In a recent interview with journalist Karan Thapar for the leftist online portal The Wire, political commentator and analyst Sanjaya Baru claimed that PM Modi has created a new power elite and sparked a cultural revolution in terms of people who govern the country and their ideas and attitudes about the idea of India.
Speaking in the interview that marked the launch of his latest book: ‘India’s Power Elite: Class, Caste and a Cultural Revolution’, Baru said that the new intellectuals around Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath belong to a very different world. He added that the government and the bureaucracy in many parts of the country have started placing more importance on vernacular culture and traditions as opposed to the previous order that was primarily dominated by the English upper-middle-class.
Aha!!! pic.twitter.com/m3mXJVjZxd— iMac_too (@iMac_too) April 9, 2021
“The new power elite are provincial, not comfortable in English…I think we now have a bureaucracy in Delhi and in many parts of India that thinks in vernacular. The metaphors they use, the symbolism they use, the administrative practices they are willing to use….there is an underlying cultural revolution in the country, there is a change in a way in which the ruling class thinks,” Baru elaborated when asked about the distinction between the new and old power elite.
“The new power elite is more provincial, it prefers to use Hindi or vernacular languages, unlike their predecessors which belonged to the upper-middle-class, the emerging power elite draws from the middle of the intermediate classes and are not born into families of privilege with easily accessible contacts. They earned their way to the top,” Baru said.
Baru notes it is the first time that no one in the PMO is from St Stephens or JNU
Baru also explained how the government changes in New Delhi before PM Modi came to power did not bring about radical changes in the social class that constituted the capital’s power elite. He even added that on most occasions, the power elite had starkly similar characteristics and had often belonged to the same set of institutions. “It was a revolving door…one set of friends went in and another set went out,” Baru said.
Gangotri of Lutyens, St Stephen’s is losing sheen. And that’s very painful pic.twitter.com/aPAVvyIU90— iMac_too (@iMac_too) April 9, 2021
The old elite had been to similar schools and universities, were members of the Gymkhana or IIC and were largely upper-middle-class, Baru said. In a striking illustration, Baru notes that this is the first time the PMO does not have officers who have graduated from St. Stephens or JNU.
“The secular left-liberal weltanschauung of the old public intellectuals has been replaced by a Hindu nationalist intellectual architecture,” said Baru, adding that the new power elite is unabashedly pro-Hindu, pro-Hindi and pro-vernacular.
Baru claims the cultural revolution brought about by the emerging class of power elite underpinned the aspirational India that represents the ascent of Bharat and the decline of India. The political commentator drew a parallel between the cultural revolution triggered by PM Modi’s arrival at the Centre with the one that happened under Mao in China. In both instances, the aim was to remove if not eradicate vestiges of the old order, who might have desperately tried to somehow cling onto power and their position, Baru said.
In the 32-minute interview with Karan Thapar, Baru also analysed PM Modi’s popularity among the masses and his mantra for political success. He said it is a combination of BJP’s Hindutva nationalism, Ram Manohar Lohia’s caste-based social welfarism and the Left’s class-based pro-poor radicalism. It is also hostile to the left and the elites, he added.
When asked what are the challenges that could stifle Modi’s ascent, Baru opined that a revival of the opposition or an economic collapse are the only two roadblocks he envisions that could stop PM Modi’s relentless juggernaut. He added that the people of new aspirational India are drawn towards PM Modi because he personifies them and reflects their views. However, Baru noted that if the economy takes a hit, this unwavering support to PM Modi could transform into disillusionment and frustration.