A couple of days back, my good and wise friend Anand Ranganathan had written an article for OpIndia that was titled “The Left has lost its deposit. It is time for the Right to fight Modi”. The title is self-explanatory giving an idea about what he was arguing for, especially given the fact that it was written just a day after Narendra Modi scored a victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that was grander than his already grand 2014 victory.
Anand and I don’t agree entirely on many issues, and well, I don’t intend to change that, for healthy debates are needed for a vibrant democracy and a functioning brain. Anand especially needs both as his place of work is inside the JNU campus (sorry for the joke Anand). However, this article is not any rebuttal to his opinions, though I’d like to briefly list out reasons why I don’t agree with him.
Actually, I disagree with both the parts i.e. “The Left has lost its deposit” and “It is time for the Right to fight Modi”. And let me be honest, I am too paranoid and too greedy to agree to either part.
Paranoid, as I don’t think the Left has lost its deposit. Yes, the communist parties were decimated in the elections, and so was Congress, whose President Rahul Gandhi was reportedly being advised by a man who was a leftist student union leader at JNU (oh the horror). So far as electoral politics is concerned, Left has clearly lost its deposit.
But it still enjoys disproportionate and brute power in academia, media (news as well as entertainment), judiciary, and even in some pockets of bureaucracy. Either the players in these fields are foot-soldiers of the left or they are perennially scared of consequences they might have to face if they upset the leftist coterie. The battle is far from over on these fronts. It’s still a David vs Goliath fight there.
Yes, Anand is in a way right that the Left appears to be becoming irrelevant despite enjoying power in some of these areas, especially the news media, but I will rather be conservative (pun intended) and not declare victory yet. The electoral battle might have been won; the ideological war is on. It will be a long drawn out war.
So far as the second part i.e. it’s time for the Right to fight Modi, is concerned, I disagree because I am greedy. I think this should happen after Modi wins something like 70% of popular votes, so that even if his party splits vertically, at least one of the two factions wins the elections in first past the post system, thus stopping the Left from acquiring power riding piggyback with Congress or some other party. Yes, that is how greedy I am.
But does it mean that we become slaves of Modi till he wins over 70% of popular votes? That we blindly support every decision of the NDA government till 2024 elections? No, that’s not what I mean or suggest when I disagree with Anand.
Anand is known to provoke, so that a debate is there, so that we discuss the ideas. I provoke too, mostly to enjoy people’s meltdown. However, I’d be sober here and explain what I mean.
For me, the idea is not to ‘fight’ with Modi literally, but to not let the Left hijack the narrative. Those who are clubbed under ‘Right Wing’ in India are a varied lot, much more diverse and with independent opinions than what you’d get out of a mixture of The Wire employees and JNU residents with some Anurag Kashyap sprinkled on it.
Therefore, the next battle of ideas should be between these various shades of what is known as the ‘Right Wing’ in India. A vibrant debate and discussion should take place within the broader Right spectrum, and the Left should be made even more irrelevant.
If this is what Anand also means, absolutely no quarrel over it. This is indeed the ideal scenario. However, as I had said earlier, when it comes to battle of ideas, the warring pitch is academia and media, not the EVMs. Which is why I am a little unsure how the Right can achieve this – ignoring the Left and ‘fighting’ Modi – right away. But a new beginning can be made, and it is an absolute honour that Anand chose OpIndia to make that beginning.
Actually, some in the ‘right’ are already fighting Modi, and I’m not sure Anand will like to take responsibility for that! On Twitter, there were comments criticising Modi for snubbing Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur during his address to the newly elected MPs, or for bowing before the copy of constitution as if it was a holy book that can’t ever be changed.
These are controversial issues, and if a debate can take place on these, I’m sure the right wing will have debates over policies and governance too in the second innings of Modi.
However, I would want to make a submission to the right that before ‘fighting’ Modi, they should first understand Modi. They’ve to figure out the phenomenon called Modi.
The left can’t fight Modi, because they don’t understand Modi. In their mind, they have formed an idea of the man, an idea that they have nourished since 2002, and they have become incapable of looking at the man or the phenomenon without that prism. They have lost their deposits due to that. The right can at least learn from the mistakes of the left.
But I don’t see that happening. We on the ‘right’ (rather, we the non-left) too see Modi through our own respective prisms. And our prism is much more complex, because we are much more diverse than the left.
Say, someone like Anand will look at Modi through his libertarian prism and will fail to figure out why a step like demonetisation was even taken up, while someone else can’t figure out why Modi heaps praises on Gandhi and Ambedkar, or for that matter, why he needs to ‘humiliate’ Sadhvi Pragya.
It’s not easy to understand Modi, especially the Modi phenomenon. It is an enigma, almost a miracle.
The Left thinks that they know best and there is no riddle they can’t solve, and yet, they can’t understand Modi. Hence, they are frustrated. In frustration, they see conspiracies everywhere and attack Modi painting him as some conman who could create a mass hysteria. They are fighting Modi, and losing.
If some in the right want to ‘fight’ Modi, they have to first accept that they don’t know enough. I think it’s easy for someone on the right to begin with this as starting point, because intellectual arrogance is the hallmark of the left.
If you wonder why Modi is not taking up your pet projects – whether it is about free markets or freeing the temples – try to understand the Modi phenomenon. What drives people to support this man, to trust this man in an era when trust in almost every entity has only been going down. And what drives Modi to take note of the issues.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, life-size 3D hologram images of Narendra Modi were used to address crowds at different places simultaneously. It was seen as an attempt to showcase tech savviness of Modi and a show aimed at creating a media spectacle. But that was actually the nearest depiction of what the Modi phenomenon is.
There are various set of Modi supporters, each having their own 3D hologram of Modi with them, each believing it to be the real Modi with them. Each believing that this is the man who is going to help them with their dreams or aspirations.
You can’t fight and defeat a 3D hologram. That’s why the left is failing.
The right doesn’t aim to ‘defeat’ the 3D hologram, but wants it to make some moves the way they want. But again, you can’t arm-twist a 3D hologram into making your favourite moves. You can’t even shout at it thinking it will get distracted and at least stop the current moves. Some on the right make these mistakes.
People on the right aiming to ‘fight’ Modi first need to question if they even form a crowd, an identifiable measurable crowd, with their own Modi hologram, and if they are part of some crowd, does the rest of the crowd think the way they do? That’s is the starting point of accepting that we don’t know enough.
Another problem is that many of us are also convinced, like the leftists, about what constitutes or explains the Modi phenomenon, and some of those are very narrow and conflicting definitions. From ‘nothing but Hindutva’ to ‘BJP has just become like Congress’ – people on the right have taken both these positions and are ready to ‘fight’ Modi with that. It won’t work my friends. You will lose too, and will get frustrated like the leftists.
Don’t fight the hologram. Discover the crowd. Discover the phenomenon first.