Smokescreen and Success

Given the measured ceremony and circumstance of his duly publicised appearances after electoral triumph, Narendra Modi’s swearing-in as Prime Minister would, in fact, be a coronation. And regardless of the spin attached, his invitation to SAARC heads-of-government is more a projection of power than a profession of friendly intent. The architect of Gujarat – pogrom as well as purported progress – wants to leave no room for doubt of gearing up to play on the international stage, with or without the rest of India in tow. Careful choreography, subtly imbued with dramatic gestures such as the invitation, has ensured a spectacle-hungry multitude hanging on to his every word, dutifully borne as benediction by complaisant media.

Less than seventy years out of royal pomp and pageantry, despots and durbars, most of the country’s millions could do with a dose of revanchist regalia, if only to reminisce when bread was not scarce and circuses more credible. Image-makers hired from across the Atlantic had gauged well the subcontinent’s genetic predisposition to bow before the aura of power, witnessed in the deification of Indira Gandhi with whom the sangh parivar draws parallels today, and successfully crafted a persona exuding authority and decision. Their detailed reading was obviously assured that the mind of the masses would find nothing amiss in the mega-millions spent around a single individual, including corporate-jetting him from one rally to another, even when one of the latest debates in the nation was whether Rs 12 would fetch one square meal or two.

Illusionists command a high price when playing to a limited audience. The astronomical bill for mass hypnosis mandates recurrent investments to break even and make profit, from where the process can be switched over to auto-pilot. Results so far have exceeded expectations, for hardly anyone pokes beyond the smokescreen to point out how the BJP swept past the half-way mark by the simple expedient of bagging almost the whole of Uttar Pradesh – a feat accomplished by the time-tested tactic of an anti-Muslim riot, proved and documented by independent investigators to have been engineered by the most trusted lieutenant of India’s new master.

That the script goes much further, and will play out as planned for years to come, is already in evidence in the seemingly-unsolicited advice proffered by commentators of hitherto-unimpeachable repute who want the new Premier to fast-track India into the league of superpowers – a heady slogan to take minds off crumbling cities, hungry millions, growing slums, decaying villages, and dying farmers, and keep an “aspirational” generation occupied with the mother of all aspirations. Evidently, lack of urban drainage, water supply, electricity, affordable healthcare (for the Rs 12-a-meal people), and what in common parlance are known as sanitation facilities, for over fifty per cent of the nation are the soundest foundations for rivalling the world’s movers-and-shakers.