I am depressed Modi and Amit Shah are running this country

Shiv Visvanathan
Shiv VisvanathanMay 29, 2016 | 10:34

I am depressed Modi and Amit Shah are running this country

Mine is a depressing story. Every time I read the newspaper I feel like an alien. I cannot believe the country is responding to the BJP and PM Narendra Modi. I cannot believe that Amit Shah can be presented front stage and celebrated across India as a poster boy.

When the RSS runs epidemic over the country, I wonder if my era, my sense of the country is outdated. For a man like me, who witnessed the 2002 Gujarat riots, Modi is a non-negotiable entity.


Yet the country is cutting cakes and celebrating two years of Modi rule. It is as if one is caught in a huge B-grade play with a country singing happy birthday to Frankenstein.

To add insult, Modi's man Friday, Arun Jaitley, insists that two years of the Modi regime was like an IPL.


The comparison is interesting because I thought the last two years of IPL were a bit like the Modi regime with nothing to really boast about.

Then I realised that the magic lies in the way electorate or audience perceives action. A second rate idea of utopia is worth the absence of action.

The future seems promising. Even a second rate fantasy was preferable to the depressing news of the Congress.

Has India run out of options? (PTI)

Indians are convinced something will happen in science, in mobility in the job world and they believe the BJP is fine-tuning our universe for that coming. The hope and expectation that India is bestowing on the BJP is overwhelming.

The media too has joined what one sociologist called "the great celebration". The media celebrates two years, with a festival of report cards, merging backstage of the RSS and Amit Shah with Modi and Jaitley on the front.


The media reads the Modi regime for what it is and celebrates the RSS coming out of the electoral closet. Tentative pictures of campaigners in khaki shorts dot the newspaper and one senses the new everydayness of the BJP-RSS-Bajrang Dal combine.

This is India's new team and oddly as a nation we seem proud of it. The idea of the report card represents the new psychology.

An overall pass is what the nation and party wants. Pass is strategic because it means this combine is here to stay. Majoritarian India seems content with the BJP and a victory in Assam does have an IPL like magic. Everyone is cheering but no one sense flaws ahead.

There is no sense of a devil's advocate and the future feels more like a Roman circus waiting acclamation.

The very idea of elections and governance has created a superficiality of assessments around Modi. All of Modi's governance is atomised into little reports, coloured in bright tones as a nation gives pass marks to a regime.


The very idea of number and colour destroys the ambiguity, complexity and the greyness of the regime. Number cannot capture this and the easy evaluations and the celebrations that follow make Modi sound like the first class first, the gold medallist the world is waiting to garland.

Congratulating him almost makes one feel we are garlanding ourselves in future anticipation. It is an awesome display of aspiration and mobility while little is concrete has survived on the ground. As a group, the media introduces all the exclamation marks, and the symbols of interrogation are quietly erased.


Also dissent in an everyday sense has disappeared. A few hysterical outbursts like JNU makes intellectuals feel it has brought the BJP to bay without realising that it is destroying the university system thoroughly. Intellectually, this is the most mediocre regime India has confronted.

The idea of the public domain, in fact the notion of the public intellectual is anathema to this regime. The openness of public debate has given way to the reports of think tanks which specialise in interest group articulations.

By sidelining movements and valourising think tanks, the regime has reduced political debate to a few policy choices which demand a Pavlovian response.

The regimes dalliance with big corporations, the way land has been sold to the Adanis needs investigation. Worse, the regime has been slowly mutilating craft traditions in the name of regulation. The way it has emasculated the gold industry is horrifying.

One senses a similar indifference to agriculture and agricultural suicides and in fact one feels it is pushing the crisis to extremes so that corporate agriculture and biotechnology can be offered as a panacea to the crisis.


It is the silences of the media that worry me in year two of the Modi regime.

One hears very little about the happenings of the regime. There is failure of transparency and Modi from being everyman's megaphone he has become a Tussauds dummy articulating little about policies.

There is a politics of anxiety Modi has to resolve around dissent, minority and marginal politics. While Modi talks governance, his RSS gangs emphasise and police civics of everyday behaviour, indulging in everyday violence around the body, around food, sexuality which the regime treats as a zone of indifference.

Its blackmail of minorities in the name of patriotism is even more obvious. The pressure to be stereotypically Indian makes any another other identity problematic.

Minorities often feel that they are not genuinely Indian as they follow the beliefs of their ancestors. In fact in creating a new culture of politics around patriotism, citizenship, loyalty, sedition, the BJP has distorted the politics of culture.

In many ways, it is the destruction of culture that is its failure.

This finally brings me not to the past, the regime so desperately wants to reform, but the future it is mucking up.

If India is to be a knowledge society, then the regime must take knowledge as culture seriously. As a modernist behemoth, it loves nuclear energy, is coquettish about solar but has no energy policy, no sense of urban futures, no policy for future research, no sense of the dynamism of a university.

These are processes where violence creates huge zones of irreversibility. One wonders when if in two years it can create such disorder, the havoc in five or ten would be unimaginable. This no newspaper or report card will capture.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: May 31, 2016 | 11:50
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