Beginning of a new creed

Modi stands for the new cult of economic growth, glorification of the neo-capitalism and a tight embrace with the capitalists.

A leader of the BJP, who regularly appears on the national TV network, said it succinctly: “The sell-by date of Advaniji is long over”. Whether the sell-by date of Lal Krishna Advani, the patriarch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is over from the Indian citizens’ point of view or not may be a debatable question; however, the comment truly reflects the changes that have rapidly crept into the thinking of the party’s officials over the past decade.

Starting from former president Bangaru Laxman’s alleged – television visuals showed it rather vividly – acceptance of a large amount of cash, there has been a long and fast slide in the party’s projected image of a clean party. Cleanliness from the monetary corruption point of view. There was the killing of Pramod Mahajan, a senior BJP leader, by his own brother on some money issue; while it may have nothing to do with any tainted money, the damage to the clean image is done in the public’s mind.
The rot of corruption seems to have spread rapidly. It was next the turn of the BJP ruled state governments. The example of how BJP was routed in the recent elections in Karnataka is fresh in everybody’s mind.

A major reason for BJP’s defeat was that its government was perceived as being highly corrupt by the people. Whether it was former BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa or the mining barons Reddy brothers, they have brought ill fame to the party. This did not do well for the image of the party at the Centre as well. Because, all of these state level leaders had a well-known god-mother or god-father at the Centre. Some of these relations were very much in the public domain and flaunted about by the ‘children’.

The decay also seems to have spread in the source organisation of the party – the RSS. Leaders like the former BJP president Nitin Gadkari – an RSS man himself -- have been caught in a web of scandals. The earlier image of the RSS volunteers was that they never got into mundane pursuits. Here was a top leader, who had a chain of industries called Purti Group, whose companies had directors on the board that included his own driver and many with untraceable addresses. The group was worth Rs 500 crore. At one time the RSS volunteers were known for their austere outlook on life. But, that seemed to have changed too.

The point is: the outlook of the BJP ‘netas’ has changed. The lop-sided economic growth engineered by economist turned politician  Manmohan Singh and his associates was embraced with equal affection by the BJP with a slogan of ‘India Shining.’ Whether all of India shone or not, several BJP leaders have been sold to the cult of the aimless pursuit of economic growth and the windfall it offers to the politicians and other powerful people in governance – opposition included.

Growth process

Narendra Modi stands for this new cult of rapid economic growth, further glorification of the neo-capitalism and therefore a tight embrace with the capitalists of the day. Modi stands for many of the trappings of this neo-capitalism, like promoting and projecting an image, advertising the apparent gains in Gujarat where he currently rules. The negatives and non-outcomes, if any, are always swept under the carpet as the new ideology suggests. It is also obvious that most CEOs of the corporate world would welcome these changes in the thinking of the political class.

It suits them immensely. The inequities in the growth process, the tremendous lop-sidedness and therefore the sacrifices of the poor and voiceless inherent in such an ‘ideology’ does not bother all those few who currently benefit from it. Young India, the urban and semi-urban youth, has bought the ‘growth’ dream lock, stock and barrel. Politicians, who should be leading the people, are now busy running after the vision. Narendra Modi stands tall amongst all of them because he is leading the charge. It suits others who follow him because as he charges ahead the spoils are all theirs.

One would not be surprised if Nitin Gadkari or even Arun Jaitley is rooting for Modi. The new cult shows up its ugly head – Modi may not have ever imagined it – at unexpected places. When money becomes the focus, it has its own awful consequences. It is worth noting that when the murky IPL spot-fixing scandal erupted recently, Arun Jaitley who is the chief of Delhi Cricket Association and an otherwise powerful member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), kept quiet for days on end. A philosophy can sometimes take over or overwhelm a person. History has many instances, including the most terrible one of the Nazi era when many good people in Germany perpetrated unimaginable wrongs. 

Ideology can make people blind to its dreadful side-effects. When it is seen as ‘it is the only way’, people tend to turn a Nelson’s eye to ‘how’ it is done and to ‘what all’ is done in its propagation. Modi is a strong ideologist – that of economic growth in the industry-business way and he does not put up with anyone coming in his chosen way. In effect, the old values have to give way to the new realities or perceived needs under the new creed. If ‘internal democracy’ is one of those old values, it can be sidelined if not sacrificed totally.

Indeed, the values espoused by Modi and Advani are quite different. The latter prefers more eternal values, while the former is more focused on newer value-set. To conserve is old, to consume is new. Perhaps the sell-by-date of more lasting values is over and the imminent exit of L K Advani is a signal for it.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)

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