My Dear Friends Who Voted for Narendra Modi,
Congratulations. Congratulations on the massive victory achieved by your candidate. Hats off, salaams, on your getting it totally right when people like me were insisting that you were fantasizing about a landslide win for Mr Modi. Salaams, (neither the ‘salaam’ used by north Indians or the Communists, but — since so many of you are Gujarati —the common felicitation we use: ‘tamney salaam aapi, saheb!’, one salutes you, sir/madam!) for your passion, your commitment and huge investment into this particular project of parivartan. The faith many of you kept over the years, or some of you developed recently, became the crucial booster rocket that propelled your man, helping him pull the huge mandate that he has. And, if I am sharply critical of people, especially politicians and media-wallahs, when they don’t own up to mistakes and miscalculations, then I myself must not dissemble when I get it wrong, in this case spectacularly and comically wrong; so I’ll say it again — I, and people who thought like me, did not imagine these election results, even in our most extreme projections; collectively, we now resemble the haplessly over-balancing batsman, his bat turned into a walking stick while the middle stump goes cartwheeling behind him. So, collective, head-down, drag-bat walk back to the pavilion. Perhaps never to play again. Perhaps.
Talking about ‘never to play again’, the next thing, friends, is ‘mhaara haardik abhhar swikarjo’ aka please accept my heartfelt gratitude. On December 6, 1992, when the country was ablaze after the destruction of the Babri Masjid, if someone had whispered, ‘don’t worry, the comeuppance of this evil pair, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, will one day be delivered by their own proteges, just wait, their own RSS ‘boys’ will humiliate them and send them into ignominious sanyas,’ people like me would have taken it. Others might have had the cunning to ask exactly how long the wait would be, but me, no, I’d just have been happy. Then, if someone had convinced me that Mr Advani and Mr Joshi’s then current ‘intellectual’ cheerleaders would seamlessly shift to the generation pushing the eject button, I would have laughed gleefully. Next, even a year or so back, if someone had told me that it would be on the same day that the coup de grace would be delivered on the political careers, not only of Messrs Advani and M.M. Joshi, but also that of most of the (alas, blameless Feroze) Gandhi family, as well as Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, as well as the geriatric commissars of the Bengal CPI(M), I would have accused the soothsayer of imbibing hallucinogenic substances. To have such a varied volume of toxicity expelled from the insides of our democracy, and with such beautifully clustered velocity, is not something which one could dare dream. However, on May 16, this is exactly what happened, and for this, my Modi-supporting friends, I thank you, not wholly, but in substantial measure.
Congratulations and thanks having been duly delivered, let’s now move to the ‘however-list’, because we know, as mostly Gujarati people here do, that forget about lunch, there is even no such thing as a free plate of fafda. We know, far better than Newton, that every action has a reaction, that everything you order from the menu may not come as advertised, but it will, nevertheless, be an item on the final bill. So, imagine yourselves as having settled at a table of one of Ahmedabad’s famous chains, say Havmor or Vadilal’s, or in one of those cubicles in the food gali next to Law Gardens. You’ve ordered a dish with an expensive chief ingredient called ‘Modi’. Now, what is the price you are willing to pay? Because, as we know, there is no free or discounted Modi on offer. After all my felicitations and thank yous, here are the various bills at the different tables.
To my Calcutta Gujarati friends: at a wedding in November, you guys, who I’ve known since we were kids, got into a shouting match with me in a mixture of Gujju, Marwari-Bihari Hindi and a typical Bangla, you saying there was no way Modi was going to be stopped. You were right. Now that you’ve got him, what do you promise us? Is your guy only going to look after the construction businesses and the import-export industry or is there a rest of the country? Will you convey to your Narendrabhai the sacrifices you are willing to make for a better India? What are those sacrifices? Or is it only the poor who must wait longer for the ‘trickle-down’ to trickle down, just as they’ve been waiting with the Congress, the Left and the TMC? Do you understand that just as your patience is not endless, the patience of others may also not be endless?
To my family in Ahmedabad: you’ve told me ‘Narendra Modi is a god to us’. What will your ‘god’ now deliver? Is there a time-frame or are we going to be waiting forever? As Vaishnav Hindus, you are strict vegetarians because you do not believe any living creature should be harmed for your sustenance. Do you understand that the rest of the world sees what happened in Gujarat in 2002 as a major, quite non-vegetarian, attack on human values? Do you understand that the events of 2002 will not be forgotten outside India no matter how impressive Mr Modi’s margin of victory today? Do you understand that, more than the working classes here, it is you, the business classes, who need the world to think well of you? And that the world is not that easily fooled? Do you realize that the only way you can lay 2002 to rest is to provide justice, compensation and succour to your Gujarati Muslims? Do you understand that the values Mr Modi espouses are anti-pyaar, anti-masti, against sexual freedoms, and that the generations of our family who’ve had these freedoms in huge dollops, are going to be in conflict with the poorer classes when these same freedoms are denied to them? Leave aside the demographic that voted for Mr Modi over the last month, what about the devi-devatas we were brought to believe in, do you think they bear no witness to the killings and rapes that happened in Gujarat in 2002? In which case, can we put aside our failed brand of Hinduism and get on with the world religion of profit-making?
To the young Pravasi Bangali man on my flight from London to Delhi in October: you told me you were on Piyush Goyal’s team and you had it all planned out. I didn’t believe you but you knew what you guys were doing. Now that you’ve helped your man get to where he wanted, do you have any say in what he does next? Or is it just a one-way deal, you serve and Mr Modi takes? You’re a man of logic and rationality and technology, are you happy with that arrangement?
To my fellow media-people who are now Modi-supporters: perhaps you are not so religious, which would imply some attachment to rationality. In which case, do you imagine that Mr Modi and his team, with your help, can bury all his past misdemeanours? Do you imagine people, years from now, will not read the highly critical stuff you’ve written about Modi and the BJP during 2002 and its aftermath and then, they will not note your turnaround? What exactly is it that you’re going to make or help Mr Modi do that will put all that in the deep shade?
I have other questions for these people and others too, but maybe they can wait.
Dear friends who voted for Narendra Modi’s new order. If you can push your winning candidate into doing positive things, or stop him from doing things that are really against this society, well and good. Please never forget that 31 per cent votes cast were for BJP, which is 20 per cent of eligible voters, which is 14 per cent of India’s population. That means, potentially, 86 per cent of India, 80 per cent of eligible votes, and 69 per cent of the votes cast were not for the BJP. This, if nothing else, might bring a streak of some realism into your euphoria.