3 years of Narendra Modi govt: Can you separate the man from the din? No, both feed off each other
Three years on, how has Narendra Modi changed India? Switch off the television news channels, log out of social media, stay away from the websites you surf, pause and look around.
Three years on, how has Narendra Modi changed India? Switch off the television news channels, log out of social media, stay away from the websites you surf, pause and look around. Almost everything would appear unchanged, in a state of continuum, barring, of course, the political landscape. But let's stop being judgmental. If we thought he had a magic wand and could change everything in a jiffy we were being foolish.
But after three years, it's hard not to feel something different in the air. No, it's not about the optimism he has supposedly spread around; it's not about the supposed new confidence he has bestowed the country with and it's not even about his achievements, which forever will remain open to conflicting interpretations. The best way to understand it is perhaps to make sense of the din around him that sustains as well as magnifies his persona.
Separate the din from the man and he would appear as odd as the singer in the music video with the audio in mute. He would perhaps not be half the leader that he is. Now, switch on the television, tune in to all media and soak in the noise from the alleys and bylanes. You cannot even imagine the Modi phenomenon without all this. The fact is both have become inseparable. It never happened with any leader in recent times. That is the big change in three years under Modi.
Again, let's not bring judgement in. It's the new reality, no matter how unpleasant it might be for some. Modi heads a popular and populist government but more than that he has come to represent an India that for long existed as an embarrassment and a guilt, treated as dirty clothes that must be concealed when there are visitors in the house. More tolerated than accepted, it was forced into a sub-surface existence. It simmered and boiled in anguish and rage, impatient to claim its legitimate space on the surface and teach the tormentors a lesson, till it found a figure strong enough to rally around.
The old establishment or the old order had finally met its match with Modi in the lead and there was no stopping the subterranean forces now. Loosely termed 'Right', the forces represent no unitary worldview, no common vision and no common agenda. Left alone, they could be in conflict with each other. The only unifying agent for all of them is Narendra Modi. Even now, it's difficult to associate Modi directly with the hate rhetoric they indulge in, the promise of violence they carry and the vileness they display at times. At the top he has been careful to maintain a distance from them, but on the ground Modi and the forces mix to make a potent combination.
The forces are fighting many battles at the same time. The enemies are Muslims, Leftists, seculars, liberals, intellectuals, beef-eaters, authors, rationalists and in general, people with the other view. These are people who represented the old, oppressive order and exemplified all its vices. Three years on, there's no sign that the battles would end soon. It reflects in the massive electoral mandate for the party Modi leads from the front. And such success, in turn, validates the cause of those left in the doghouse for decades.
The din around is the result of the many battles the 'Right' is engaged in. All enemy posts have to be taken, even the suspected enemy posts have to be razed. The anger driving those has not run its full course yet; till it subsides there will be noise. This is the new normal. Hate it as much as you can, it is not going away in a hurry. And Modi will be at the centre of it, even if he does not like it. He has to be the driver of the din and its core moral force even without being part of it.
He has not changed India much but India has changed with him around. It's a symbiotic existence, each drawing strength from the other in their own ways. A new equilibrium is taking shape through a rebellion that is wildly expansive in its scope and possibility. Whether it is good or bad is a matter of personal judgment. The change is heavy in the air; we cannot refuse to acknowledge it.
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