Season of ghar wapsi: Intellectuals go back 'home' after brief Modi infatuation
As ghar wapsi rhetoric gathers steam, the PM’s silence gets louder. And the public pundits, many of whom sick and tired of the UPA sarkar, had thrown their weight behind Modi are having second thoughts. In a season of ghar wapsi, some are going back “home” after a brief Modi infatuation.
Volumes have always been read into the silences of Narendra Modi. When he was still Candidate Modi, Ashutosh Varshney had seen evidence of Modi the Moderate based mostly on what he was NOT saying. “Quite remarkably, Hindu nationalism has been absent from his speeches,” Varshney had written. Surely, this was then modi-fied Modi outfitted with “Vajpayee-like ideological moderation and political pragmatism.”
Now the same public intellectuals are being forced to read volumes into the same silences of Prime Minister Modi. Modi is still not talking about Hindutva and Ram temples. But everyone around him from Mohan Bhagwat to his frenemy Praveen Togadia are getting more and more bellicose. As ghar wapsi rhetoric gathers steam, the PM’s silence gets louder. And the public pundits, many of whom sick and tired of the UPA sarkar, had thrown their weight behind Modi are having second thoughts. In a season of ghar wapsi, some are going back “home” after a brief Modi infatuation.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Mehta seems to have given up on Modi. He writes that while the PM “still strikes enchantingly nice notes” the government is floundering. Even worse to him it’s like a “Bollywood film – a big lead, some sets, some good lines, a few meaningless fight scenes, but fundamentally, no script. We cannot break into a song just yet.” And he is not buying the argument that the Hindutva firebrands are just fringe elements. It “simply does not wash. The number of inflammatory statements by a range of MPs is increasing.”
Status: Despairing. Classic buyer’s remorse.
Tavleen Singh: Singh had written an entire book shredding the Gandhi durbar and is obviously no fan of Sonia Gandhi. But her disillusionment with Modi has been sharp and quick. She complains that in the past six months, he has “allowed Hindutva types to speak louder than him and he has allowed his comrades in the RSS to wander about spreading religious tensions.” And she sees no hope for the PM’s agenda of reform when the likes of Mohan Bhagwat defend Ghar wapsi by saying “It is our maal, so we have the right to take it back.” “Why is the Prime Minister allowing the RSS to steal his mandate? I ask this question wherever I go these days and frankly I have no answer?” laments Singh. (Note to Singh: Read Varshney’s latest column. It might have an answer)
Status: Anguished. But clutching at straws as she tweets “The PM’s warning to his MPs on development and governance being his only agenda is very, very welcome.”
Gurcharan Das: Das is all about the economy and ghar wapsi is getting in the way. Das just seems annoyed that for all his success in Parliament, “for a brief moment, ‘strong’ Modi resembled ‘weak’ Manmohan Singh.” Das just sees the entire affair as a management problem as opposed to an ideological one. Of course, “Modi is acutely aware that his mandate is jobs and growth and he must curb the unruly elements of the Sangh Parivar.” But what to do? He needs those footsoldiers for future elections. To Das the choice is clear. Modi needs to “assuage the anxieties of the cultural extremists while pursuing his jobs agenda with ekagrata.” And if he could marginalise the RSS in Gujarat, surely he can do it nationally. Like a good former CEO, Das has the solution – “Modi must ‘sell’ his reforms – especially to the ‘cultural right’ of the party” talking not about Adam Smith’s market but the great marketplace of Hampi.
Status: Worried but still strongly hopeful that Modi will prove to be all the Modi he hoped for.
Swapan Dasgupta: Dasgupta is of course the BJP’s own public intellectual and was one of the most robust champions of Modi in his quest for power. So he cannot afford to step on Modi’s toes. That means we have to read something into the silence of Swapan Dasgupta about the silence of Narendra Modi. Dasgupta writes that Modi needs to keep “hotheads in check” and “shift the political centre of gravity in the BJP towards development and governance.” But from what? Dasgupta manages to write all this without ever uttering the Hindutva word which sits like the elephant in the room. He just talks about the conversion and Christmas furore as “media activism” playing up the antics of a “loose cannons” which view Modi as “an instrument of convenience” and are “anxious to take advantage of a friendly Centre to press ahead with its pet schemes.” But he is silent on whether that “fringe” actually dominates the BJP’s “centre of gravity”. And if not, then where’s the need to shift it?
Status: Glimmers of nervousness. But Modi-ji tum aagey badho, hum tumharey saath hain.
Ashutosh Varshney: Oddly Varshney who once saw Modi the Moderate in his silences, now doubles back and basically sees a dyed in the wool RSS man in the same silence. He points out that culture, not economics drives Hindu nationalism. It chafes against the “1200 years of servitude” and thinks that now that “Hindu raj” has come it is entitled to “use the cover of state protection for conversion.” “It should now be clear why Modi has not yet taken a public stand against conversions,” writes Varshney. “He has grown up with the RSS ideology, which views shuddhi as its core.” But then Varshney does a somersault and poses the same question back to his readers as if he had himself not already answered it. “A critical question, therefore, is: at what point would he draw red lines for the RSS?”
Status: Very cautious U-turn. Not eating his words but chewing on them.
Madhu Kishwar: And finally of course Madhu Kishwar, the original Modi fangirl, the woman behind that 13-part gushing home video. She’s now convinced someone has done “black magic” on her sarkar. But Kishwar’s “shock” seems to be largely about Smriti Irani. She worries that “Delhi has disoriented him” but for now she’s just sticking to her “tweets of anguish” because if she actually went to him and he said “Madhuji chodo na” it would have been very difficult to say no.
Status: Oh, Modiji how could you betray me so? But still yours truly.
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