Post Mortem

Modi and collapse of old order

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 6/21/2019 12:12:55 PM IST

 A section of people in the country is understandably livid today at their worst nightmare having turned true. For, the return of Narendra Modi once again at the helm (and with a much bigger mandate) despite their relentless campaign in the past five years to somehow stop the juggernaut that started rolling in 2014 has upset the apple-cart for the second time, and perhaps forever. The ecosystem that actively patronised and sustained them, who have a highly archaic, if not debauched, worldview and a vulgar sense of supremacy, was now gone for good.

It needs no iteration that the old order in the country primarily sustained on socialism that was elitist in nature, an ecosystem where the real beneficiaries were an elite class comprising the politicians, babus, businessmen and industrialists, middlemen, a section of journalists, the mafia, etc. And these people derived maximum dividends from the system as they had access to all the good that it had to offer, including the power and privileges that accompanied them. One merely needed to have a “connection” with someone up in the hierarchy to have access to virtually all the good things in life, including but not limited to getting a basic landline telephone or an LPG connection, opening a petrol pump, getting licence for setting up an industrial plant or even influencing government policies to benefit a particular group of people, etc. 

It was a system where relationships were forged based on mutual benefits. For instance, the business lobby would try to keep the ruling class in good humour, while the latter would reciprocate with “favourable” policy decisions. A prominent corporate group being allocated prime agricultural lands for building what is today millennium city Gurugram reportedly without any proper bidding process can also be attributed to this unholy alliance, as was the arbitrary allocation of 2G spectrum few years back.

A section in media fraternity too couldn’t remain immune to the system. They were told to gloss over some of post Independent India’s worst carnages or fiscal impropriety in lieu of power and position, so infamously epitomised by Nira Radia tapes that implicated a prominent journalist as a “power-broker” few years back. So, while glossing over the 1969 Gujarat riots (over 5,000 killed), the 1979 Marichjhapi massacre (over 4,000 killed), the 1983 Nellie massacre (over 2,000 killed), the 1984 anti-Sikh riots (over 3,000 killed), the Naga-Kuki clash in Manipur (approximately 1,000 killed) etc, they become fixated only with the 2002 Gujarat riots. This section of journalists, besides some media owners, was suitably compensated with State honours, perks and other emoluments, including free foreign junkets. 

Further, under such a licentious system, middlemen flourished, especially in the North Block trying to clinch mega defence deals with kickbacks being an accepted norm. Unfortunately, even a section of intelligentsia was sucked into this vortex of exclusivity and entitlements, and some of them were allowed to head prestigious institutions. 

The ruling political class, of course, benefited the most as it held the purse string. Members of the class, irrespective of their ideological differences, had an unwritten code not to harm each other’s interests. So, the Abdullahs were given a carte blanche to run the affairs of Jammu & Kashmir by the then incumbents in New Delhi, only to create the mess that the State is in today. The long leash given to Hurriyat leaders, including security cover and other State facilities, thus far can also be attributed to the then incumbents’ convergence of “interests”. The entire relationship was thus somewhat incestuous. It was an exclusive durbar operating out of Delhi and all the beneficiaries drawn from the privileged class across the country were its courtiers, and where the commoners had little access or even aspire to. The privileged few monopolised power and privileges, besides taking it upon themselves to dictate the country’s socio-economic and political destiny and the entire discourse surrounding it.

However, the Modi Inc rattled the old order. His ascension to power in 2014 marked the end of an era as he demolished this durbar whose basis was entitlements. It changed the entire power equation. And if Modi used his first term to prepare ground for a new order by knocking down a system that well-nigh outlived its utility, Modi 2.0 has served to cement this new order. 

In the new order where Modi himself is an “outsider”, the power centre shifted out of New Delhi and dispersed among the countrymen who hold the strings. They can now directly communicate with the Prime Minister or any other member in his Council of Ministers through mediums like Facebook and Twitter, which was unthinkable a few years ago. Tales abound of Modi and his ministers stepping in and intervening to address individual grievances, especially in times of crises. 

For a Prime Minister responding to SOS messages and communicating with the people directly, the rules of public engagement marked a clear departure from the past, and are perhaps a defining moment for India’s democracy. The over-dependence on traditional media for reaching out to the masses has been junked. This is a game-changer that some are yet to come to terms with, especially the courtiers of the erstwhile durbar. 

Further, with initiatives like direct bank transfer to beneficiaries after Jan Dhan Yojana, Modi has re-written the rules of public service delivery too. He also encouraged the country’s large middle class to become aspirational through schemes like Start-up India, while at the same time promoting skills of unskilled youth through Skill India programme. This helped him in achieving the critical mass that ensured his victory. And the new norm of government-to-government deals for defence purchases marked the death-knell for middlemen. Likewise, State patronisation of the Left-inclined intellectuals stopped in favour of the Right-inclined.

Actually, Modi is in sync with the New India that is proud of its ancient heritage, yet aspirational. He is acting as a catalyst in furthering this, evident in yoga becoming an international day during his tenure and in his aggressive pitching for other traditional wellness practices, which all paid him rich political dividend.

However, having ridden the crest of public goodwill and raised public expectations, it would be interesting to see how Modi 2.0 delivers in coming days. Those criticising him would do well to understand the new rules of the game, before engaging him. Else, they would face the same fate like they did in the recent General Election. Their “social engineering” is also unlikely to give good returns as people have largely moved over caste, ethnic, linguistic and religious fault lines. 

Anirban Choudhury, Guwahati

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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