The other day, PM Modi mentioned in his speech that he once had to go to jail during a satyagraha for the liberation of Bangladesh. The liberal ecosystem hit back with a storm of ridicule. Now Modi is taking it too far, they said. What else has he done, they demanded. Fought in the Second World War? Been the first man on the moon? One academic even insisted that nobody ever went to jail for demanding Bangladesh.
They did not know facts nor did they wait for facts to emerge. They were absolutely certain he was lying. Of course, he wasn’t lying. They were soon confronted online with an army of BJP supporters showing off old newspaper clippings about thousands of Jan Sangh workers courting arrest for this cause in 1971. The movement even finds mention in the official citation from the government of Bangladesh awarded to the Late Atalji in 2015. As for Modiji himself going to jail, it is mentioned on the back cover of a book that he wrote in Gujarati as far back as 1978. Even the video footage of the Jan Sangh rallies of 1971 is still available from the archives of the Associated Press.
We could let this go as just another case of self-satisfied liberals making fools of themselves on the internet. But there is more here. Because what we find believable and what we don’t say a lot about our world.
Why did the liberals reject Modi’s claims outright? Because they made a number of fundamental assumptions about our world. First, they assumed that if there is anything good, only Congress could have struggled for it. Congress is the hand that feeds them. So they assume that all the good in the world is due to Congress only.
The second assumption is more insidious. Even if the satyagraha did actually happen, they assumed Modi would not have participated in it. But why? Because they don’t really believe that someone could participate in political struggles for decades, stand out from the crowd, gradually rise through the ranks and finally make it to the top. The top Congress leadership does not have origin stories like that. They are born into privilege, with their CVs already written out for them the day they are born, with only the dates remaining to be filled in. One day, when mummy or daddy feels that the time is right, they are given their inheritance: party general secretary, vice-president, prime minister or PM candidate, whatever seems best.
If you think about it, Modi’s claim was actually quite believable on its face, even very likely. We should expect that he took part in all major Jan Sangh agitations; even played a lead role. That is probably how he distinguished himself and gradually rose through the ranks. The old newspaper clippings say 10,000 Jan Sangh workers courted arrest, but how many of those 10,000 became PM? How many became so much as an MP? But Modi did because he had extraordinary political talent.
But when the liberal elite thinks about politics, they don’t even consider talent, just birth and favouritism. That is why Modi’s life and struggles feel like lies to them. A number of liberals have tried to dig up dirt and discredit the story of the boy who sold tea on the railway platform at Vadnagar. Did he sell tea only on the platform or inside the railway coaches also? Did he sell just tea or also biscuits with it? Another potential lie to be researched here. Was his family poor, very poor, slightly poor or very very slightly poor? All questions of interest.
Because that’s how liberals think. Almost everything that the liberal elites have in life is through birth or through favours. It came from the families they were born into. It came from the networks at overrated schools and colleges where they went with their famous last names. So they assume everyone is the same way.
Modi’s story does not seem real to them. There’s no way he sold tea on a railway platform. There’s no way he could have organized rallies and protest marches. Indira, Rajiv and Sanjay had all the privileges in the world but they could not finish college. How could Modi have finished a college degree on the side while struggling full time against the Emergency? It must be lies. Where is his degree certificate? Where is his father’s license to sell tea on the railway platform in the 1950s (yes, someone actually filed an RTI to demand this information)?
A few months ago, one liberal tweeted out a fake thread listing all the malls, retail chains and gas stations supposedly owned by members of Modi’s family (both real and imaginary). Although every item on that list was fake, liberals promptly believed it and the thread went viral. Why? Because that’s how liberals have always experienced the political class. How could Modi possibly be different?
When you examine the things that liberals will believe without question, you begin to understand their world. Remember the supposed Associate Professor at the Department of Journalism at Harvard University? Could a spectacularly unqualified person with no PhD and no peer-reviewed publications be a tenured faculty member at Harvard? Sure, why not? Does Harvard even have a department of journalism? It doesn’t matter. They swallowed it without question. Because it confirmed their idea of how the world works.
But tell them that someone was born in a poor household, worked their way through the ranks of a political party and became Prime Minister. Get out, they will say. You must be lying.