If Parliament were an app, would PM Modi use it?

Angshukanta Chakraborty
Angshukanta ChakrabortyNov 23, 2016 | 15:21

If Parliament were an app, would PM Modi use it?

It's Day 6 of Parliament's winter session and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept away from it. Except for a fleeting visit that was cut short. As Lok Sabha witnesses another day-long adjournment owing to "ruckus over domonetisation", PM Modi has opted to seek the nation's view on the highly volatile issue via MyGov app.

Though democracies don't stay stagnant - they are as dynamic as the times and political geographies they represent - ours is a peculiar kind. As Narendra Modi sees it, an app is, at the moment, more effective in garnering what Indians truly think, as if the staggering heterogeneity of Indian demography can be accurately captured by a set of app-generated pre-emptive questions, the nature of which has itself been exposed as biased and ill-formed.


Moreover, the fact that only 41 per cent of Indians have smartphones on which the app can be downloaded, doesn't deter Modi from resorting to this seemingly true democratic exercise.

Unlike Narendra Modi - the app, Parliament isn't one, yet. If it were, it would be one of those multi-user, multilevel ones, to adequately depict its amazing scale and scope. It would be like a gaming app, where virtual contenders fight it out, but a battle of the intellectual and debating variety.

The gaming console would include a deep-schooling in the Constitution of India, the laws and acts in place, the democratic scope of discussion among members of Parliament - the multiple users of the gaming app - and a level playing field. The post of the prime minister would be tantamount to having one or at most two extra serving points.


But that would have been it. If Parliament were an app, Modi would have been stopped from playing - because it's not a rule-as-you-go thing at all, gaming and app universe has a very strict code of conduct, its own inner set of ethics - not quite by other users, but by the app itself. For not adhering to the rules.

Once upon a time when PM Modi addressed the Rajya Sabha... (Photo credit: India Today)

Prime Minister Modi, nevertheless, has chosen his form of "democracy by other means" in his relentless march to his version of digital utopia, in which the non-smartphone user and the fundamental temple of democracy as our founding fathers envisioned it - Parliament, get the same treatment.

They refuse to matter because they may disrupt the Great Disrupter in his mission to technologically sublimate India and its 1.3 billion people into a homogenous mass of digital affirmation.

That Modi hardly ever stays "maun" or silent, an allegation that was repeatedly levelled at former PM Manmohan Singh, and that Modi most appears as an evangelical prophet of aspirations, as also apparitions, of the Great Indian Nation, mouthing rallying cries of service and sacrifice, forever demanding them from the people like a middleman of national salvation, he develops an omniscience that Singh never had or wanted.


Absent Modi? What's that when compared to omnipresent Modi, staring at us from billboards, TV screens, newspaper ads, smartphone apps, radio bulletins, government schemes, Twitter timelines, online articles? How does ducking Parliament even begin to compare with the enormous stamping of India with Modi's indelible ink?

Only that it does.

That Narendra Modi does not want to deal with the fellow ministers and MPs as equals, that he prefers an elevated dais over the seat in Parliament that's predicated on constitutional equality, that he doesn't like interruptions and interjections during his performance - extempore or scripted, speak volumes about his acute disdain of parliamentary democracy.

It's not just the tsunami of accusations over demonetisation, or the daylight murders under the nose of his party government in Madhya Pradesh that were the SIMI encounters. It's not the underperforming economy, or the steep fall in employment generation, or the acute distress faced by farmers, or the crunching of MGNREGA via WhatsApp diktats, or Dalit uprising in Gujarat, or the fear and loathing among the minority communities who are deeply, reciprocally suspicious of his government.

Fundamentally, it is Narendra Modi's acute condescension towards a collective, representative decision-making process that is the basis of parliamentary democracy that prevents him from attending Parliament.

It is the acquiescence of equality that is the cornerstone of the Lok Sabha which Modi finds abhorrent. As long as it was about the Modi wave and the big number - of seats, Lok Sabha was a trophy.

The moment it became a battleground once again, particularly a battleground in which the Opposition seems better armed with legislative and legal instruments, Modi shunned it.

Parliament for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is India divided into 543+2 seats of Lok Sabha and 245 seats of Rajya Sabha. Colonising Parliament was easier: targeting it like an app worked. Crude methodology of arousing communal passions and dangling the carrot of digital development charmed those already dissuaded by delusions of grandeur.

But Parliament has its own checks and balances. You cannot run it like an app meant to digitally colonise millions of Indians, all too eager to believe in Modi. What do we do with a prime minister who despises Parliament?

Last updated: November 24, 2016 | 11:29
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