The world is a cruel and hard place, we all know that. (Or most of us figure that out sooner rather than later.) But who would have thought that cyberspace would mimic the real world quite so perfectly? Virtual reality has a wonderful, whimsical sound to it, a concept that can potentially take away the horrors of reality and tailor it to your own hopes and wishes.
Hah fat chance, as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, beloved of so many who patrol the internet for harsh references to their chosen demi-god, discovered recently. There was everyone, thrilled that Modi was on the Asia edition of TIME magazine, with a two-page spread which speculated on whether he could be the next prime minister of India. Then TIME asked people to vote for the 100 most powerful people in the world.
And — this is a classic Ripley moment — the man who has apparently skilfully managed his image-building through the internet finds that not only has he lost the vote but he has polled practically the highest number of negative votes, somewhere close to the butcher of Syria.
O dearie me. All those wicked pseudo-secularists must have used the internet to win this round. Pseudo-secularists, sorry sickularists, as everyone knows, are not to be trusted. They carry around dangerous subversive ideas like no persecution of religious minorities, assistance for the economically, socially and physically disadvantaged and underprivileged and the separation of church and state.
These concepts, if they are allowed to be put into practice, can attack the very core of human civilisation. They take away the rights of the majority to torture whoever they please and even worse, can lead to more freedom for larger numbers of people. Invariably, women and creatures similar to them also tend to get a voice. This is anathema to any reasonable concept of a reasonable world.
O dearie me, have I gone too far? Have I directed unfair and unacceptable criticism at the friends of Narendra Modi and the rightwing? They must surely be hurt at the loss of the TIME poll. All their careful strategising junked by a bunch of activists — pseudo-sickos the lot of them. The extent of the pain can be calculated by the deafening silence from the Modi fan club. As they lick their wounds, new schemes will surely emerge.
Sadly for them, much as they tom-tom the Hindu cause, the basic tenets of Hindu philosophy seem to elude them. Or they would move on with an Arun Govil smile (for those born after 1990, he played Ram in a TV version of the Ramayana and was thereby doomed to fail in every other acting venture. The smile was particularly sickening in its fake sweetness). And thus smiling, run to the Himalayas to contemplate their navels. This is complete wishful thinking on my part.
Meanwhile, a court has convicted 23 people in a 2002 Gujarat riots case where women and children were burnt to death near Anand. The BJP has quickly claimed a sort of moral victory here, as this guilty verdict apparently proves that the BJP is more serious about justice than the evil Congress in the 1984 riots. The BJP however fails to mention that the only reason this case got anywhere is because of the Special Investigation Team monitored by the Supreme Court. Dear old Narendra and the BJP had nothing to do with this move towards justice.
Right now, the future looks a bit bleak for a Narendra Modi supporter. This betrayal by the internet means is a serious setback. Journalists are notoriously fickle and TIME may not offer a similar chance again quite so soon. Ranting and raving at pseudo-sickcos and discussing their parents’ sexual habits (a popular form of rightwing wit) will probably not help.
Any ideas for what these poor dears can try next? File a petition in the Supreme Court to ensure that Modi takes responsibility for what happened in Gujarat in 2002? Oops, sorry, I didn’t really mean that, did I?
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona