Thursday, May 22, 2014

Common man snubs the commentariat

My article Common man snubs the commentariat appeared in today's Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link... 
Every possible insult has been used by experts, both Indian and foreign, to demonise Narendra Modi. The country’s electorate has resoundingly ignored them all and put the talking heads in their place

China often criticises democracy, particularly the ‘Indian system’, as not being a system which ‘works’. It has been partly true. In many fields, such as infrastructure development or defence preparedness, India is nowhere near China. Beijing believes that the faultline lies in the democratic process which, most of the times, delivers fractured results, ending up in ill-assorted coalitions, which, in the process, invariably forget national interests.
Fortunately, it is not always the case; this time the Narendra Modi Government will hopefully be in a position to deliver the goods; this should be a lesson for China which, in recent times, seems to live in fear, due to the lack of stability inherent in its authoritarian system.
During the two-month lively campaign, what has deeply shocked many is the relentless, incessant, insidious attacks by some educated people against Mr Modi, who was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Every possible insult has been used by Indian and foreign ‘experts’ to show Mr Modi as the worst person on earth, and warn the common men of India of dire consequences, if such a person was to be elected to the helm of the country.
Having closely followed the reactions in the French Press, I was shocked by the number of articles on the ‘butcher of Gujarat’, the ‘Indian Hitler’ (always reminding the readers that Hitler too first came to power through an election), the fate of the ‘minorities’ soon to be massacred etc.
In France, the chef d'orchestre (the conductor of the orchestra) is a self-styled expert on India. For years, this gentleman has been advising successive Governments in Paris (he does not anymore). He hates the ‘saffron brigade’ which he compares to neo-fascist groups in France (it shows his poor knowledge of India). For years, he spoke of Hindu Nationalism as a fascist movement and warned Indians not to follow a path which would automatically lead to the destruction of the famous Indian fabric. There has always been a lot of condescension towards Indians, who, nonetheless, keep inviting him to talk on India to share his ‘knowledgeable’ analysis.
This is an archetype of a number of foreign scholars and researchers, who like to warn India against the approaching Goebbelsian days. Their analysis is usually based on a pathologic obsession with caste and religion.
The reality is different: For the first time since the Mandalisation of Indian politics, caste and religious factors did not play a major role in the recent election. India decided for good governance and development.
I still remember, several years ago, I visited one of these French ‘knowledgeable scholars’ in Paris. As I entered his office, he asked me to which caste my wife belonged. I told him that I did not care; I had chosen her for other reasons. It, however, showed his narrow comprehension of India. To me, one of the most positive developments, is that the experts (and the foreign Governments that they been advising) will have to review their textbooks on India. Though it is not the case anymore, for years the French Government has been influenced by some of these ‘India experts’. So have other Western countries.
As the results poured in, President François Hollande congratulated the people and authorities of India on the outstanding conduct of the legislative election. He expressed the wish to work with Mr Modi “to carry the strategic partnership between India and France to an ever higher level of trust and cooperation”; concluding “India can count on France’s steadfast friendship.”
For the US, a reset call from President Barack Obama to Mr Modi helped to start the relations afresh! The Times of India commented: “A single phone call that went out from the White House to Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi close to midnight on Friday erased nearly a decade of stigma that Washington had heaped on the BJP leader.” The issue of visa was buried in a few seconds; Mr Obama invited Mr Modi to visit the White House “to advance bilateral ties between the two countries”, the US President now looks “to working closely with Modi to fulfill the ‘extraordinary promise’ of the US-India strategic partnership.”
The past is past in Washington, DC, but the fact remains that richly-endowed US think-tanks had got it completely wrong; for years, they considered Mr Modi as a pariah who would never make it. Ms Nancy Powell, the US Ambassador to India, lost her job for discovering too late the pulse of the country. Some Indian intellectuals in the US have also played their role in ostracising the BJP and its leaders. Just two years ago, the ‘eminent’ TIME journalist Fareed Zakaria ‘enthralled’ an Indian public by telling them, why “it (Mr Modi as Prime Minister) is never going to happen”. In fact, he then saw “a U-turn in the high-flying Modi’s fortunes”. It did not happen that way.
Now, what will this ‘educated elite’ do? They will write open letters to Mr Modi to tell him that, though they still don’t like him much, they are ready to accept him as a Prime Minister as they are ‘democrats’ and respect (though regrettably on this particular occasion) India’s first-past-the-post rule.
To “redeem the trust of those who have not supported you”, one of these gentlemen suggested: “When you [Modi] reconstitute the Minorities Commission, ask the Opposition to give you all the names and accept them without change. And do the same for the panels on Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and Linguistic Minorities. And when it comes to choosing the next Chief Information Commissioner, the next CAG, CVC, go sportingly by the recommendation of the non-Government members on the selection committee, as long as it is not partisan.”
In other words, ask ‘experts’ to make all important appointments. Amazing! And who will be responsible if it goes wrong? Certainly not the Leader of the Opposition' (who technically does not even exist, as the Congress could not gather the required 10 per cent of the seats) or even the ‘experts’.
In the days and weeks to come, Mr Modi will receive plenty of open letters from well-wishers wanting to advise what he should do to fix the economy, foreign affairs, defence, the fight against Maoist terror, infrastructure and education. I hope Mr Modi will just say “thank you” and do what he thinks is fit for India. It is not the well-wishers who have been elected to run the country, but he and his team.
I don’t want to do the same as our ‘experts’, but I will suggest to Mr Modi to look at China for one the rare positive steps taken by President Xi Jinping in the fight again the corrupted “flies and tigers”. Were Mr Modi to recover some of the Indian money in Swiss vaults or elsewhere, India would be a much richer and more respectable nation.

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