#RightSideUp: 2019, A 'New Kurukshetra'; 'Hypocrisy of the Indian Elite'

A weekly round-up of voices from the right.

New Delhi: Model code of conduct violations were all the rage this week, with a lot of ire being directed at the Election Commission for its lack of action.

And with just a day to go before polling begins, media houses across the board have been rounding up what to expect this election, making it clear that the gap in the narratives of the right and left has continued to widen. Opposition bashing continued unabated, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s has been given top marks in the various report cards that have been published so far.

‘A near-referendum on Modi’

Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds in Kolkata a success, Swapan Dasgupta in this week’s Right & Wrong column for the Times of India, says that Modi’s image has changed greatly, especially in Bengal, from a “hazy” figure to one of great clarity.

The Wire, incidentally, had reported on how the rally was actually a failure in the eyes of the state BJP. Instead of the 6-7 lakh people who were expected to be in attendance, the estimated crowd was somewhere between 2 lakh and 2.5 lakh people.

But Modi has divided people along two lines, Dasgupta admits:

In 2019, after five years of sustained national and international exposure, there is very little tentativeness surrounding Modi. People either love what they have seen of his leadership and character or, as has been the case with a section of the old elite, they loathe him with unrivalled passion…People either want to endorse him for another five years to build a New India, or they look upon May 23 as their day of liberation.

But these “certitudes defining the prime minister work both to his advantage and disadvantage”, Dasgupta writes.

On the positive side, Modi has turned the 2019 election into a near-referendum on himself. The importance of individual candidates, while important as boosters and dampeners in some cases, has diminished sharply.

But “if Modi is the only issue of this election, it naturally follows that the vote is either for him or against him”.

And those who are inclined to vote against him will not bother to assess whether they are voting for Rahul Gandhi as the next Prime Minister or for Mayawati or Mamata. Indeed, the biggest challenge to Modi in this election is posed by over-clarity of issues.

This is why the TINA factor will not matter much this “exceptional election”, he says.

Modi will perhaps also benefit from the opposition’s lack of understanding over future governance, but the size of the TINA vote will be relatively modest compared to a decade ago… The mould is being broken, although it is too early to talk of a fundamental regroupment. What was witnessed in Kolkata last week was just a small indication of the change.

The Election for Future Bharat

In a wrap for RSS mouthpiece Organiser, David Frawley aka Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, who has ben previously described as “the Indian right-wing’s intellectual pin-up, singular poster boy, and their one-man army against decades of what he calls ‘Nehruvian socialism, its Marxist shadows, dynastic arrogance, and intellectual pretensions’, lays out why the 2019 election is “a new Kurukshetra to decide the future of the country for years to come”.

“The identity of India or Bharat itself is part of this bitter electoral battle,” he writes. A self-taught scholar of yoga, Ayurveda, Vedas, astrology and Vedic history, Frawley, the author of Arise Arjuna: Hinduism Resurgent in a New Century, then asks:

Will India emerge as a global power at economic, political and cultural levels as it has the ability to do so, expanding its great civilisational energies once more? Or will it return to a family run feudal dynasty where competence and accountability are ignored in favour of entitlement? Or perhaps will some strange concoction of different parties create a patchwork to run the country haphazardly into uncertainty?

In his description for the competing forces in the fray, he calls out the opposition for having no economic, development or foreign policy, and says that along with “opportunist ambitions” is only “Modi as a common enemy [that] unites the angry crowd”.

Opposition groups continue their assault on Hindu temples as in Sabarimala, are trying to obstruct building the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, find fault with Hindu festivals, and are happy appearing with missionary and Jihadi sympathising groups. Hindus must realise the dangers of supporting such groups in any part of the country

Confirming the fears of “anti-Modi forces” who believe five more years of a BJP government will solidify the party’s hold on India irreparably, Frawley says:

The continued success of the Modi Government has become a call to the opposition to become more strident, knowing that five more years of Modi may prevent them from ever returning to power. They try to portray the Modi government as divisive and oppressive, regardless of facts, promoting crude allegations and outright lies as their campaign slogans.

He then debates the difference between “Nehruvian India” and “Bharatiya India”.

Nehruvian India was the vision of an Anglicised class that believed in British Fabian socialism with a little Gandhian ahimsa added to make it quasi-Indian. They saw India through an alien lens, looking at ancient India at best as a source of art and culture, at worst as a regressive heritage to be reformed according to the liberal civilisation of the West. It became progressively Marxist over time and anti-Hindu…Modi’s new India, on the contrary, continues the legacy of India as Bharat. It is centred philosophically not in Delhi but in Varanasi, not in western socialism but India’s Yoga traditions. It honours India’s gurus ancient and modern over modern ideologies, which allows it to draw up India’s exceptional civilisational aspiration.

The Opposition, he contends, has become “anti-military, anti-India and even pro-Pakistan after India’s Balakot retaliation, giving their praise to the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan rather than criticising him for the terrorist attacks his forces organised against India”.

“It seems that the opposition would rather have India bow down to its enemies than succeed under Modi,” he writes.

Narendra Modi remains the most popular leader and charismatic campaigner in the country… Dharma requires that we choose the best possible option at any given moment with a vision of the lasting consequences involved. The way forward for India/Bharat as a nation and a civilisation is with another term for Narendra Modi, not stepping back into the shadows.

‘The reactionary brutality of the Indian elite’

Here’s a snapshot of Ruchir Ferrero Sharma’s potshots at liberal India in an article in Swarajya magazine:

The position of the Indian elite is akin to that of mayonnaise in a sandwich. It has zero standalone worth, serving only as a greasing agent, in this case, to a western bourgeoisie always contemptuous of anything that is Indian.

Sharma, described in his bio as a public policy commentator and investment management entrepreneur, starts with bashing “‘intellectuals’ of a certain background, whose parents had the right jobs during the Nehruvian era”:

Macaulay’s Children, as some like to call them, have a genteel aura about them, often speak in clipped tones, are the life and soul of Lodhi Road and Khan Market, love reminiscing about their boarding school and Oxbridge days, pride themselves on keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in US politics, and are on the very finest terms with every newly-arrived Western correspondent or researcher finding their feet in a strange new land.

Sharma admits that he grew up as one such person, “having been socialised in exactly this environment in school and university”.

Now, he says, it is his duty to “bring to light the blatant hypocrisy, intellectual vapidity, and moral bankruptcy that I have been so surrounded by in these circles”.

Attacking the “sepia-tinted view of Nehruvian socialism”, he asks why liberals look back at the post-Independence era where a “paternalistic leader saw our masses as infantile” with great love.

According to him, “elite Indians” also only remember a warped version of the Emergency under Indira Gandhi. It must have been a shock for “our fine ‘intellectuals’ to find that their beloved left-liberal values only ever existed in the living rooms in Delhi’s Inner Ring Road and along the western line of the Bombay Suburban Railway”, he says.

Being forced to share their material and social privileges for the first time in three generations, these well-educated “intellectuals” act like petulant children, unwilling to share their toys. For all their public rhetoric of liberal values and uplifting the poor, simply scratch the surface, and one finds reactionary conservatives looking to preserve the Nehruvian ecosystem that rewarded them for going to the right schools, speaking with the right accents, and holding the right views.

Now that their social capital no longer buys them entrance to the corridors of power in their homeland, they either thrash about like fish out of water, on TV panels, news portals, Twitter communities, and other echo chambers, or slavishly prostrate themselves to the gatekeepers of the one community where they still feel like they can belong – the western-centrist establishment.

He then rants about those who speak up against lynchings and cow vigilantism, keeping them in quotes as if all such incidents have only been fabricated, he makes an apologist claim:

Even if one is to condemn all forms of mob violence, one can at least understand the motivation behind those villagers in the Indian heartlands who have created patrols to save their cattle from theft.Despite the dominant narrative, rural “cow vigilantes” are not state-sponsored or sanctioned… And, if we look at the broader issue of restrictions on cow slaughter, these laws were passed by Congress governments, and are only being enforced rigorously now. One should also note that when our media “elite” cry about how “cows have more rights than minorities in Modi’s India”, that is the laziest form of lying. First, cows are treated as private property, and are slaughtered by the millions in India, in government-licensed as well as illegal slaughterhouses and butcher shops.

This hypocrisy can be from seen not just from such neighbourhood retirees who talk about “fascist gau-rakshak Modi bhakts” on their evening walks but happily engage in mob justice when a cyclist scratches their car or a homeless kid throws a stone at their pet dog.

Sharma moves on from attacking various writers and “trendy left-liberals “, including Arundhati Roy, to make a “public service announcement”:

Postcolonial societies are not a canvas for western liberals to project what they are uncomfortable about in their own societies but unable or unwilling to change. Our civilisation, culture, and polity do not exist for your benefit, to give you a sense of validation.

Continuing his tirade, he moves on to media houses and journalists:

They can only get a column in The Guardian, BBC, or Washington Post if it’s as a neoliberal, neo-colonialist voice of colour, to lecture Indians like naughty schoolchildren or write about them like David Attenborough observing a man-eating tiger from a safe distance.

They regurgitate Orientalist tropes that respectable liberal white staff would not dare get away with, and shame those ordinary Indians who live outside of their gated communities for their cultural, consumer, and electoral choices, robbing them of their voice and agency.

Robert Vadra’s wife, Priyanka Gandhi

Despite writing an entire article about Priyanka Gandhi, writer Chandni Sengupta for refuses to even once acknowledge that Priyanka is a person. Instead, she is simply denigrated to being ‘tyrant’ Indira Gandhi’s granddaughter, ‘scamster’ Robert Vadra’s wife.

Sengupta, an assistant professor with the department of history at the Amity School of Liberal Arts, also cites the Congress’ “involvement with fraudsters like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi” as a reason why she is “not a force to reckon with”.

Priyanka Vadra may claim to be “Bharat ki Beti” but she can’t possibly deny her family’s and her party’s involvement with fraudsters like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. The Congress has tried to brush off some muck from their back by blaming the BJP for its supposed involvement with the Ambanis and a few other industrialists, but does that give a clean chit to the Congress?

It’s clear that Sengupta thinks that Priyanka, who left her “cosy home” to join politics, has no agency of her own and is just a pawn in the ongoing electoral game.

The argument that Priyanka Vadra has left the cozy comfort of her home to ‘serve the country; has not found too many takers… However, contrary to what most people believe, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has not been able to make any dent in the political fortunes of the Congress as yet. All the leading new channels and pre-poll surveys have shown that Congress will end up on the losing side in the upcoming elections.

Seemingly forgetting the cult of Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite obviously subscribing to it, Sengupta ends by saying:

The era of personality cults is passé, the youth of this country want development, they want employment, and they want the nation to be safe, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra doesn’t seem to be remotely doing anything to assure generation next that their vote to the Congress would yield better returns.

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