaker who had some rational approach was Azim Premji who called for reaching out to the ‘Most Vulnerable’.

RSS leadership was desperate to give Modi a clean chit by asserting that over the past few weeks, his government has made several such attempts to “spread positivity.” It is absolutely clear that RSS does not intend to lose the gains it has made during Modi’s rule. Bhagwat aim is to create an atmosphere to counter the negativity that is being propagated by detractors of Modi. It is worth mentioning that the RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale had recently cautioned that anti-Bharat elements could take advantage of the prevailing situation in wake of the second Covid wave. Instead of directing the volunteers to stand by the suffering humanity, he has been more concerned of anti Bharat forces creating an atmosphere of negativity and mistrust in the country.

It is indeed shocking that Bhagwat and Hosabale instead of pulling up Modi has been busy finding fault with the people and counselling them to maintain positivity. Bhagwat said; . “We should forget our differences. It is not the time for fault-finding”. He said the present situation arose as “we took things lightly after the first wave”. “Experts had cautioned about the second wave, but we became lax,” he said. On experts predicting a third wave, he urged people to be prepared for a good fight. “We have to win,” he said. As the head of the parent organisation he should have openly castigated Modi for his faults and mismanagement.

The sources maintain that Bhagwat probably would not have taken up the exercise if the RSS cadres had not complained about massive loss of support for the government from across the country due to its mismanagement in handling of the second Covid wave. In fact even the RSS cadres are feeling shocked and disillusioned at soft pedalling of Modi’s failures. A fear is gripping the psyche of the cadres that if this situation is allowed to perpetuate then in that case it would be a tough task to make the people and rank and file to rally behind the BJP. The party is losing ground and it was clearly manifest in the BJP losing the election in three key states.

Inept handling of the second wave by the government has been annoying some top leaders of the Sangh parivar though they have refrained from making public statements. These leaders feel that simply harping on positivity would not be of much help. Some positive and stern action need to be initiated. These leaders feel that Bhagwat ought to have done some plain speaking. An organisation is much above an individual. “The RSS chief could not be seen as turning a blind eye and condoning what is obvious” said a senior RSS functionary.

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