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There is a case for the cause of pessimistic optimism

By The Thin Edge - Ruchir Joshi
  • Published 1.06.18
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Just over four years ago, the English-proficient cheerleaders of Narendra Modi went into ecstatic pom-pom dances, insisting that 'alarmists' were mis-reading Mr M, that they (or, we) were wrong in calling him an extremist, that the only thing that would happen after Shri Shri Modi ji took over would be that a business-friendly, efficient, non-corrupt, non-family-run government would replace the disgraced United Progressive Alliance regime. We would hardly notice anything, the cheerleaders insisted, their orange skirts and poms-poms bouncing. It would be just like Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London, they proclaimed, a heavenly, happy time that was mis-projected by the lefty papers that sully London's media-sphere. Post Modi winning, all that would happen in India is that corruption would be defenestrated and 'ease of doing business' would fly in through the same smashed window like a pixie-fairy on cocaine. There would be no communal riots, there would be no shift to any regressive Hindutvavitis, the poor would chaddhao aartis of joyous gratitude, while the rich would all dance raas-garba, gyrating ecstatically among home, mandir and bank. Everyone in between would also be happy, deliriously happy. The only people who would be unhappy under Farishta Narendra would the over-privileged, elite, arrogant, libtard aristos of secularism, most of whom resided in the precinct of Lutyens' Delhi.

Four years later, these cheerleaders are now doing a very different lungi-dance, carefully pushing down their veshtis so that their orange foundationals aren't too exposed to public interrogation. Sabka vikas? Well it depends what you mean by that, but please, no unsporting mention of anyone below the poverty line. Swachh Bharat? Well, it was a well-meaning idea, even though it's now covered in the faeces of grandiosity and incompetence. Clean Ganga? Um, well, you see, it's quite difficult to ask one's voter base of industrialists to overnight stop pumping effluents into the river. Business bonanza? Look, look how two or three leading business houses are expanding, no matter that almost every other industrialist is cursing. Demonetization? How dare you say it was a fraudulent exercise? Yes, most of the paper money came back in, yes, many poor people died unnecessarily, yes, the only advantage seems to be that one political party managed to shift all its black assets while pauperizing (to an extent) all its competitors, yet what a bold move! So bold that even a master of flip-flop like Nitish Kumar is out-flipped, unable to decide from month to month whether it was a bad thing or a good thing. GST? A good idea but, still, nothing we can't screw up - enjoy our incompetence, it's far greater than anything the UPA government could have delivered.

Education? Let's not even go there. How do we dismember a whole core sector, paring it open from head to toe, from primary school to top university, and how do we do it in such a short time? Well, our leaders don't sleep, that's how. Day and night they hack away, eating light vegetarian snacks while also feasting on the entrails of something that generations have worked over decades to set up, improve, and, in many instances, make world-class. We, however, have no use of world-class, what we want is fake-Vedic class and by all gods and goddesses, we'll get it. Agriculture? What's that? Oh that's what gets in the way of our projected smart cities (and the expansion of our already exploding, extremely stupid cities). A whole army of farmers walking into Bombay to protest? Tchhah, ignore that, just as we got our godi media to ignore it. Dalit emancipation? Sure, we can continue killing, maiming and raping the poor and the lower castes just so long as we can appropriate Ambedkar & Co in our speeches. Beti bachao? Well that's a whole different column by itself, but no, it's more like beti chibao, as in chew up our young girls and spit them out, even as the leaders talk of making wives and daughters stay at home to do their 'kartavya'.

It wasn't the most difficult bit of soothsaying but many of us, journalists and opinion writers, tried to warn people about the obvious grave dangers of putting people like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in charge of the country. It wasn't just what happened in Gujarat in 2002, some people had a clear memory of what happened in December 1992, of the first proper BJP-NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and of the communal poisons that were let loose over that period. And no, Modi and Shah do not make L.K. Advani or Murali Manohar Joshi 'look good', unless your argument is that a stage 3 cancer makes a stage 2 cancer look good. Across the 00s, many of us had warned that the people in power had to be brought to book for what happened in Gujarat in 2002 and the years that immediately followed that year of blood and shame. Across that same time a lot of us were also highly critical of the Congress, its core leadership as well as its satrapies. To ask for justice for the victims of Gujarat '02 did not mean one was absolving the Congress for the 1984 killings or the Left Front for their harmad excesses. To point out that Narendra Modi's proclaimed agenda of vikas was a fantasy created in utterly cynical bad faith did not mean one was subscribing to the Congress rhetoric or Mamata Banerjee's Parivartan bombast.

Just as it didn't take an Einstein equivalent of a political scientist to predict that Modi and his party had only a one-point agenda, of Hindutvaizing the nation, garlanded in all sorts of pseudo-patriotic rhetoric, one didn't need to be a professor at a top international business school to see that this government and its ideology would be disastrous for the Indian mercantile community. Thus, it was with some satisfaction that I met a few businessmen friends the other day, people I hadn't seen since the wedding of a friend's daughter in late 2013. At the time, the whole bunch of them, Gujarati and Marwari boys I had known since my schooldays, all now portly, successful entrepreneurs, all of them had been jubilant that their man was coming, that he would win the Lok Sabha elections (him, Modi alone, and not a party or an alliance), and that soon achchhe din would be here. Last week, the ones I met from that old gang were a touch sheepish. '[expletive deleted] you, you were right about Modi! This guy is a disaster. We don't know how we'll ever get rid of him!'

It's one thing if the Dalits complain about Mr M and his associates, or if poor farmers do, or people from one of the minority communities or fellow libtard jholawallas do; it's quite another if people from one of Mr M's core constituencies start feeling under their collars in discomfort. It doesn't mean that the rich dhandhawallas will suddenly tighten their purse strings before the BJP-RSS; it just means that they may give a little less to their favourite party and a bit more to someone in the Opposition, it may mean that the Bharatiya Janata Party's majority might be shaved down a bit, that its national vote share may come down from the 31.34 per cent in 2014 to something a bit lower, to a number that requires them getting into an alliance with partners who may pull us away from the path of self-destruction upon which we have been set by this government. That, in turn, could mean that following further mistakes, further major botch-ups, someone from within the ruling coalition may, mid-term, pull the plug on Messers Modi-Shah and Bisht Adityanath. No matter how much I want to see the back of Narendra Modi and his odious cheerleaders, if there's one thing the last four years have taught me it's that in today's world all optimism has to be tempered with a bit of sensible pessimism.