Modi has another option: to walk into the reformist space abdicated by the Congress and AAP
In this season of conspiracy theories involving “evil” corporates, here is my humble contribution. That our greedy, thieving and cruel private telecom companies now employ full-time humorists to invent SMS-friendly jokes 24×7. And as these go viral, they make money. How else can brilliant jokes land in your inbox before you have even absorbed the headlines that instigated them?
What else can explain such incredible sense of timing?
Two of these landed on my ancient Nokia phone even before Rahul Gandhi had finished speaking at the AICC, and Arvind Kejriwal had visited the Union home minister. The first: Rahul Gandhi says the BJP sells combs to the bald, AAP offers haircuts to the bald and the Congress promises them a Right to No Hair Loss Act. The second was even nastier: I took a Delhi autorickshaw. Told the driver, aage signal se Kejriwal le lo. Chap was so perceptive, took a U-turn.
Both display a sharp understanding of our politics that will put most of us columnists to shame. The second is even more effective than the first because it is more prescient and can so easily be employed in a manner that, for want of a better word, you can call modular. For example, and particularly after today’s AICC speech, what if you asked a smart auto driver, “Aage se Rahul Gandhi le lo?” He will most certainly turn left. And then you run into a slight problem. What if you told him, instead, “aage se Narendra Modi le lo?” He will not know whether to go left, right, make a U-turn or stay still, and even the AAP has not yet empowered its autorickshaw supporters so much that they can levitate. Maybe all he will say is, “Sorry sahib, aap kisi aur ko poochho, main toh Modiji ka vision document dekhne ke baad kuchh keh sakta hoon (you ask somebody else… I may get some idea only once I see Modi’s vision statement).”
This Saturday’s National Interest is not about SMS jokes, but on serious issues like economic and social ideologies that must make the dividing lines in a robust, contentious democracy, which sadly does not happen in India. Every major political party in India claims to be both secular and socialist. The fight, in each case, is only over who is more socialist or secular than the other. It is difficult to think of another significant democracy with wider consensus on social and economic ideologies. This leads to an ideological mish-mash that makes our electoral politics more personalised (Modi, Kejriwal) continued…