Hope and expectation, according to some schools of Hindu philosophy, are fraught with danger and disappointment. And so an air of plaintiveness has entered the voices of those who had voted with such enthusiasm for Narendra Modi as prime minister and his promise of better days. Many of those voters have been clear from the outset that we should differentiate between Modi and the political organisation he belongs to — the Bharatiya Janata Party. They voted for one and not necessarily the other.
An electorate, sick of the seeming paralysis of the former government, the historical baggage of the Congress and the family pack of Nehru-Gandhi playing cards, had apparently picked the vibrant and new option. Varying figures 60 to 68 years of Congress rule was enough. It was time for change and Modi represented change.
Man of his word? There are many things you cannot talk about at all. Like the black money from Swiss Bank accounts that has not come back to India within the deadline set by the BJP itself. Or the fact that none of the big promises made before the elections are ever mentioned any more. Pic/PTI
Heartening as this thought process is, it is ignorant and incomplete. Modi is not an unknown entity and has not been since 2002. Even if he was known for all the wrong reasons according to his admirers, he was hardly a shy, retiring recluse. He won the Gujarat assembly elections three consecutive times, he was talked about as being business-friendly and he himself talked incessantly about his own achievements and how great he was.
In the days when he was not the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi was discussed as much for his role during the riots that shook his state in 2002, as he was about his claims that Gujarat was the best state in India and he was the guardian of the pride of all Gujaratis. However, since Modi was picked to run the BJP’s election campaign at the Centre, most accusations about his complicity in the 2002 riots were conveniently muted and now all that is hardly mentioned at all.
Instead, Modi is still being feted and any questions, such as there are any, are asked sotto voce. From Modi’s strong “I have a 56-inch chest” Hindutva image, the prime minister is all about security for women and toilets for all. No one must ask whether there are toilets for all in Gujarat in the 14 years he spent there as chief minister. Or, you can ask, but no one will answer. Because the same person who quite rightly castigated the former prime minister Manmohan Singh for not speaking enough has now decided the virtues of silence except when abroad or at the ramparts of Red Fort.
This leaves the field open for the BJP, its allies and the RSS to do whatever they want to take the Hindutva agenda further. So you have comments about India being a “Hindu” nation, you have an incredible theory being put forward in Uttar Pradesh about a deep-seated Muslim conspiracy to make Hindu women fall in love with Muslim men and thus add to the Muslim population. You have the usual regressive remarks about women. And you have Dinanath Batra’s ‘historical’ books about the miracles of ancient India like stem cell research and nuclear physics.
In between, there are many things you cannot talk about at all. Like the black money from Swiss Bank accounts that has not come back to India within the deadline set by the BJP itself. Or the fact that none of the big promises made before the elections are ever mentioned any more. Or the prices of vegetables which are still going up. Or the new schemes that have been announced which just sound like old schemes with new names. And you absolutely cannot mention the bypoll results in various states where the BJP made no gains in spite of its remarkable run at the Lok Sabha polls in May.
If you do ask, you will hear a plaintive whine about not being so mean, so cynical, about giving Modi and his government time and so on. This ‘time’ however is not available for any other government. Those who are ignorant of the dangers of high expectations are now dangling on the verge of disappointment by stopping everyone around them from bursting their bubble.
When it happens — and happen it will — I recommend a little course in higher thinking and lower expectations. Like a really good Hindu.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona