Yes, I was expecting Mr Modi to return to power, but with reduced numbers. My expectations were belied and the victory he has achieved is stupendous and almost without parallel. In the initial years of independence, Nehru won similar victories, but the opposition to him was not as antagonistic as it was in the case of Modi. In the case of Indira Gandhi too, the leaders against her were almost speaking the same language as she was and were, in fact, presenting a paler version of Congress ideology. Modi was different in 2014, but in 2019 he was, to the adoring millions of the North, West and Central India, a modern version of a Rajarishi, a 21st century Janaka. That there were no Yagyavalkya, Sulabha or Ashtavakra in his court was of no consequence to his admirers. ‘Desh Sita Mata hai toh Modiji Janak Maharaj ke barabar hai,’ (if the nation is Mother Sita, Mr Modi is equivalent of her father, the King Janaka), said a shop-owner and this was much before the meditating picture of Modi was splashed all over the media. The picture invoked derision among many of us who were opposed to Modi but his supporters were moved to tears. To them, it was the very symbol of Nishkamya Karma – service without expecting any reward. They, it eventually turned out, swamped us and rewarded the Rajarishi with another five-year term.
Is Modi really the modern version of King Janaka? The answer to this question is simple. It does not matter what the reality is. What matters is what an overwhelming number of people in India believe. What is important is they believe that he is unique and a Hindu God’s gift to India.
How did the belief come about? The belief did not come about in an organic and natural way. It was dinned into the people by an enormous propaganda machine, the like of which was not even seen in either Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia. It did use violence, but rarely. The other tools were enough – the tools of supplicant media, co-opting the giants of industry, suppression of information, misinformation, WhatsApp history, ridicule, religion and plain brazenness. The antipathy and fear the Hindus have for Islam and particularly Pakistan was exploited to the full. The supporters were everywhere. For example, if I wrote a piece against Modi on Facebook, a swarm of them descended on me from all over the world. They did not care about the facts. They kept stinging me with lies, half-truths, what-abouteries, and ridicule. For every vocal Modi adversary, there were at least a dozen raucous supporters – without exception. Not one was left unattended. They were everywhere – in buses, metros, aeroplanes, schools, colleges, market places, villages and, finally, in every ward and booth. I understand that the party deployed four million people in the state of UP alone.
Pulwama, which was a textbook case of criminal security loss, was turned into a stage to show the admirers of the Rajarishi that he could discard his saffron attire in a jiffy and don a shining armour. Balakot was a mystery. What was not a mystery was India’s loss of an aircraft, a helicopter and a dozen men, but the supporters didn’t care. Whoever doubted Balakot and pointed out that the loss suffered by India was avoidable was stamped a traitor. The people believed the supporters.
Is it all Maya? I will be churlish if I say so. The Rajarishi is spartan if one ignores the love he has for fancy-dress and baubles. I certainly don’t think he is personally corrupt. I also think that he genuinely wants to help the poor and the down-trodden, and what is more important, ordinary people too think so. His ideas of reaching modern toilets everywhere in India and supply of free gas cylinders have been a huge success everywhere. The youngsters too seem to have been charmed by the nationalist aura that he exudes.
Was there anyone better than him in the opposition? The honest answer is no, there wasn’t. But I will say the question itself is wrong. India, at this juncture, doesn’t need a tall leader. It needs a phalanx of leaders to represent its wildly varying states and their aspirations. In my humble view, a coalition would have addressed this issue in a much more satisfactory manner. The people did not think so primarily – and perhaps rightly – because they were afraid that the members of the coalition would be fighting among themselves instead of finding answers to the urgent problems bedevilling the country.
Will the Rajarishi find answers? I emphatically don’t think so. If his past five years were any indication, the nation is likely to slip into a morass of joblessness, lethargy and economic doom. Well, I have been proved wrong many times in the past and I will be happy to be proven wrong.
Meanwhile, the real forces whose creation the Rajarishi is will continue to march towards the goal of Hindu Rashtra. I dread the day when some of the adversaries of the Rajarishi start saying that Hindu Rashtra is not exactly a bad idea. The cluelessness of the opposition will ensure the arrival of that day happens sooner rather than later.