If you happen to be someone uncomfortable with the so-called Narendra Modi wave, you are probably familiar with this feeling. You are either patronised by those who think you will eventually see the light, or risk being abused by vehement Modi-fied souls. As the 2014 election approaches us, the rage of the Modi-fan threatens to swallow those who dare to differ. This is the group that I term marginalised by Modi.
So what have been some of the more visible manifestations of this phenomenon on those who have been marginalised? One, your patriotism is constantly questioned. Any opposition is termed a conspiracy against India first and then Modi, not strictly in that order (you see how India first is often interpreted by compulsive Modi fans?). Modi and his supporters have successfully resurrected the foreign hand; see how easily they have alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Second, beyond just the questions on your patriotism, you will be abused constantly and in full public glare. The abuses flow in online forums, social media, television studios, Whatsapp groups and dinner tables. In a column I had written over seven months back, I had expressed the fear that influenced by the rise of Modi and the accompanying rhetoric, more and more of the neutral sections of the population will move towards radical and intolerant positions in their personal lives. Over the last year, this is exactly what I have observed; there is indeed a distinct flavour to the newly-emboldened radical.
Third, you are labelled. Anyone opposing Modi is a Gandhi family stooge; anyone opposing his industrial promotion policies is a communist; anyone not impressed with his supposed tea-selling roots is an elitist; and finally the worst of them all, anyone worried about religious harmony is secular or sickular, one of the favourite words of the venomous online brigade. A recent column on liveminteven labelled anyone who opposes Modi as victims of myopic selfishness.
The common thread that runs through all of the above is that of majoritarianism and a kind of George Bush-esque with us or against us sentiment. It is ironic that Modi does not realise that the leader he most closely resembles in his political strong-arming tactics is Indira Gandhi. Or perhaps he does fully realises this and has therefore imitated the brand of personality-driven politics that Indira Gandhi practised. In supporting him, his party has even used liberally the references to the foreign hand. The Congress has reason to be mighty pleased, imitation being the best form of flattery, but Modi forgets that no one can take their popularity for granted. Indira Gandhi certainly tested this out well enough during the Emergency and tasted its consequences in the 1977 elections.
An authoritarian leader is bound to evoke strong passions in a country like ours. Countering a riot with another riot, as this column has repeatedly stressed, is not the solution. A strong administrative record (even a debatable one, as in this case) is no guarantee against the damage that can be caused by an unwillingness to protect the rights of all citizens, irrespective of their identity. So more than the issues that Modi harps on in his speeches, it is instructive to take note of issues that Modi does not talk about. Two examples stand out—the recent sedition charge drama on the students in Meerut and on Article 377 and the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.
These issues are hardly insignificant and Modi’s silence reveals his priorities. Modi fans have so far tended to deal with these kinds of issues by downplaying their significance in the larger scheme of things, artfully using Modi’s rhetorical India first and by playing up the abysmal track records of his political rivals. But there is no undoing the charges of personal complicity in an organised pogrom, where both Hindus and Muslims were used to serve politically opportunistic goals. In opposing any further growth of this brand of politics, we have to keep fighting. Those marginalised by Modi have to keep their voices loud and their criticism sharp, until we have better alternatives than at present