A version of this was posted at india facts at http://www.indiafacts.co.in/epic-parallels-symbols-2014-elections/
The semiotics of personal attacks, symbols and parallels in the election
Rajeev Srinivasan on the symbolic and epic/historical context
Even before Narendra Modi’s evocative Ganga arti and his prostration before the steps of Parliament, this election was replete with symbols. While all sides attempted to use them to their advantage, the BJP turned out to be better at it, quite possibly because they were not play-acting, but actually believed in some of the emotions they were trying to induce.
The revelations about Narendra Modi’s long-estranged wife, Jashodaben, caused a minor flutter, but it was a nine-days’wonder. For, it could be argued that in an Indian context, what Modi did in separating from his child-bride is not unusual. Of course, Modi’s rivals do not see it as such, and that is fair. But then, they need to be judged on their transparency, or more precisely, the lack of it, as well.
I have been thinking about the analogies with the epics for a while (Shashi Tharoor, in happier times, wrote a brilliant book, The Great Indian Novel transposing events from the Mahabharata to contemporary India, and I wish he would do it again, but he has his constraints now, of course). The most obvious example of the analog with the epics came with the attempted insult by Mani Shankar Aiyer, a Congress minister, who called Modi a “chaiwallah”.
This is reminiscent of the episode in the Mahabharata where the Pandavas insult Karna by calling him a mere sutaputra, son of a charioteer (technically correct, as the abandoned infant Karna, a prince, had been brought up by a charioteer and his wife); and Karna is the true hero of the epic. The objective of the Pandava statement is tejovadham, psychological warfare, to destroy Karna’s self-confidence. Indeed Karna is humiliated, transfixed, rooted to the spot, as he has to accept that he is not the equal of the Pandavas, who are princes.
Immediately, Duryodhana steps into the breach, and crowns Karna as the king of Anga, instantly transforming him into the Pandavas’ equal. And for that singular act of magnanimity (although it was not without an ulterior motive), Karna is indebted to Duryodhana for the rest of his life. (When I mentioned Karna on twitter, I found a range of opinions on him, possibly influenced by regional versions of the Mahabharata: in Malayalam, he’s an honest, wronged hero; in Tamil, someone told me there is some sexual transgression on his part; in Hindi, many felt he is the one who insulted Draupadi the most in the vastra-akshepam scene. Vive la difference!)
Well, no king came forward to save Modi’s honor, but the common man did. We adopted him, for we could see that a man of humble origin who has accomplished a great deal is admirable. And in a deft marketing move, Modi turned the tables on the Congress by embracing his identity as a chaiwallah, leading to the later chai pe charcha etc. It worked, as the electorate now has lots of ambitious young people who are confident that they too can make it on their own, without anybody’s charity or patronage. They see Modi as a role model.
Thus, what was meant to humiliate Modi boomeranged on the Congress. The class difference and contrast between the PG Wodehousian drone offspring of the idle rich and the thrusting, ambitious children of the lower middle class is quite startling, and the latter did vote. Round one to Modi.
But there are more analogs. In the Mahabharata, the malign Shakuni is the cause of much mischief, and he seems to positively revel in creating trouble. There is one such Svengali here, but I dare not name him: I shall only refer to him as He Who Must Not Be Named, but he has been in the middle of all the dubious things the Congress did for a decade.
There is the king rendered impotent by a curse, Pandu. The PM, impotent not by a curse, but by his own timidity, looks a lot like the luckless Pandu, cursed to expire if he ever touched a woman (or in the case of this PM, touched a file). So the PM didn’t do anything at all, afraid that the curse would befall him. Sanjay Baru, who spilled the beans on him (The Accidental Prime Minister), is like the faithful Sanjaya who narrates the whole epic to his boss, the blind king Dhritarashtra.
Then there are the bit players, minor irritants, such as Digvijay Singh, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal et al. I can’t remember if there were any vidushakas in the Mahabharata but these people would play those roles: comic relief.
There are also historical parallels. There was Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. He abandoned his queen and their children and went forth into the world to follow his destiny. In Kerala, the great monk Sree Narayana Guru, also married as a child (which was in the 1870s the custom in OBC families), also left his wife and followed the path of brahmacharya and sanyasa.
There were innumerable others who, when they heard a calling, especially during the Independence Struggle, abandoned their normal lives and dedicated themselves to a cause larger than themselves. For instance, the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh left his family too. In the sadly forgotten past, Indians had the greatest respect for those who followed the path of renunciation: I am reminded of a wonderful story by Rudyard Kipling (not a big admirer of India) — The Miracle of Purun Bhagat, about a powerful prime minister who becomes a wandering mendicant.
Thus, Modi’s sacrifice of the life of a householder for his country – echoed by many other RSS members – is in many ways admirable, even appropriate.
Now let us compare this to India’s First Family, the Nehru dynasty. Jawaharlal himself was a chronic womanizer. Outlook magazine published a story (“If I weren’t a Sanyasin, he would have married me”, Feb 23, 2004), about a young and beautiful sanyasini, Shraddha Mata, who was apparently impregnated by Nehru. She delivered a stillborn baby in Bangalore and then disappeared. (Other sources claim it was a live baby boy).
The stories of Nehru’s craven fascination for Edwina Mountbatten, a British woman, are legion. He was apparently besotted with her to the extent of compromising India’s national security (although it’s hard to see what he saw in her, other than a desire by a brown man to gain some self-esteem with a trophy white woman: she was a standard-issue horse-faced upper-class Brit). He felt free to use the Indian military on her behalf: when she died, he sent an Indian warship to attend her funeral at sea.
There were also affairs with Padmaja Naidu and women of the Sarabhai clan, among others. Apparently Nehru was attractive to women: I guess power and money are powerful aphrodisiacs. He may also have had homosexual experiences: Stanley Wolpert, in his biography, implied strongly that he had been bullied and tormented at school in Harrow, where this sort of thing is common. I interviewed Wolpert some years ago, and he implied that he knew things that prudence suggested he be discreet about.
The stories continue with Indira Gandhi. Outlook (“Mrs. G’s string of beaus”, Mar 26, 2001) suggests that she was impregnated (and had an abortion) in a 12-year long relationship by M O Mathai, Nehru’s secretary. There are many others, such as her German teacher, and Dhirendra Brahmachari, that the article claims she had affairs with.
Moving on from sexual escapades, there are also the violent ends that befall many of the Nehru dynasty and friends: of course, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were assassinated. But, peculiarly, consider: Sanjay Gandhi. Died in a plane accident. Just as did others, especially would-be competitors of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, such as Madhavrao Scindia, Rajesh Pilot and YS Reddy. The father, brother and sister of Robert Vadra, husband of Sonia Gandhi’s daughter, also died in accidents.
This also reminds one of a historical parallel – medieval popes who were often sexually debauched, and who went around murdering potential rivals. The Borgia family and their matriarch Lucrezia Borgia, especially adept at the black art of poisoning, come to mind. It was suicidal to either get too close to the Borgias, or to be their enemies. (Medieval sultans such as Aurangazeb were also prone to bumping off their rivals in gruesome manner. Just ask his brother Dara Shikoh.)
We also have been kept in the dark about Sonia’s and Rahul’s frequent trips abroad. There are widespread allegations about antiquities being smuggled out of India. There are rumors of ill-health, including cancer. Why aren’t the health rumors being discussed openly, as they have an impact on the country? The conclusion is that they are trying to hide something.
What about the educational qualifications that Sonia and Rahul submitted under oath to the Election Commission? Sonia’s educational background has transformed from “a degree from Cambridge” to “a certificate in English from Lennox College, Cambridge” under prodding in courts by Subramanian Swamy. There is a big difference. Lennox College (now closed) is some small, obscure setup, which has nothing to do with the imposing university. Similarly, it’s not clear that Rahul has a Harvard degree. These dissimulations may be punishable offences under election rules.
Incidentally, then PM Manmohan Singh also did not mention his wife in his 2009 affidavit. Why is that not a big issue if Modi’s case is? It appears the mention of the spouse was not mandatory until 2014.
Thus, both from an epic perspective and a historical perspective, there is no real merit to the loud noises that Modi committed an injustice by leaving his wife at the age of 17 and not providing full details about her. So far as I know, the said wife, Jashodaben, doesn’t think so. She, according to reports, was on pilgrimage, praying for Modi’s success. She had not complained about Modi, or the failure of their child marriage. Following in the footsteps of the Buddha and Sree Narayana Guru, Modi sacrificed the life of a householder for the cause he believed in. There is something sattvic, noble, in that.
As for the Nehru dynasty, in addition to presiding over wholesale theft of national resources and the evisceration of the nation’s defense capability, it appears that they, like the Borgias, have been practitioners of intrigue, self-aggrandizement, and the pursuit of power. There is nothing noble about this: it is fully tamasic.
A version of this appeared at Rediff.com at the url: http://www.rediff.com/news/column/ls-election-rajeev-srinivasan-why-india-japan-should-be-allies/20140520.htm
What should the Modi government’s foreign policy focus areas be?
Rajeev Srinivasan suggests that India definitely needs to look East first
There is a general dictum that when there is a change in government, foreign policy continues much as before. In the US, even though the two parties fight like cats and dogs over domestic policies, all that stops at the water’s edge, and the two parties are as one in the pursuit of the national interest. Ambassador TP Sreenivasan put forth this perspective in a recent discussion I had with him.
However, it is not clear that this applies to the case of India. This is partly because it is hard to believe that the outgoing UPA government truly had India’s interests at heart in its foreign dealings. The result of their ad-hoc, unthought-through policies has been that India has shrunk as a relevant power, even in its own neighborhood. The only parties that seem to have done well are quasi-friends like the US which has sold India much military hardware, up from zero in the old Soviet days.
Other than this, India is universally considered a bully by its sub-continental neighbors, it has been kept at arms-length by Southeast Asia; the US, Europe, Russia and China treat it as a minor, unimportant regional power. Its energy diplomacy has been pathetic; its erstwhile markets in Africa and Europe are now under threat from the Chinese. The Indian Ocean Rim initiative is going nowhere. That Nehruvian shibboleth, the Non-Aligned Movement, has been consigned to the trash-can of history. India’s brand has been diminished by the ‘South Asia’ moniker. The erstwhile ‘Greater India’ is only a memory.
In large measure, India’s shrinking stature is a result of its pathetic economic growth. It has been left in the dust by all of Southeast Asia and East Asia, all of which have managed to uplift their poor. Today India is the biggest repository of misery in the world, with half the world’s malnourished, half the world’s blind, half the world’s illiterate. There is no choice but for India to grow at near-Chinese rates, and commerce should be one of the principal pillars of its foreign policy.
But a more important issue for India is the wimp factor. Nobody takes India seriously: it comes across as a weak, gullible, impotent power whose major strength is in lecturing. Nobody likes a moralizer, and India has had many of them, for instance Krishna Menon. It is rumored that Chou en-Lai of China considered his interlocutor Jawaharlal Nehru a ‘useful idiot’. Similarly, every time there is a major terror attack supported by Pakistan, some minister threatens dire consequences ‘the next time there is a major terror attack’. Therefore Pakistanis attack, again and again, with impunity. There is no pain applied to Pakistani bottoms for perfidy.
The US is facing something along the same lines. Barack Obama is seen as someone whose threats have no teeth. Thus, his promise to act in Syria if chemical weapons were used was shown to be just hot air. He did not act in Ukraine; he is unlikely to step in if the Chinese, emboldened by all this, grab the Senkakus from Japan as they have the Paracels from Vietnam. There is a credibility deficit, as the Financial Times says in “Barack Obama’s cautious foreign policy comes home to roost”, May 14th.
This is what makes me suggest a discontinuity in Indian foreign policy, which has always centered on the Anglophone world, and on Pakistan and China. It is time to make a radical shift to an Asia-centric perspective, with Japan as the centerpiece. After Asia, it is important to work with Africa, and then with Europe, specifically Germany, as there is much to be gained from the European Union’s leader. There is little that traditional partner Britain can do for us.
Finally, there is the US. Given that Democrats are extremely hostile (this is generally true, although Indians labor under the delusion that Republicans are worse), it is always a bad time for India when they are in power. In particular, this time Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton have gone out of their way to humiliate Modi over the silly visa issue, egged on by Indian-origin leftists/Islamists and conversion-seeking Christian fundamentalists.
Modi is not one to bear grudges, but it is incumbent upon the US to make conciliatory moves. Until that happens, it is going to be a holding pattern in Indo-US relations, détente but no cordiality. The contrast with the warmth with Japan could not be more dramatic.
Why Japan as priority nation? Because it appears to be the most appropriate civilizational/cultural partner. There is more to international relations that transactions. It is important to have alliances with those who have similar affinities, both at the individual level and at the national level. Japan, along with Bali and Thailand, are the only parts of Asia in which Indians are held in some respect – the Japanese, for example, see India as their Holy Land. (Unfortunately, elsewhere, it is India’s failures, dirt, poverty and squalor that are its calling card.)
Besides, both nations have a common problem: a rampaging, jingoistic and hostile China which is making substantial territorial claims. In the long run, Japan and India, along with Vietnam, the Philippines, and others in Southeast Asia, are going to be the victims of Chinese aggression – so they might as well hang together to, with Russia and the US, create a reverse ‘string of pearls’ to contain China.
There are also nice symmetries. Japan has an aging population; India has one of the world’s youngest populations. Japan has plenty of capital; India is hungry for capital. Japan is worried about the security of its investments in China; India is eager to bring in foreign direct investment. Japan has outstanding quality and processes; India needs these if it is to ever become a manufacturing power. In Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi we have two nationalists.
Furthermore, the Japanese have now realized that they would benefit from an alliance with India. They made an extremely rare gesture: the Japanese Emperor visited India. In addition there were two visits by Shinzo Abe, who has said that he expects the Indo-Japanese relationship to be as significant over time as the US-Japanese alliance. Unfortunately, the Manmohan Singh government did not go out of its way to show its appreciation: instead of breaking protocol by sending the PM to welcome Abe at the airport, it sent a junior minister, Rajiv Shukla. I am sure the Japanese noticed. But anyway, it is Modi that Abe has an affinity for.
Geostrategist Brahma Chellaney suggests in Prosyn the duo will work towards “promoting regional stability and blocking the rise of a Sino-centric Asia.” That is precisely the point.
And that brings us to China. As that nation pursues a highly aggressive policy with almost all of its neighbors, bullying, grabbing land and sea, and using gunboat diplomacy, India has to be wary about the long Indo-Tibet border as well as China’s oft-repeated claims to Arunachal Pradesh. The recent leak of the Henderson-Brooks/Bhagat report on the 1962 war suggests that India could have done better because its military capability was adequate.
But that is not the case today, fifty years later. China has systematically built up its logistics (rail and road) and military capability in occupied Tibet. India has lagged behind, even though a few mountain divisions are sought to be raised. The military has struggled greatly in UPA1 and especially UPA2. A damning report by Ajai Shukla in Business Standard suggests that India’s “armed forces modernization is based on a delusion as there is no budget for it.”
Given Chinese aggression in the South China Sea (the latest being their drilling for oil in what would be Vietnamese territorial waters under international law) and the expansion of its blue-water navy, India’s badly-delayed naval modernization needs to be accelerated, if we are to defend our interests in the Indian Ocean, all the way from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca, which carries about 80% of the world’s oil shipments.
Modi has had cordial relations with China, and that should continue. But the terms of any agreements should be based on mutual respect, not imposed on India under duress, as is likely to be the case now. For instance, most of India’s exports to China have been raw materials like iron ore, while they send back manufactured goods, in some cases destroying Indian manufacturers. I have heard anecdotal evidence about this: how the manufacture of kites for Uttarayanam in Gujarat was decimated by Chinese imports, until the local makers replicated a cluster and supply chain as efficient as that in China.
Along with China, the other party where India needs to have a muscular foreign policy is Pakistan, China’s ally. Without going to war, it is possible to tell the Pakistanis in no uncertain terms that their adventurism will have consequences, and to back this up by carefully monitoring their infiltrators into India. It is also possible to increase – rather than reverse as Inderjeet Gujral did – RA&W intelligence efforts and special operations in Baluchistan and other restive parts of Pak.
The situation in Afghanistan is another area in which India needs to ensure that we do not screw up. As the Americans depart, the vacuum there will be filled quite eagerly by strategic-depth-seeking Pakistanis, and if the new Afghan government is in the least bit pro-Taliban, India will be shut out, its commercial interests and consulates endangered, and its huge investment in relief including roads etc will be wasted. On the other hand, there is no point in, as Americans sometimes demand, India taking on a military role there either. Afghanistan will be a headache.
Repairing ties with the Near Abroad, that is the subcontinental nations such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan should be pursued in parallel with a reinvigorated Indian Ocean Rim initiative, that will reach out to both ASEAN and Africa, especially South Africa.
Thus, the Modi government has its work cut out for itself. To begin with, it might enter the Asian arena with a response to the current crisis in Vietnamese waters where the Chinese are drilling. Modi can arrive on the world scene by loudly advocating a peaceful settlement, and even offering to mediate, as a neutral third party. It can draft the UN-honed political skills of Shashi Tharoor, even though he’s an opposition member of Parliament; and it can send a subtle message to China wrapped in bonhomie: you too are just another Asian power.
What will happen on May 16th, 2014?
I write this shortly after the exit polls for the 2014 elections have been published, and they have uniformly suggested that the NDA will come to power with somewhere between 240 and 300 seats on their own. If you believe that the exit polls and the elections have successfully captured the will of the people, this is good. But if you are a suspicious type, it is not difficult to imagine that another constitutional coup will be readied in the next couple of days till May 16th.
I have written about several constitutional coups successfully carried out by the Congress in the past http://www.rediff.com/news/column/column-rajeev-srinivasan-4-ways-the-congress-won-power-through-constitutional-coups/20140107.htm , and I see no reason to believe they have suddenly reformed themselves. They will hang on to power at all costs, and will be prepared to sacrifice the last Indian for it.
I would be astonished, indeed floored, if there were a smooth and simple transfer of power to the NDA. The Congress did demit office once, when Indira Gandhi lost in 1977 or so, but today’s Congressis are a different kettle of fish. They have more to hide, and also have more at stake, including their ill-gotten gains salted away, probably, in Macau these days as Switzerland has gotten a bit too hot.
In this context, several statements made by Congress bigwigs look sinister. A few days ago, P Chidambaram promised that on the 16th, there will be a big surprise. Now coming from one of the most astute of Congressmen, and one known not to exaggerate, this probably means that we are in for a “May Surprise” much like incumbent American presidents like to deliver “October Surprises” that help them.
Rahul Gandhi, the heir-apparent manqué, was more precise: he promised that 22,000 people would die if Narendra Modi were to be elected. Why exactly 22,000? He did not elaborate.
But Amaresh Misra, a leading Congressman, was quite vocal in a series of tweets on May 13th. He promised rivers of blood. In fact he was quite blood-curdling, here is a selection, verbatim. It doesn’t appear to be mere bravado; and since he is a confidant of Rahul, we need to take his threats seriously; in fact I am not sure why he has not been subject either to the Section 66A provisions that have been used to shut down people deemed dangerous on the Internet, or to the Election Commission’s strictures regarding the model code of conduct during elections.
To save democracy, all those supporting right wing forces on twitter will be killed. We will send CRPF to your houses. Drag you out/shoot!
A fascist leader who will kill minorities, change India’s secular character will be stopped by the Indian State by any means!
We will come out on the streets on 16th May to combat communal forces. We will kill all anti-national BJP supporters!
Whoever supports Modi is a Pakistani agent. He is liable to be killed with a bullet above his waist!
In Egypt, the army killed 2000 fundamentalists to preserve secularism. We will kill 2,00,000 Sanghis to save Indian democracy!
Indian people will not accept even one seat to BJP/NDA beyond 180, cause that means rigging by Modi. We will call in the army. We will kill!
Election Commission will be responsible for any violence on 16th May. EC needs to insure BJP/NDA does not get 1 seat beyond 180!
To put this in context, I wrote recently (in the unfortunately titled http://www.rediff.com/news/column/rajeev-srinivasan-the-time-will-come-when-america-can-dictate-to-india/20140303.htm ) about the Berkeley mafia focusing on ‘violent riots in India’. The general tone – and the decidedly dubious members of the group – suggested to me that far from ‘studying violent riots’ they may well be keen to incite a few. Reading between the lines, some of them, including US residents, have been spending a lot of time in the field in India, although it is not clear if they are trying to construct new and improved narratives for Gujarat 2002, or whether they are doing reconnaissance for new riots to be launched.
To add to this, to my personal chagrin as my alma mater, Stanford’s Law School has just produced a report entitled, ponderously, “When Justice Becomes the Victim: The Quest for Justice After the 2002 Violence in Gujarat” http://humanrightsclinic.law.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/When-Justice-Becomes-the-Victim-secure.pdf . I haven’t read it, but judging from the breathlessness with which it was sprung upon an unsuspecting public by lefties – I imagine it consists of more warmed-over nonsense that paints the 2002 Gujarat riots as, well, the greatest example of man’s inhumanity to man, since, let me guess, the fire-bombing of Tokyo in WW2 that killed 100,000 people?
What this suggests, in conjunction with the rabid anti-Modi rhetoric from the western military-industrial-media complex, especially the New York Times and The Economist, is that the imperial and religious-conversion types there have no intention of letting go of India, now that they have locked on to it as a prime target for domination, and have amassed (in Rajiv Malhotra’s terminology) an army of sepoys to ensure that their writ continues to run in India.
Therefore, there are several scenarios I fear may be played out in the near future:
- The 1996 scenario, with the NDA only getting 250 seats, and being forced to demit office after only 13 days
- The AAP scenario, with a puppet government sworn in and the Congress pulling the strings from behind
- The Kerala 1957 scenario, with the country being made ungovernable through manufactured violence
- The Z scenario, with Modi being liquidated and martial law being imposed
The 1996 scenario
Atal Behari Vajpayee only managed to get 252 seats, and with all the ‘secular’ parties unwilling to support him, was forced to resign after 13 days and call for fresh elections. This is the most benign scenario the Congress might follow: and it would be a relatively simple matter for them to manipulate the Electronic Voting Machines to get this outcome.
We have known for a long time (see indiaevm.org or my previous column http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/sep/01/the-real-issue-with-electronic-voting-machines.htm ) that EVMs are highly vulnerable. Given the opaque and easily-penetrated nature of election security, and given endemic corruption, it is highly probable that EVMs can be manipulated to come out with any result desired by the powers-that-be. Let us note that the Supreme Court-mandated VVPATs (EVMs with printed receipts ready for a recount if need be) are in only 20,000 out 18,00,000 booths, in effect making the court order superfluous. We still have the EVMs that did such yeoman duty in 2009.
I predict that they will confine the NDA to 250 seats, thus leaving Narendra Modi to the tender mercies of the Teen Kanya (J Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee, and Mayawati), whose support the NDA would require to hit the magic 272. All of them are tough customers, and it would be very difficult for the NDA to win them over (with Jayalalitha a slightly better prospect). Chances are that a fresh election will have to be called later this year.
The problem is that Narendra Modi’s literally superhuman efforts addressing hundreds of rallies (and they were more than a normal human being should be asked to deliver) are what brought about the Modi Wave or Tsunami. It would be literally impossible for him to replicate this feat, and thus a by-election would bring a much-diminished tally to the NDA, obliging them to once again solicit the various regional satraps and being forced to accept their agendas.
And how will the obvious disconnect between the exit polls and the election ‘results’ be explained away? Oh, the exit polls are always wrong, they will say, pulling out the numbers from 2009 for reference. In fact, the Economic Times has already done so, right on cue (“Before results, opinions”, May 12th). There is also the small matter, as pointed out by Monu Nalapat in 2009, that the EC web site had some results before counting started – that is, instead of the server taking data from the individual EVMs, the results were pre-programmed into the server!
And oh, just to make things more entertaining, they may actually pull off the trick of having Arvind Kejriwal defeat Modi in Varanasi. EVM magic at your service!
The AAP scenario
By now it is clear that the Aam Admi Party, despite all its hoopla, was merely a mask for the Congress, and a way for it to split anti-incumbency votes. The proper modus operandi was used to perfection in the Delhi polls recently. By sacrificing the unpopular Sheila Dixit (well, let’s not cry for her – she’s comfortably ensconced as Kerala Governor: nice sinecure) the Congress was able to blunt the BJP’s thrust to rule Delhi.
By projecting AAP as different from the Congress, and then quietly supporting them at an opportune time, the election was essentially stolen from the BJP: the AAP made big inroads into the educated urban cohort that is the most fed-up with the Congress. Naturally, western vested interests, in the form of various Agencies and Foundations, provided the lion’s share of the funding, and the media, with alacrity, anointed Arvind Kejriwal as a serious contender for the Prime Minister post. (In reality, the AAP may win 0-1 seat, at best 2-3.)
This scenario can work with that hoary chestnut, the Third Front government that will surely be trotted out should the NDA not get a clear majority. As in 2004, when the Communists ‘supported the UPA from outside’, it would not be difficult to arrange a ramshackle and unsteady coalition to form the government, with the Congress ‘supporting it from outside’.
Of course, this would lead to disaster, as investors, especially the FIIs who have run up the Sensex and the rupee, immediately leave in droves, as they would be aware that absolutely nothing would move forward on the economic front. Status quo ante, stagflation.
The Kerala 1957 scenario
The Communist government of EMS Nambudiripad, duly elected, was ousted in 1957 using a classic, reputedly standard spy agency tactic. By funding and supporting the most reactionary elements in Kerala (you can guess who they were), the three-letter Agency was able to manufacture a law-and-order situation.
The great democrat Jawaharlal Nehru, far from upholding the sanctity of the democratic process, promptly used Section 356 of the Constitution to impose President’s rule and kicked EMS out. Not that I hold any brief for the Communists, but this was a patently authoritarian act, and it set India on the slippery slope towards later, indiscriminate use of the Center’s powers to get rid of state governments it simply did not like.
Given the Berkeley mafia’s exertions, and the Stanford guys’ fulminations, not to mention seriously bone-chilling perorations in The Guardian, etc. by all sorts of people – and I have to mention that, to its credit, the Wall Street Journal has kept away from this travesty – it seems likely that the West (especially John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and other assorted Democrats) is intent on creating problems in India.
There have been many instances when popularly-elected leaders have been subverted – the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran, or that of Allende in Chile come to mind – after the creation of serious law and order situations. In case you think I am kidding, Exhibit A: last month’s Assam riot between Muslims and Bodos; last week’s Meerut riot between Muslims and Jains (yes, Jains!); and today’s Hyderabad riot between Muslims and Sikhs.
The threats from Rahul Gandhi and Amrish Misra point to the likelihood of such planned ‘uprisings’ taking place. Of course, the use of violence to disrupt and tie down an administration can happen even if a Modi government does come to power. Incidentally, this is very close to what is happening in Thailand right now, as low-level violence has paralyzed the nation, and a court has just asked Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.
The Z scenario
This is the most alarming, but by no means unthinkable, scenario. The film Z by Costa-Gavras, based on real-life incidents in Greece in the 1950s, shows how an enormously popular candidate for the presidency is assassinated by the military junta in power. When popular unrest bubbles up, the generals declare martial law and countermand the elections. This is quite possibly the greatest political film of all time, and it is my nightmare scenario.
Let us remember that as long ago as five or six years ago Karan Thapar, a journalist with strong ties to the Congress, talked about “the sudden removal of Narendra Modi”. It was obvious that he was thinking about an assassination, a physical liquiation. So this scenario has been thought about by at least some people.
I argued some time ago http://www.indiafacts.co.in/author/rajeev-srinivasan/#sthash.DtEgOnxf.dpbs that Modi had grown too popular to be assassinated – as the backlash would surely propel the BJP to office. However, now that the election is over, that point is moot, and it would not constrain anybody.
And exactly what will happen in such a scenario? Even though people have suggested there would be a civil war, I doubt it. The Army has remained apolitical and thus a marginal player. The average Indian is too docile to go out there and throw Molotov cocktails, and even if we had more hot-heads in the population, as in Iran or Ukraine or Egypt, or even in the US (remember the “Occupy Wall Street” etc. demonstrations?), it is hard to sustain an agitation over a long period, and the authorities can wear you down – you do have to go to work and earn a living, after all. Thus, an actual coup would become a fait accompli.
I have outlined above several scenarios that might unfold by Friday. I truly hope that I am wrong, and that there will be a smooth transition of power without the decimation of any of the institutions of the State. If otherwise, I hope that the least violent and the least damaging path will be taken, for the sake of this great nation.
2291 words, May 14, 2014
Errata: An earlier version said 1998 instead of 1996 for the short-lived Vajpayee government. Sorry.