Fifth Column: A dangerous disconnect

'If Modi destroys the India created by 67 years of Congress-style secularism and socialism, he will be doing India a real service'.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: April 26, 2014 11:54 pm

They waited for hours under a scorching sun to catch a glimpse of Narendra Modi. And, when he finally came, they shouted ‘Hello Modi’ as if he could hear them. In seconds he was gone, but they were happy to have seen him. I asked a young man in a Modi T-shirt why he supported him, and he said, “He will bring us ‘vikas’ like he has done in Gujarat.” I pointed out that he was a politician not a magician, and he replied, “We believe that when it comes to development, he is a magician.”

Afterwards I tweeted that I had covered every election since 1977 and had never seen anything like the frenetic fervour of the crowds on the streets of Benaras. This caused a torrent of insults on Twitter, so I went that evening to Papu’s chai shop for a reality check. At this teashop in a teeming, squalid square near the Assi Ghat gather politicians, thinkers, philosophers, political analysts and students. They sit on wooden benches near an open drain and discuss the problems of the world. On an earlier visit, I discovered that the level of political discourse was higher than in Delhi because people speak without worrying about being labelled ‘fascist’ or ‘communal’.

This time I found myself sitting between a historian from BHU and a retired museum curator. They said of that morning’s crowds that they had never seen such an exhibition of political support before in Benaras. I asked why Modi was so popular and they said people were desperate for real change. For Benaras, they want municipal infrastructure and the Ganga to be cleaned. For India, they want a leader who will stand up to “insults” from China and Pakistan, and in terms of “vikas”, they want economic policies that will create prosperity and jobs. They told me of the hopelessness of public services in education and healthcare and said these could be easily improved with good governance.

Since I first discovered signs of a Modi wave in rural Rajasthan last summer, I have been reporting in this column that development and governance were going to be the big issues in this election. For my pains, I have been labelled anti-Muslim, anti-Sonia and fascist. There are other charges unrepeatable in a family newspaper. What has intrigued me most is the arrogant assumption that it is wrong to support Modi. Famous editors and public intellectuals have gone public with their love for Sonia Gandhi and her children and this is considered normal, but unless you compare Modi to Hitler, you are an intellectual pariah. If this is liberalism, we better learn to live without it because more than half of India is likely to end up in the pariah box after this election.

What these pariahs want from Modi is not just development but magic, so in the 60 months that he has asked for, he better be able to magically transform India. This is because in no other election have I seen aspirations raised to such a pitch. In earlier elections, such things as secularism and charisma mattered more. What is worrying is that this changed political reality has been so poorly reflected in the national debate that our poor, dear prime minister said on the day Modi stormed Benaras that the Modi wave was a “media creation”.

Has he not noticed that most of the media hates Modi? I have met eminent editors and celebrated TV anchors who have admitted this openly and till not long ago were certain that Modi would not win a single seat outside Gujarat. Modi frightens most of us ‘intellectuals’ because in our leftist, liberal little hearts, we know that he brings with him not just political change but a revolution. This could bring to the fore the sort of people who gather in Papu’s chai shop and land our more renowned public intellectuals in history’s dustbin.

Let me say that personally I cannot wait for this to happen because for too long we, with the loudest voices in the media, have failed to reflect what is really happening in India and the real problems of ordinary Indians. In our constricted, English-speaking, colonised world, we have never dared to admit even that mass education in our country is churning out young people who leave English-medium schools without being able to speak either English or their own languages.

And, this is only one of the grim problems that remain unmentioned as we babble on daily about secularism and communalism and how India will be destroyed if Modi becomes prime minister. Let me state clearly that if he destroys the India created by 67 years of Congress-style secularism and socialism, he will be doing India a real service. Now that is something we should be talking about!

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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  1. A
    Alani Adana
    May 3, 2014 at 7:30 am
    the article is straight from my heart I long to say.hats off tavlin ji
    Reply
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    Rajesh Lal
    Apr 30, 2014 at 9:01 am
    Ms Singh, thank you for an article straight from the heart....the resounding truth that endures and has the power to save.
    Reply
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    ShankarNarayanan Ramaswamy
    Apr 30, 2014 at 7:46 am
    A very clearly written article about what the common man feels. Even in TN there were droves of people who went to BJP rallies when Modi addressed in the state. I dont think this has happened for any BJP leader in the past. My only concern is that the expectations are too high and without an absolute majority it may not be easy to make an impact which will meet the expectations of the people. Magician or Not, the coalition partners who have joined the BJP bandwagon lately are all opportunists of the highest order. Hope that BJP wins with their traditional allies a working majority to govern the country and bring us a whiff of fresh change.
    Reply
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    diogeneese
    Apr 27, 2014 at 3:29 am
    You stand tall amongst the hypocrites,so called intelectuals or rather ineffectuals who parade impotence to do anything as a great moral value.It takes guts,real guts to speak out against this brigade of Modi baiters and haters who find their cozy,comfortable colonial cocoon about to be punctured.madam,if ever there was a Medal for intellectual honesty and bravery in journalisimn it would be yours.
    Reply
  5. R
    raja
    May 1, 2014 at 6:04 am
    An audacious piece with bold arguments
    Reply
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    Ravi Kumar
    May 3, 2014 at 7:49 am
    Corrupt people and dogmatic intellectuals are afraid of the change in discourse in the main political stream... how can a single person change the w political discourse!The time has come and I hope modi wins a resounding victory otherwise we will forever remain poor...
    Reply
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    sanghi
    Apr 30, 2014 at 6:20 am
    awesome article tavleenji. its high time intellectualism in india is got ridden of leftist grab and colonial legacy. its time we start thinking independently
    Reply
  8. S
    S
    Apr 28, 2014 at 1:39 am
    A very nice and balanced essment of the Modi phenomenon.Frankly speaking there are an increasing number of people across all sates who view the Modi phenomenon as the only hope for India that is Bharat to secure its ideny.among nations of the world.It is time for the intellectuals of India to do some soul searching to realize the ground truth and get rid of this hogwash called secularism as it is perceived and practiced under the Congress paradigm. Modi has in fact given a new and more appropriate meaning for secularism-India first and The consution the only religion for the state.That represents by far the best definition of the term .No one has bettered it post independence.
    Reply
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