Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Might as well enjoy India’s very last general elections.

The writing is already on the wall. The portents are there for those who want to see them. It is a wonder how our crack political analysts continue to ignore their message, why they refuse to take the final leap of imagination. (That’s not strictly accurate: on Saturday, 29 March 2014, Kanti Bajpai in his Times of India article on Page 16, “Journey Towards Soft Fascism” did hint at the shape of things to come. There may be more such comments I have not read.)

NaMo, pronounced the proper way (“Na” as in “Narendra”, “Mo” as in “Modi”) is a command in Sanskrit to bow down, to worship. Make no mistake. You are being told in no uncertain terms to change your behaviour, to perform an act of supplication. Ignore the message at your own peril, boys and girls.

Modi brooks no opposition to his relentless march to 7 Racecourse Road in Lutyens’ Delhi. He has already put all his potential rivals in BJP (Big Guns one and all, mind you) in their place – in the shade – out of reckoning – so demoralized that it will take them quite a while to recover, let alone even think of retaliating. In this respect, he reminds me of Indira Gandhi versus The Syndicate, c. 1969, a modern reenactment of the legendary David versus Goliath encounter. And, all this notwithstanding all his talk about being a strict follower of party discipline and so forth.

In a smart move to lend legitimacy and glamour to NaMo, they have even commissioned his “authorized” political biography launched close to the date of the general elections. The 310-page tome is written by a little-known British (our former masters, remember? Clever, clever!) author and filmmaker, Andy Marino. Marino’s provenance seems at best somewhat sketchy (PhD in Eng. Lit.). (Are there such creatures in the world as literary mercenaries?) His “literary” output consists of obscure non-fiction (A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry and Hershel: The Boy Who Started World War Two). If one were to take him at his word, though, he has had “a long relationship with India” and has been “interested in its politics and history as far back as I can recall.”

Be that as it may, in his Hindustan Times interview Marino certified Modi’s straightforwardness adding that he was “complex” and “a better administrator or anybody so completely possessed with enthusiasm for what he does. His brain runs non-stop thinking about ways to improve everything, and there’s an incredible energy.”  As far as Modi’s honesty is concerned, Marino says that he checked and cross-checked his answers and found them above reproach. (For the convenience of the dyslexic as well as book-hating readers, Rannade Prakashan and Blue Snail Animation have published a 45-page NaMo comic book, Bal Narendra, apparently in the Bal Hanuman vein. So, no efforts have been spared in nurturing the NaMo mythology.)

The BJP campaign slogan is “Agli baar Modi Sarkar” (Coming next: Modi Government). This has the same shade of the recent abject capitulation by Penguin and Aleph about Wendy Doniger’s books on Hinduism. Of course, the reason for not promising a BJP Sarkar may be twofold: (1) The earlier BJP rule was not entirely free from taints of corruption and scams. (2) If Modi comes to power, it will be most likely as the leader of a coalition. Like Manmohan Singh, he too will have to face the vagaries of running a coalition government. Eventually, given his popular support and, more important, his forceful and aggressive personality, he may be able to drive a tougher bargain with his partners. As time passes, NaMo will begin to better appreciate the systemic impediments in his path. Once again his inherent nature will not allow him to accept defeat meekly. His only option then will be to take matters in his own two capable hands.

As liberal conventional wisdom would have it, NaMo’s final ascension to absolute no-holds power, if it ever comes to pass, may seem a disaster. The other way to see it is as a happening belonging to the class of what Robert and Elizabeth Bjork of UCLA Bjork Learning & Forgetting Lab have called “desirable difficulties”. It will allow the decisive Shri NaMo to dismantle the wasteful democratic superstructure of elections at both central and state levels thereby saving the country enormous amounts of resources and removing in a single stroke one of the biggest causes of corruption. Decision making and implementation can be speeded up. Work ethics and discipline will improve by leaps and bounds as in the days of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. Business and “development” will get the priority that Middle India is hankering after. India will be able to compete with China on a level playing field. All this would not happen overnight but during the course of the next five years.      

Remember, though, that all medicines would be placebos except for the patient’s belief in their healing power.