Good governance is a distant dream in India.
Here’s something for a man and his party to deal with, if they care. One big reason I won’t vote for the BJP — and their presumptive PM nominee, Modi — is the way their fans behave, in how they present to me this thing called Hindutva.
Meanwhile, from some corner of the Web, a Modi-bhakt sends me this gentle comment: “You bloody bastard, [you] have no sense of humanity and patriotism and have the guts to mess with the Hindus.”
Yes, somebody seems to have persuaded the BJP’s loudest champions that the way to power in this country is to abuse everyone who does not fully agree with them. So we have the phenomenon that so many of us Indians are so familiar with: a legion of party supporters, ranging from young professionals all the way to Rajya Sabha members, whose idea of argument and dialogue is a flood of angry invective and illogic, period.
So if you criticise the BJP, you’re part of the “paid media” and undoubtedly a “Congi stooge”. That’s where it starts. Like the self-proclaimed “policy expert” who once told me ponderously: “If you’re not for Modi, you’re for the Congress.”
Now even a policy expert, it seems to me, should be able to comprehend that there might just be folks who are fed up to the teeth with both our major parties. Who might just want to stay far from both. But no, that amount of straightforward logic is too much for this man. So invested in Modi is he, so blinded by his glare, that the world becomes black and white. Black, the guys like him who are as invested. White, the Congress, with the rest of the world obviously its fans.
Luckily the world is not black and white. But as I said,
that’s where it starts.
From another corner of the Web, another BJP fan fires off these friendly sentences to me: “[You] show [your] true colours, that of a rabid communalist blinded by Hindu-phobia. You are a colourful character hitting on those wimmen folks in slum.”
In a recent article (What about 1984?), Mukul Kesavan wrote thus about these parties: “The Congress, by a kind of historical default, is a pluralist party that is opportunistically communal while the BJP is an ideologically communal (or majoritarian) party that is opportunistically ‘secular’”.
As Kesavan himself underlines, this is at best faint praise for a Congress that is moribund and bereft of ideas. But it explains why Kesavan and many more of us find nothing attractive in the BJP.
And that’s the point. Take me: As far back as the 1975 Emergency — in many ways my political awakening — I grew frustrated and disgusted with the Congress party. Let me count the ways: its sycophantic grovelling before Indira Gandhi, her easy slide into autocracy, her deliberate undermining of our institutions, the growing culture of corruption, the “foreign hand” bogeyman that was used to evade tackling any number of real Indian problems, the “garibi hatao” slogan which was never more than a slogan, the obsession (even then) with this family dynasty … need I go on?
These were the reasons so many of us welcomed the rise of the Janata coalition in 1977. Here, for the first time in 30 Independent years, was the first realistic chance to rid the country of the suffocating sickness of Congress rule. This is why so many of us campaigned for the Janata.
My always apolitical Aunty Pat was one, remembered even today for tramping around Versova urging her neighbours to vote Janata. That the coalition fell apart and Indira returned to power in 1980 was another matter, if a terribly disappointing one.
And we didn’t know it in 1980, but there was much more to come to damn the Congress for: Bofors and even more egregious corruption, the violence in Punjab and Kashmir, and let’s never forget the blood of 3,000 Indians slaughtered in 1984.
Meanwhile, a Modi supporter in some Web-istan enclave dispatches these affable thoughts about me: “You are a minority so would not be surprised if you owed your allegiance to the god-damn Church rather than Indian Constitution. People like [you] should be burnt alive for trying to destabilize India. I am confident that you bloody Semites, Muslims and Christians are in this together to target Hindus.”
What the BJP forgets is that people like me — I believe much of the nation — turned to the BJP as an alternative precisely because we were fed up of the Congress. But if we were disappointed in 1980, that was compounded after the BJP’s rise a decade and more later. Congress “garibi hatao”? BJP “mandir vahin banayenge”. Congress Bofors etc? BJP coffin scam etc. Worst of all: Congress bloodstain of 1984? BJP bloodstain of 2002 (not forgetting the 1992-93 bloodstain its ally, the Shiv Sena, sports).
Here’s the disappointment: in power, the BJP proved itself no different from the Congress, and in ways Kesavan wrote of, plenty worse. Here’s the disillusionment: with this BJP proof, we voters who yearn for merely good governance are left with no alternative any more.
So I think I know why the loud supporters of the BJP are so free with abuse. They know the same truths themselves — they may even be OK with them — but are too fearful to publicly admit as much. Easier to paint the other guy in terms that, oddly enough, say most about the abusers themselves. That speaks loudest of their own irrational fears and hatreds.
On which lines, I have this congenial message from a Hindutvawadi:
“Damn the Islamic world, damn the Western Christian crusader nations. You cheap
I’m supposed to vote for this stuff. Right.
The author lives in Bombay and writes so he can keep his cats Cleo and Aziz fed. Send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org