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Mainstream, VOL LV No 40 New Delhi September 23, 2017

In the Courtyard of Modi’s New India

Saturday 23 September 2017


by Arun Srivastava

We are at a time when ideas sale, ideas are used especially for the mobile and hi tech life-style. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a perfect businessman, has been in the business of selling ideas since 2014. During the last three years he sold many ideas and incidentally there is no dearth of buyers. Now he is selling the idea of New India not only inside India but even abroad too.

What has been really interesting is in his hurry he has been pitching his ideas of New India against the Old India, which is represented by Bharat. If he is to be believed, Bharat has been an outdated concept and entity. This has outlived its utility. This is a discarded and obsolete word.

It is worth mentioning that some great socialist leaders, like Charan Singh, Rammanohar Lohia and others were in favour of promoting the concept of Bharat as it imbibed the aspiration of a vast majority of the rural Indian people. No doubt over the decades the policy towards the population has multiplied and demography has changed, the urban middle class, which was then in the embryonic stage, now dictates the politico-economic scenario and decision-making process. Obviously in this backdrop Modi pursuing the appeasement policy towards this burgeoning class should not come as surprise.

But the basic question is: how does he intend to accomplish his mission? One of his ideas for retrieving black money, the demonetisation, is lying shattered on the Rajpath of the nation’s capital, Delhi. Recently the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine, Steve Forbes, criticised demonetisation, as ‘sickening and immoral’ and a ‘massive theft of people’s property’. He even went on to say that India has not only ‘immorally harmed’ its own people, but also set the most destructive example of the anti-cash fad for the rest of the world. The RBI’s Annual Report shows not everything was right with demonetisation.

Even the latest report of the India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, shows not everything was right with demonetisation. It severely criticised it and observed that it would have a disastrous effect on the economy and growth. Just as the former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, had prophesised that the economy will face bad days and it would fall substantially by the 2nd or 3rd quarter.

Ironically for his observation the eminent economist had to face flak from the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, on the floor of Parliament. Eventually Dr Singh has been proved to be right. Jaitley even does not have the self-respect to seek apology from Dr Singh for his remarks. Even after 10 months, the tremors of the ground-breaking demonetisation wave, that shook the whole nation and tumbled our economic situation, are being felt.

In his hurry to present his image of a macho politician and a statesman as well, Modi has been always coming out with some ideas without bothering to find whether they are relevant or absurd. His latest emphasis on New India should be seen in this backdrop. Modi has been calling upon the people to liberate India from its past and how it tries to reach out to a better yet distant future. Obviously the question the springs up is: whether Modi looks at traditions and social norms, jurisprudence or the economic system as bogus and irrelevant which have outlived their utility. Since he is advocating for ushering in New India, it is his moral responsibility to lay down the structural foundation of the New India. Simply rhetoric is not sufficient. He would have to spell out its parameters and paradigm.

Unfortunately so far he has refrained from placing it before the people of the country. He has been playing with words and using his call for ushering in New India as a tool to accuse the policies and programmes followed and implemented by the Congress. One thing is quite significant: he is still haunted by the Congress or secular phobia. He had based the superstructure of his government on the task of demystifying the Nehruvian model of governance which he ultimately had to drop due to stiff resistance. Now he has been trying to give shape to his idea under the facade of New India.

One thing is certain: that Modi lacks conviction to challenge the Nehruvian programme and economic policy as his saffron economists, swadeshi academics and intellectuals have failed to evolve and provide him with an alternative model. The much acclaimed Niti Aayog has proved to be a theatre for some discarded economists.

These days we hear a lot about the clash of the two Indias—the India of the villages vs the India of the cities, deprived India vs shining India, holder of old values vs clamour for new alien values. A consistent effort is on to pitch the old India against New India. This is an agenda similar to what was espoused by Charan Singh but there is a major difference in the content and contour. While in the realm of Charan Singh the farmer, the village community represented the idea and image of Bharat, in Modi’s dominion everything which is nearer to or represents the aspiration of Hindutva is part of the New India.

India has been experiencing a significant shift in cultural, social and economic ethos and aspects of life in recent times. Modi is forcing the society and country to accept the Hindutva tenet blended with Western culture as the new norm of Indian life and culture. The transition of Bharat to India has put the lust for prosperity, progression and growth, unperceived in the past, on the high pedestal. It is an irony that at a time when the intellectuals, academics and socially conscious people have been trying to seek solace in India’s past, the saffron brigade, which claims to be the votary of the Indian traditions and culture, has been persuading us to adopt the concept of New India, whose essence is still not clear and mired in uncertainty. The RSS has been in utter hurry.

The RSS has been emphasising on ultra-nationalism and in some cases has thrashed and insulted the people who refuse to subscribe to their ideological line. But it is a fact that the RSS and BJP have been striving to change the basic structure of nationalism. The BJP’s emphasis on New India has completely changed the dynamics of the concept of Bharat. In the BJP’s rule Bharat has become an obsolete word. Everything which is disliked by the urban middle class and has been rejected by it is attributed to the creation of the old India, Bharat, which is still in the clutches of inequality in all aspects of personal and professional life. In the prevailing situation New India symbolises the growing, cluttering, rising economy.

Though the saffron brigade claims that it symbolises the promise of democracy, independence, equality and growth, this is not true at the ground level. Behind the facade of intolerance, the Modi Government and the Sangh have been pushing the politics of majoritarianism and strengthening in India the capitalist economy where equality and independence are utopian elements. The New India would witness the dawn of gender equality and right to literacy, according to the saffron brigade. So far these two words, in the view of the saffron forces, have been missing in India. They try to impress upon the people that New India would bridge the gap between Bharat and India and help diminish the line of inequality.

The new India is an emerging superpower. It is the new India that is the rival of a resurgent China. It is the new India that the world is rushing to befriend and to invest in. It’s time for New India to divorce Bharat.

The PM defined ‘New India’ as an effective vision to fight against communalism, casteism and corruption, but in real terms Modi’s New India will have communalism, fascism and bigotry as its foundation. True enough, ushering in New India is a tactical one step forward in the direction of courting ultra-nationalism. One thing is absolutely clear: that ‘New India’ will revive nationalism like never before

The nationalist wave is already sweeping the country. One dangerous outcome of this trend is the rise of reactionary sections which are quite proactive to describe anyone not subscribing to their philosophy of Hindutva as “anti-national”. Ultra-nationalism is ‘New India’. Intriguingly in the ‘New India’ poverty will be understood as the lack of access to empowerment opportunity. This is simply a gimmick and an attempt to play with the sentiment of the poor.

For Modi, the New India concept is a course-correction populist narrative; nothing more than that. Explaining his idea of New India and Indians, he said it should be a country that offers opportunities to the poor. “A new India where the poor do not want anything by way of charity, but seek opportunity to chart out their own course... Indians today are not waiting for governmental sops. They only want opportunities to be created for them, so that they can work for their livelihood and prosperity.”

But the fact of matter is that Dalits and poor are the worst victims of the vigilantism and caste violence during Modi’s rule. Throughout India Dalits have been facing the worst nature of reprisal and oppression. They are the primary object of cow vigilantes. During last three years of Modi rule this has become the order of the day.

Modi claims that ‘New India’ is a philosophy of resurrecting a vibrant India. It is a call to rescue the country of the scourge of filth, poverty, misery, lethargy, apathy and corruption. ‘New India’ is about new values. ‘New India’ is a dream of an India where digital technologies shall bridge the divide between the rich and poor. But how far is this correct? That is not yet clear. Nevertheless, one thing is quite apparent: the slogan of New India is a tactical ploy of the RSS to accomplish its task of ushering in Hindu Rashtra in the country. They resorted to this policy once the Sangh and Modi Government came to realise that the secular forces were ready to strike back. In fact they had nursed the impression that after the electoral rout the secular forces have lost their identity and zest for survival. But they were mistaken. Electoral politics and election results are not the barometer of the strength and perseverance of the secular forces. Once the Sangh came to realise this basic tenet, it made a paradigm shift in its strategy.

“Innovation is life. When there is no inno-vation, there is stagnation,” stated PM Narendra Modi, at the Champions of Change event organised by NITI Aayog in the Capital. One thing is quite perceptible: instead of depending on the common people and motivating them to take the country to the New India goal, Modi has been primarily focusing on the middle class and social elite as he banks on them for ushering in a state of Hindutva and winning the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

There is no disputing the fact that with changing times, we have to change our processes and systems. But a question crops up: what should be nature of the change? There is absolutely no reason to deny that Modi has been playing into the hands of the fascist capitalist forces. The deliberations at the Champions of Change makes it explicit that the entire focus of Modi was on the urban middle class.

New India is just more of the old stale and corrupt stuff packaged and sold as new, to the unsuspecting. Modi has been acting at the behest of the RSS. This is in fact one of the clever and astute moves of the Sangh. The leadership knows that the liberal urban middle class with Centrist mindset would be the gullible taker of this slogan as it nurses the feeling that the old rules and laws were major hindrances in the process of their material ascendance. They aspire for more material gain and easy access to power.

After they tasted the fruits of power during the last seven years, previously under the rule of the UPA and then under Modi and Kejriwal, they do not intend to lose the initiative and control over the governance. Earlier they could not speak out their minds, but after Modi’s ascension they got a person of their ilk who can present their views and articulate their desires. A simple look at their response to whatever Modi says is testimony to it.

These are the people who systematically denigrate and scorn the Congress and more especially Rahul Gandhi. These are the new swayamsevaks of the Sangh. A large majority now sees a justification for what they always believed, but were constrained from speaking out because of old-generation morality and political correctness. Interestingly, these people claim themselves as the real nationalists but do not hesitate to deride and revile the political leadership which fought for freedom and independence. They are following in the footsteps of the RSS; decry the political leadership which fought for independence but refrain from speaking against those out to undermine freedom and nationalism.

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52[at]

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