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KING’S CROSS TO KASHI

- Fighting the penetration of lies

One recent article by a prominent cheerleader of the Saffron Serpents team pom-pomed the following argument-sequence: people tend to exaggerate political opponents’ potentially catastrophic qualities at election time, especially so if the opponent looks like pulling off a major upset; lefty-liberal type opinionistas in Britain tried to create huge, fearful scenarios when the lovable Conservative mop-head Boris Johnson looked like he was going to win London’s mayoral election; Johnson won neverthless and, look! London is still the wonderful, ‘carefree’ city it used to be; ergo, please ignore all the frightening projections being made by the anti-Modi jhola-wallas; Modi is actually a fine, upstanding, honourable and honest man, with totally clean hands; Modi, secretly, deep inside himself, is actually Boris Johnson, that is, a lovely, cuddly, super-fat, blond, teddy-bear teetering lovably on a thin bicycle, and most of the nation senses this; Modi also now has the support of upstanding, honourable champions of the downtrodden subaltern such as Ram Vilas Paswan & Son; which shows that Modi is a man of ‘deep penetration’; what Modi has penetrated is India, Modi is inevitable, Modi is coming; people should ignore all the exaggerated warnings about Hitler, Idi Amin and jackboots; people should just lie back, think of England and enjoy Modi when he finally arrives.

Right. As anyone who has recently spent time in the vast, un-posh, non-touristy parts of London will tell you, ‘carefree’ is not a word the citizens of the great city would choose to describe themselves or their situation. The services that people were used to over fifty years are now in complete meltdown, which means that the health and mental health services — which the Tories had no mandate to dismantle — have been disembowelled with ruthlessness, that the transport services are in deep turbulence, that various councils no longer have the money to pay for things such as road repair. Added to this, the un-regulated housing market has gone into an inflationary spin. There is a huge debate over who ‘owns’ London, as the people who provide the city’s services are being pushed out to the edges of the city, with huge commuting costs. It’s a classic capitalist understanding that labour comes where the work is and lives at the edges without getting the fruits of its own labour, that is, no central city, parks, cafes, river and so on for the serving poor. “It’s almost like being back in Victorian Britain,” says one Londoner when I ask them about being ‘carefree’, “there’s money for those that’ve got money, and none for anybody else.” Only money, it seems, owns London, and there’s a ‘have’-regime taking over the city with a relentless class-cleansing underway. Statistically, crime may not be up but the general deprivation has made people a lot more ungenerous towards each other, there is a lot more low-level violence in day to day dealings, the gap between the poor and the rich is wider than ever before, simple things, daily necessities, cost a lot more, and everyone but everyone is looking over their shoulder, trying to spot the next disaster stalking them. The blame for this cannot be laid only at the door of Buffoon Boris, Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor (finance minister) Osborne and previous occupants of various quarters at Downing Street such as Blair and Brown also carry a lot of the responsibility.

However, to stay with the lovable Boris, here’s something that will ring a bell with anybody who observed the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. During the 2011 riots in north London, working class Afro-Caribbean areas such as Tottenham and Croydon literally kept burning, with services such as the police and the fire brigade taking their own sweet time to get there. This was while Enfield, a largely white area a bit further away from where the services were located, received immediate attention. This was under Boris ‘Joker’ Johnson’s watch. Again, the point is not that none of this would have happened when Johnson’s rival Ken Livingstone was mayor, it’s about what could have been done differently, done better, to contain the crisis and bring justice post the upheaval.

The next point is London is actually better off than most of Britain to the extent where people see it as a completely different economy, an island within an island. During the last British elections people had warned against what a Tory government would do (no jackboots were involved in the projections), but the poor British were not replete with choice the way we are. The tattered Labour regime had to be be dumped and the only other choice was the Tories, attached to their Liberal Democrat saline drip. That coalition has been a disaster. By British standards Britain is suffering in a way it hasn’t since the late 1920s. Some of this was inescapable but a lot of the missing attenuations (that is, measures taken with ordinary people being given primacy) are definitely down to the bright, optimistic, strong, decisive government of David Cameron.

India is a much larger joint than the comparatively tiny British Isles but, since the Saffron pom-poms have reached for a comparison, it’s instructive to claw some lessons from what’s been happening in the UK. A tired, discredited government may need to be ejected but we need to choose the alternative with care. The English phrase ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ is particularly apt here. Based solely on his appalling record of governance it is safe to say a Modi-led government in New Delhi will cause as much damage through its acts of omission as it will through what it embarks upon enthusiastically. The poor, the majority of people in this country, will suffer, even more than they have suffered under the UPA regime. The environment, a lot of safeguards already pawned off by the Congress, will take an even larger, even more irretrievable hit, just as it has in Gujarat. If the Tories have slipped in anti-democratic legislation (such as the law that makes it mandatory for lobbying of MPs to be conducted by expensive ‘licensed’ lobbying firms) expect a Modi regime to be far worse than any Chidambaram-Moily cabal.

To hold Boris ‘Joker’ Johnson as an affable parallel to Narendra Modi, and to fudge over how the Tories have made a terrible situation authored by the Labour Party much worse, is nothing short of a propaganda lie. It’s another lie that runs in a team of tightly-synched, hard-running lies, in close striking parnership with other whoppers such as ‘Modi has been given a clean chit by the investigators’, ‘Modi is the saviour of the poor’, ‘Modi is incorruptible’ and so on. There are many kinds of corruption in our society, not just ‘money corruption’. There is the corruption of religious and ethnic hatred. There is the corruption of the lust for power, where you don’t need palaces and fancy baubles, where watching other, slighty less powerful people dance to your tune is reward enough. There is the corruption of the hatred for democracy and dissent where the phrase ‘you are either for me or against me’ becomes enshrined.

It’s crucial we remember that the cheerleaders backing any of these corruptions are confidence tricksters working hard to pull off a heist that is not just political and intellectual but has as much to do with the robbery of ethical principles. It’s up to us to resist this ravishment, this penetration by charlatans, peacocks, buffoons and their sycophants.