When genuflecting intellectuals with cleverly concealed dynastic loyalties write with a clear political objective of denigrating a particular personality, they are explained away—by a section—as genuine scholars. While posing to be neutral assessors of Indian politics, these types have actually spent a lifetime earning laurels, positions and pelf for their articulate lampooning of a certain trend of thought and of action which differed from the monochromatic reading of India that their political masters sought to impose.
In short, in academics and intellectual assessments they exude the very type of bhakti that they keep warning against in politics. But camouflaged intellectual bhakti is more dangerous than an open display of adherence. For these types, those who write about Narendra Modi, or choose to explain and interpret his words and vision of governance, of India, of India first, of cleansing the system, are to be bracketed as “bhakts”, while they themselves are to be acknowledged as free-thinkers and genuine intellectuals.
A certain one among these—at times the most confused among the lot—has compared Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi, and sees an imaginary personality cult around Modi, which he argues, can “severely damage” Indian democracy. For those who have actually seen the period when Indira Gandhi assumed dictatorial powers, would surely laugh at such a facile comparison. Indira then and her family even now have always tried to talk their way out of any discussion on the Emergency. Till date, one has hardly ever heard them utter any significant recant on the black deeds of that period. For those who have not come up to the mantle of leadership from the grassroots, or not risen through incessant struggles and a mingling with ordinary party workers, episodes like the Emergency have scant import. Indira and her descendents or political heirs have always had it easy, hence the sacredness of India’s democratic spirit is a notion and not a pulsating reality that they can empathise and identify with.
Modi has, of course, come up literally from the railway platform and spent most of his peripatetic youthful years in interacting with the constituent roots of India. During Emergency, he was one of the activists of Jana Sangh and RSS who struggled to save democracy from Indira’s prisons. The securing of India’s democratic aspirations is thus deeply internalised in his world-view, this requires no reiteration. The Congress’ first family and its courtier intellectuals prefer to omit this cardinal aspect while trying to paint Modi as dictator. In Gujarat then and in Delhi now, Modi didn’t and doesn’t have the luxury of overturning mandates, subverting assemblies, surpassing the judiciary and toppling state governments like Nehru, Indira and her progenies.
The danger is not that Modi may turn into a dictator; the danger is that his detractors and political opponents will try to falsify and suppress the democratic mandate he has earned after a grind and will submerge it in the well of rhetoric and gas talks on peoples’ welfare. The recent habit of not allowing him to speak in Parliament, of subverting the tradition of parliamentary debate is an early manifestation of that attempt.
In fact these crypto totalitarians have always exuded contempt for any democratic mandate that has been won by leaders other than them. Since Modi won a legitimate democratic mandate—the largest in three decades—in course of an election that has exposed them, they choose to denigrate it and employ their bhakt-intellectuals to raise the bogey of fascism and of dictatorship. It is they who are the actual propagandists…by