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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Congress vs BJP? No, it's the establishment vs the outsider

By Swapan Dasgupta

In nine months, at the very latest, Indians will know whether the drive to catapult Narendra Modi from Gandhinagar to New Delhi has been successful or not. Indian elections being notoriously unpredictable, it is hazardous to predict the outcome of a national contest with any measure of surety. At this stage, before formal campaigning has begun, it is only possible to identify trends. But whether these trends will crystallize into definite voting patterns or be derailed by events are predictions best left to astrologers. Lesser beings can merely chronicle the flight path of politics.
The pitfalls of crystal ball gazing have, however, not prevented people with a stake in India's future from taking positions. With the anointment of Modi as the challengerin-chief to what he calls the 'Delhi Sultanate' , the air is thick with partisan interventions. For some social media enthusiasts, 'NaMo' is India's definitive answer to national underperformance. To the entrenched Durbar of Lutyens' Delhi, the interloper from Gujarat is more than a challenge to the dynasty: he promises not merely a change of government but a regime change.
In the past too incumbent governments have been threatened by alternative formations. In 1977, there were redoubtable Indians who seriously believed that the alternative to the Emergency was anarchy. In 1991 when the BJP arrived on the national scene riding on Lord Ram's chariot, a powerful section of the Establishment intelligentsia detected the sounds of stomping jackboots. Fascism, we were assured in the editorial pages, was just a block away.
For those familiar with the scaremongering that precede possibilities of change, the equation of Modi with the end of civilization as we know it isn't unique. Incumbents love to project alternatives as juju men. This, more so in India where a single party has dominated the Centre for 57 of the 66 years since Independence. A political dispensation, it should be remembered, isn't only made up of MPs and their favoured bureaucrats and police officers. Over the years the Congress has used its discretionary powers to accumulate considerable baggage. From those who sit on innumerable committees and acquire the status of Cabinet ministers to the lesser ones favoured with membership of advisory committees of public sector units and governing bodies of centrally-run educational bodies, the corridors are invariably crowded with people who survive on the extractive potential of their visiting cards. It is this parasitic class that are most threatened by the winds of change.
Yet, there is a significant difference between the fear that is taking shape today and the concerns that greeted the emergence of Atal Behari Vajpayee as the PM-inwaiting in 1997-98 . For one, Vajpayee was a Delhi insider. He may not have been in government (except for the two years of Janata Party rule) but he was a known commodity with strong cross-party connections. Secondly, Vajpayee was a Brahmin and was linked to India's most significant network of influence. Finally, in appointing Brajesh Mishra, a former diplomat with an impeccable Congress pedigree, as his principal secretary, Vajpayee sent out the clear message that he wasn't interested in unsettling the Establishment. Unlike President Ronald Reagan in the US, Vajpayee had no interest in nurturing a 'counter-Establishment'.
Modi is a different kettle of fish altogether. For a start, he is an outsider in the cosy political world of the Capital. He is not linked by the elaborate networks and cross connections that make Lutyens' Delhi an incestuous arrangement. He hasn't been sullied by the compromises and adjustments that are a feature of governance through entitlements. Modi neither possesses nor yearns for the old school tie; he is content being what he is. Despite long years as CM of Gujarat, he has not been co-opted by the Establishment. In fact, being a loner he doesn't really care whether or not the beautiful people find him acceptable or repugnant. After all, for the past 12 years they rarely if ever deemed it appropriate to woo him with awards for being the most reformist state or something similar.
The outcry over Modi's 'polarizing' agenda isn't really centred on a defence of the much-acclaimed 'idea of India' . It is essentially an expression of fear and apprehension over the rise of a leader who owes little or nothing to the Establishment. When the pundits decry him for being 'tasteless' in contesting the Prime Minister's monopoly over Independence Day and 'ruthless' in bulldozing the opposition to him inside the BJP, they are not necessarily passing aesthetic judgments. Modi's class and caste have become objects of derision for the entitled precisely because the old Establishment fears for its relevance. What we are witnessing is more than a Congress-BJP battle: a beleaguered Establishment is trying to ward off a social upheaval and the rise of an impatient, new class. 

27 comments:

Amit Shukla said...

You have nailed it the fear and its roots and we do need this unsettling the incestuous establishment which has now grown out of govt circles into education media and religion every place Modi for 10 years can demolish this looking at the fear i think half the job will be done by eletion results and remaining will happen way fast these ppl are not very strong to resist they have been spineless to be there all there lives they will quietly slither out of way

THOUGHT DRIVER said...

As a bengali Hindu kayasta ,I feel very little amused when you mention brahminical stranglehold over citadels of political influence,even though it may be in soft terms.
secondly is it to be understood that ,thinking from Gramiscian perspective,there will be change in superstructure of Lutyens delhi,if MOdi occupies the sub structure of political pyramid

vijay said...

love the observations and the analysis....

Anonymous said...

Great read Mr. Dasgupta !
Would be good if your articles appear more on mainstream print media than a personal blogging site. More people need to read them!

Mr. Spectacular's Bla bla bla said...

Bang on !! The parasitic class are most threatened by the winds of change. So true and so straight...

Anonymous said...

Narendra Modi is a polarizing agent against muslim vote bank and muslim polarisation

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....there once was an outsider in Weimar Germany who had little interest in preserving or being co-opted by the Establishment, and had deeply-held sectarian views. Perhaps the critics are not wrong to be alarmed about NaMo?

Anonymous said...

As always... excellent analysis.

Anonymous said...

Swapanji,
Win or lose, Modi & what he represents will ultimately prevail. It is a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

Being in Delhi corridor for couple of decade (Editor in India Today and other publications) Swapan is well informed insider who can judge the nerve of "Lutyens",so when he wrote about braminical stranglehold he nailed it.We all know it was the same class who enjoyed all the privileges since medival ages.

Nagesh Hoysala said...

Superb analysis. NaMo is not an ordinary politician. You can call him "seer in politics", which is more than a leader. A leader is contextual but not a seer. A seer will speak truth, which many would decry at that moment. For ex: have u ever heard that you have to pay to attend a political meet?. NaMo is bringing a paradim shift, on the foundations of Atalji & Advaniji. He wins of looses, I'll always be PM (Pro-Modi)!!!

No mist said...

This election will be the most significant since independence. it will decide whether india is truly a republic or a feudal kleptocracy.


all those who want a modern nation forged out of this ancient land have got only this chance. support modi now or wait another 50 years.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article !!!
I think this is a unique instance in the history of modern India that one politician is being targeted not only by the opposing political parties, but many in his own party simply because of his no-nonsense attitude as an administrator and tendency not to oblige peers in other political party/ own party people & sister organizations when one is simply "pretending" to work for the electorate while looking for personal gains in reality.

For those who believe the paid media propaganda of no/hardly any development done by Modi need to randomly talk to the people living IN Gujarat if it has become a better place to live under Modi. To me Modi has shown results for ALL the people of Gujarat, without the consideration of religion, caste or vote bank politics .... to me this is the definition of a SECULAR LEADER !!

We have unfortunately reached a stage in India where in Hindus are made to feel guilty of merely expressing their identity as a Hindu (AFTER identifying themselves as Indian first)... all because of the propaganda of paid media, especially the English speaking ones, and of course that of Congress/ Mulayam/Lalu/Mayawati. These "so called" secular politicians/political parties have hardly done anything tangible for the benefit of our Muslim friends except the lip service.

The people of India as such , especially the middle class, wants to live a respectable life in return of the taxes they pay and there is no other politician/administrator in the country who has demonstrated the capability to ensure this except Modi !!

And I believe that he truly has a vision strong & democratic for India !

Anonymous said...

One common thread that runs through all "Establishment" criticism of Modi is that he is a "fascist" or that he is "dictatorial". Translation: I don't like this guy because he is his own man, isn't going to be susceptible to influence peddling by the "insiders" and so I hate him because my good days are coming to an end.

mohanraj said...

A well researched article! Atalji was content in keeping Sonia out of trouble. Could have nailed her if he had wished to! A status quoist! But Modi is a rank outsider who will dismantle Lutyens Delhi establishment! He is a threat to the free loading left lib blood suckers!

Anonymous said...

Swapan is an astute political commentator. Modi with his political support derived from the grassroots is going to upset the cobwebbed political-administrative pyramid of entitlement.

Sanjay said...

Can he bring 272 without BJD,TDP and AIDMK?.Is it posssible to govern as did in Gujrat ,especially during coalition era?

Anonymous said...

THank you Swapanji. You are one of the brilliant scholars in India today.

Joseph Anton said...

Swapan makes so many lazy assertions here. A quite popular one, one promoted by Modi himself, is that of the un-ambitious ascetic loner. It plays well to the gallery and taps into that unarticulated space for reverence that most of us Indians still have, and which is why we are the world's largest exporter of charlatans. Swapan also simplistically dismisses the coldness Modi generates as only being because of his outsider-liness in Delhi.

Here is my assertion- that Modi craves attention and approval to the extent of a narcissist, the exact opposite of what Swapan is saying here. In a weird Asperger-ish way, he cannot get it from the places he wants it, and so makes the best of the image he has. Swapan cannot but know of the few thousand anecdotes floating in Delhi about Modi's over-eagerness to be called on TV during his pre-CM ship days, his continuing meticulous attention to dressing and outside appearances, his iron-fisted control of what news gets out about him, etc.

Shiv Sarma Duvvuri said...

There are very few journalists left who are not of parasitical/incestuous class crawling the corridors of power in Lutyen's Delhi. Yet you have failed to include Mcaulay's children in your narrative which otherwise is hits the nail on its head. I do follow your writing which are honest and incisive and on occasion quite brutal.

Shiv Sarma Duvvuri
August 27 2013

Vishal Randive said...

Hi Swapan,
You vocalized real fear of establishment. As a common person I wish Mr. Modi should bulldoze it without this empowerment thought will be on paper only.

As you mentioned "Mr.Modi is polarizing figure as per pundits". I request you to convey to these "studio pundits & TV anchors(all CNN-IBN, NDTV so on)" a commoner's thought that "yes, Mr. Modi has become polarizing figure absolutely! but you are the reason for this not he". Always pouncing on him with some rubbish figures, self designed stories & vicious words. Nobody is willing for rational thinking but eager to put forward 2002. These people are like Aryabhatta nobody wants to be a Galilio. Last question to these intellectuals - if you think you know everything, can see the future, what you did this many years till your ageing? why did you not struggle for nation's progress? and now rasining voice against single man..so hypocrites.

Manoj Desai said...

It's not the establishment vs outsider but "neo-britisher vs quondam indian"

Anonymous said...

The Modiists in the internet are not a mixed lot. they are 99% so-called 'upper(!)' caste losers who want to get back into control. Modi is a poor vehicle, and Swapan DG is a poor campaigner for Modi, at the best preaching to the converted. India is too complex and not an easy prey for extreme violent politics of sectarianism.

Anonymous said...

Narendra Modi is a true Indian nationalist and patriotic nothing else,he may be in BJP or any party doesnot matter but he is having yearnings for safety of his people country religion and party.Narendra Modi is misfit in Indian politics or Indian politics is unfit for him.He is a brave soldier of BJP but BJP wants him to toe the party line of adjusting with present day culture but he is not going to deviate from his single handed war on poverty and wants emancipation from bhook,bhay and bhrastachar.

Anonymous said...

Narendra Modi is a true Indian nationalist and patriotic nothing else,he may be in BJP or any party doesnot matter but he is having yearnings for safety of his people country religion and party.Narendra Modi is misfit in Indian politics or Indian politics is unfit for him.He is a brave soldier of BJP but BJP wants him to toe the party line of adjusting with present day culture but he is not going to deviate from his single handed war on poverty and wants emancipation from bhook,bhay and bhrastachar.

Anonymous said...

A good analysis that helps wade through the current political scenario. What is it with you and Brahmins, every article has to take a potshot?

Venkat Annadevara said...

Sir for long I have been intrigue by the silence of the so called liberals and pseudo seculars. they have nodded their heads when congress was running the institutions , they patted the congress back whenever congress would take the parliament for a ride. they never raised their voice to condemn the congress for the 84 riots the way they did for Guajarat. they have happily allowed themselves perks and retirement benefits from the congress. when you talk of temple they say it is against secularism and we should rather discuss poverty. in no other country you will find majority being used and abused so much. with or without NAMO the majority will hit back , they will not continue to be perennially used this way. the media along with the liberals and secularists should be taken to task on their continued silence on the misdeeds of the congress.