Why our intellectuals need to rise above the Rahul-Modi debate

Our intellectuals, both certified and uncertified, are mighty desperate. This damn government won’t fall no matter how much they curse it. Political allies have been abandoning it at regular intervals, but it has managed to survive and clear crucial legislations. Despite being pushed dangerously close to the edge of the precipice so many times in the last three years, it looks comfortably placed to end its tenure. Worse, there are now hints that it might come back to power for a third term.

The BJP isn't doing enough to change the situation. It has been busy squandering its chances to establish itself as a strong alternative to the Congress ever since the days of the Anna Hazare movement. The arrival of Narendra Modi at the helm of the party’s poll affairs has infused more energy into the party, but he comes with a troublesome baggage from the past.

Major issues such as corruption and misgovernance are being overshadowed by the communal-secular debate and don’t look seem likely to cause a major problem for the government any more. For all their incredible powers as opinion-makers, they cannot even make a tottering government fall.

Yes, they are mighty desperate. The arguments on the poor performance of the government on the economic front are falling flat with the latter launching a spirited fight back with its own set of statistics - numbers have this curious habit of cancelling out each other. The script is following no set pattern. The helplessness shows in newspaper opinion pieces and television debates. The combined strength of the incestuous circle, where one intellectual quotes the other to reinforce the same tired argument, is not proving effective enough to throw the government out.

Everything doesn't centre around this dup. AFP

Everything doesn't centre around this dup. AFP

And the desperation is showing. One of them, after making a vacuous argument that there was no difference between the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the riots of 1984, even preferred to be called mad if he were wrong. There’s an editor of a supposedly anti-establishment paper coming up with tear-jerkers on the sad state of affairs in the country on a weekly basis. Other reputed intellectuals, known for their rational approach to issues, are slowly warming up to the whining game. Well, you are no intellectual if you are not good at painting pictures of gloom and doom on a routine basis. It is echo effect at work.

Nothing's wrong with that though. Individuals are entitled to their opinions on issues that matter to the nation. However, it rankles when intellectuals reduce themselves to the status of political players. This is where they lose sight of objectivity and start failing making coherent and satisfying arguments.

For example, appropriate criticism of the BJP’s moves since the days the Anna movement through the days of Parliament disruptions could have put it an unassailable position as a responsible political party right now. But intellectuals of all hues were eager to shun the role of the dispassionate observer to take a position, this way or that.

This is happening even now. Intellectuals have been busy trashing the Nehruvian version of secularism, but they have not come clear whether the Sangh Parivar’s version of secularism is acceptable to the country. Not many intellectuals have questioned whether Hindu majoritarianism is the way to go in a country like India or whether it is compatible with the idea of inclusive economic growth. Why is the neutral observer missing in action? How can everyone be participant and judge at the same time? This is a disturbing trend. Intellectuality is losing its ethical and moral compass.

If anybody has taken notice, rural India has vanished from the popular political discourse. It springs back into public consciousness only when there is a tragedy - the midday meal deaths is the latest example. This part of India is politically important too. Is it possible to make grandiose political analyses without taking it into consideration at all? It appears the reach of our intellect is getting limited to the reach of television cameras.

Television has managed to bring intellect to the level of the street. Watch those panel discussions - sorry, howling matches - where everyone is busy getting nasty and personal on prime time shows, you realise how. This medium has a vested interest in making personalities bigger than developments. It serves television well to reduce every political development to either the Congress-BJP or the Narendra Modi-Rahul Gandhi duality. But must our intellectuals walk into that trap too?

This trend among intellectuals has virtually killed the beautiful quantity called perspective. Without perspective we end up with distorted perception of events and issues around us.