Young political activists must read #Modi Again… an Ex-Communist’s Manifesto

By Surajit DasguptaFirst Published 11, May 2019, 5:15 PM IST
Highlights

The thorough research of Aabhas Maldahiyar in #Modi Again: Why Modi is Right for India, an Ex-Communist’s Manifesto is a lesson for those who were told it was callous to be disinterested in Indian democracy and, so, they jumped on the political bandwagon about a decade ago, unprepared

When the BJP came to power for the first time as the leading partner of a coalition in the late 1990s — Jana Sangh was not the leading party in the 1977 Janata coalition — the new government realised a void in the intellectual space that helps in building an atmosphere of trust for the dispensation. For decades since the formation of the RSS in 1925, a contempt for “Macaulay’s children” had kept away a small but influential section of commentators: Users of the English language. On the other side of the political divide, there was cutthroat competition between ‘sarkari’ intellectuals, those who are accepted by the establishment as the men and women of letters. The vocation was difficult to survive in, thanks not only to competition but also to palace intrigues. This scenario pushed several former leftists to the right fold (“left” and “right” will be used in this review in the broad sense rather than in the sense of the sitting arrangement in French Parliament after the Revolution).

Aabhas Maldahiyar, the author of #Modi Again: Why Modi is Right for India, an Ex-Communist’s Manifesto, has a similar but not the same story to tell. For, there is another leftist kind that moved to the right in the 1990s: those who felt the sheer vacuity in the fold and left, frustrated. Maldahiyar’s journey was relatively short, though. He is not an old man. He grew up, like many of us in media houses, on cosmopolitan values. The overview of economics that is introduced to children in schools along with history and civics made him believe socialism (which he interchangeably calls “communism” in the book) was the right policy for the state to pursue. His family, society, city and the larger circles told him all religions were the same and equal in the eyes of the law. He believed — and still does — in a citizen’s freedom of expression. The West looked to him not just glamorous but also an ideal lesser Indians must match up to. He subscribed to the narrative of caste oppression in Hindu society as famously narrated by the venerable Bhimrao Ambedkar. He was told the RSS was a front for ‘Hindu terrorists’, and he almost agreed.

And that is where he came from to the India against Corruption movement that had Anna Hazare as the mascot in 2011. Well, an irony of India’s oldest political party must be stated here. While the Congress, via Jawaharlal Nehru (trained by a communist Briton) since 1947 and then through Indira Gandhi since 1969 (when the ‘Goongi Gudiya’ virtually handed over the reins of India’s education system to Nurul Hasan), had nurtured leftists in their backyard, the pupils turned around to question the plethora of financial scandals the party was allegedly involved in, beginning with the jeep scandal and not ending even with the Commonwealth Games extravaganza, the 2G spectrum scam or the coal block allocation fraud. Broadly speaking, the only advantage the Congress got from communists-socialists was in the creation of a notion that the right wing is intellectually challenged, which kept the supporters of the BJP out of any serious national discourse.

If this myth could not be busted during the rule of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the promoters of this myth unravelled under Narendra Damodardas Modi. So desperate they became on his ascension to the post of the top executive of the country that they adopted all the uncouth, ruffian, bumpkin-like traits that they would, for seven decades, claim were characteristics of the right wing. They took sides with those who wished India disintegrated. They used filthy language to make their point. Unlike intellectuals, every one of whom is expected to have an independent thought process, they behaved like a gang.

Amidst all this, Arvind Kejriwal, riding high on the success of the media-celebrated IaC movement, had exhausted the option of exploiting the anger against the Congress/UPA rule. After the first year of exercising restraint and not criticising Modi, lest the support the RSS had extended to the IaC drifted away, Kejriwal now needed the support from the slums and unauthorised colonies of Delhi, without which winning an election in the city-state was unthinkable. He then started speaking the language of the Congress. The shriller he got, the greater turned his claim to the Congress vote-bank, finally resulting in a wipe-out of the oldest party in the 2015 Delhi Assembly election.

But then, this cost the Aam Aadmi Party the support of the starry-eyed volunteers and moral supporters like Maldahiyar. All the good work the NGO brigade, comprising eminently Kejriwal’s Parivartan and PCRF and Manish Sisodia’s Kabir that were funded by Ford Foundation, failed to impress the new-age activists who had joined the new kid on the block for the additional reason that they believed he loved the country and was serving the nation’s cause.

After a full chapter dedicated to Kejriwal’s ‘service’ in Modi Again…, Maldahiyar serves a jerk with a sudden switch to historical studies. Two more chapters, and the reader would realise why this detour was needed. The clique that infected what should have been a politically neutral academic exercise of knowing the past of our civilisation had contaminated the anti-corruption movement too. Maldahiyar, dealing with the international scene where communism collapses, addresses the ‘Aman ki Asha’ cabal that sheds copious tears for the ‘humanity’ of Pakistan. With the Ayodhya dispute of Ram Janmabhoomi-versus-Babri masjid in the backdrop, the author exposes the domestic racket of a global leftist network that seeks to wreck India from within. He realises what game was at play to demonise Modi.

And then the author turns around. Beginning with Modi’s foreign policy, Maldahiyar recounts the success stories of the current government. But the issue of external affairs is where he displays his penchant for due diligence. One gets glimpses of C Raja Mohan in the way Maldahiyar describes Modi’s tightrope walk and success in establishing India as a power that must have its say on all important world platforms. The part on China is exemplary, a must-read for the students of international relations.

Hereafter, Maldahiyar is a Modi fan. In the chapter on economics, he does not look at the NDA government’s policy through the lenses of typically right-wing Milton Friedman or Ludwig von Mises. He appreciates the government intervention in the market like a follower of John Maynard Keynes. While we, the bourgeois, may say we don’t see Swachh Bharat succeeding around us, the author sees it amid the have-nots — just as he did while dealing with Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and DBT.

#Modi Again: Why Modi is Right for India, an Ex-Communist’s Manifesto needs a second edition (not a mere reprint). The abruptness of some chapters in the middle of the book must be smoothened. The publisher would agree, provided the current one does well. And it should. The understanding of contemporary politics is the hallmark of this book. It is a lesson for those who were told it was callous to be disinterested in Indian democracy and, so, they jumped on the political bandwagon about a decade ago, unprepared.

Last Updated 11, May 2019, 6:43 PM IST