Leh Times 09 to 15 april 2014
Is Narendra Modi genuinely BJP? SHIV VISVANATHAN As politics, as style, as message, Narendra Modi presents an ersatz version of the BJP. There is little that is civilisational about him. Worse still, he creates an artificial Swadeshi, without any sense of Swaraj A civilisation is greater than the sum of its individual values and an election is bigger, more poignant than the sum of its candidates. As one watches the drama of the current election, one realises that each candidate represents a Weltanschauung, a world view. Mr. Rahul Gandhi represents the Congress in decline, Mr. Kejriwal, a new politics of possibility dignified as the AAP, and Mr. Narendra Modi plays the BJP. Watching reflectively,onerealisesthatwhileheisaneffective candidate, he is a poor representation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). I do not see this either as a naive or a Machiavellian statement. Anyone interested in politics should confront this possibility. Tectonic shifts within the BJP Letusbeginbygoingdownmemorylane,watching a Vajpayee as Prime Minister. He is at ease with himself. There is a style, an affability, a grace about him. He recites poetry with a flair. He doesnotneedaPrasoonJoshioraPiyushPandey to do it. He can think civilisationally with ease. Then, consider his organisational double, Mr. Lal Krishna Advani. He is a Vajpayee in corsets, stiffer, more ascetic, and intensely serious about life.Forhim,theBJPisavocation.HeisaRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) exemplar. Vajpayee who is more accessible, represents a less procrusteanviewoftheBJP.Mr.Vajpayeemakes theBJPamoreinvitingandinclusiveproposition. Whether it is Mr. Vajpayee or Mr. Advani, one senses an authenticity to them. They smell, evoke the BJP. The very differences in styles seem to add the realism of difference. Oddly, when I watch Mr. Modi, I miss this authenticity of text and context. Is Mr. Modi, an authentic BJP text as message and performance, and does the BJP as a party, as a community, see him as that? The answer is worryingly ambiguous. If one wants to be generous one can say that he represents not the exemplary values or the leadership qualities of the BJP, but a lowest common denominator of the BJP. TheBJPisaframeworkofvalues,anorganisational system,astyleofpolitics,andawayofconstructing social reality. As a parliamentary party, the BJP is seen as being more open-ended than the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or the RSS, and less coercive than the Bajrang Dal. When push
comes to shove, the BJP, as a parliamentary, political fragment, seeks wider adjustment, compromise, unlike cadres or pressure groups which might be more ideological. The BJP has to be more discursive as a party, be more conversational politically and sound less like a catechism.Mr.VajpayeeandMr.Advanicaptured such a politics with grace and style. Mr. Narendra Modi sees the party as a necessary evil. No leader seems more hostile to his party than Mr. Modi. Thepartyseemsuneasyandevenwarywithhim. Recent events indicate that the unease is a deep fault line. Consider the fate of some of the classic leaders of the BJP, Mr. Jaswant Singh, Mr. Advani or Mr. Joshi. These leaders were almost exemplars of the style of the party. Yet, they also evoked a style of cosmopolitanism. They were literally the voice and the message of the party. Yet, the party dismisses them today, treating them as beingirrelevant,likeculturalstrainstoberejected. When Mr. Jaswant Singh cried, or when Mr. Advani or Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni talk of
A cautious beginning The Reserve Bank of India’s in-principle approval to two applicants, IDFC Limited and Bandhan Financial Services Ltd., to set up banks comes four years after the then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, in a budget speech mooted the idea of licensing a few private banks. By its own admission, the RBI’s approach to this round of bank licences has been conservative, a trait that is wholly appropriate in the present context. That the process has taken a long time before the first licences were approved merely underlines the complexities involved. A High Level Advisory Committee headed by former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan recommended these two applicants out of a list of 25 applications. All of them were earlier scrutinised by the RBI to ensure their eligibility under the guidelines issued in February 2013. It is noteworthy that none of the big corporate names that figured in the list made the grade. The RBI has neatly sidestepped what has been the most controversial aspect of the new licensing norms — permitting corporates to start banks. The Reserve Bank received a number of negative responses to this proposal from both the public at large and experts. Indeed, the RBI itself was opposed to it in the beginning, and it was the pressure from the Finance Ministry, among others, that made the central bank relent. For the two successful applicants — both of them leading non-banking finance companies — getting the in-principle approval is only the first step. They have 18 months to comply with the requirements under the guidelines and fulfil other conditions that may be imposed. They will face daunting challenges to scale up to being universal banks and compete with existing institutions. Their existing strengths — infrastructure finance for IDFC, and microfinance for Bandhan — will no doubt help but, as the top officers of the two institutions admitted, there is a great deal of work to be done soon. Expectations from them are immense. The government’s rationale for new bank licences has been to extend the geographical coverage of organised finance and to promote financial literacy and inclusion. Sceptics of the new policy who wonder what the new banks will do that the existing players under all categories cannot do, need to be answered effectively by creating a viable, tech-savvy model that is also customer-friendly.
widerworlds,theyarereadasnoise.Yet,suddenly, thiswidercosmopolitanismseemsunnecessary. The BJP as a mentality shrinks to a parochialism to guarantee electoral victory. The BJP seems to be back in some strange uniform. But it is not just strains in the party I am talking about. A party in crisis Aspolitics,asstyle,asmessage,Mr.Modipresents an ersatz version of the BJP. There is little that is civilisational about him. Worse still, he creates an artificial Swadeshi, without any sense of Swaraj. Mr. Modi’s Swadeshi does not empower locality, it creates a politics of anxiety around security.HeevokesparanoiainsultingMrsSonia Gandhi as foreign and Italian which neither Mr. Advani nor Mr. Vajpayee would do. He is leader of a nukkad not of a nation. He behaves like a Bajrang Dal bully rather than a BJP leader ready foradjustments,coalitionsorevenacompromise necessaryforanIndianideaofunity.Theparadox ofMr.ModiisthathemightcriticisetheCongress modelofFederalismbutaddslittletothealchemy of unity and inclusiveness. Mr. Modi represents
a reductionist, single strand of leadership which is un-Indian. A Vajpayee can reach out to the Opposition and talk easily to it. Mr. Modi suffers from an arid sibling rivalry which destroys a syncretic style of leadership. Mr. Modi can be diktat but never a conversation. There is a deeper inadequacy to his politics. As a country, we need leaders who can win more than the next election. Our Prime Minister is not a winnable horse, which corporate or media punters can be happy about. A leadership has to think fifty, hundred, at least five hundred years into the future. Mr. Modi offers little sense of the future, whether it is of craft, knowledge, agriculture or biotechnology. He has not a single significant line on an India of the future. Sadly, Mr. Modi might play a second rate mimic of Vivekananda and talk of the Parliament of religionsatChicago.But,Mr.Modikeepsthinking that his Parliament of Religions is Davos and a subsidiary at that. He might look China in the eye but has no alternative vision to China. The least a Veer Savarkar, a Har Dayal, a Lajpat Rai
or a Vivekananda would have done is to provide an alternative to the Chinese idea of autocratic growth.Yet,Mr.Modibecomesthroughbehaviour and style, as a second rate mimicry of China. Worse still, Mr. Modi seems to caricature the BJP. As the BJP declines as a party, as the older generation of visionaries disappears, a party in crisisproducesacaricatureofitselfcalledNarendra Modi. Any writer who has a commitment to Parliament andpartypoliticsmustrecognisetheimportance of parties like the CPI(M), the BJP or even the Congress. We would have to invent them if they did not exist. Each represents a critical part of the history and imagination of Indian Politics. I want to emphasise this because my opposition to Mr. Modi was initially triggered by his authoritarianism and his responsibility for the riots and their cruel aftermath. Electoral politics and sanitised law cannot exonerate him. But by watching him grow in popularity, and listening to his message, I want to argue that Mr. Modi is dangerous to the BJP and its value frames. His narrowness hypothecates the BJP, politics and Indian society to a jingoism of nation-state and development. There is a cultural backstage to Indian politics where small groups with a mix of ethical and religious perspectives seek to argue and discuss the future of Indian politics. One strain or strand of these groups includes people who would embody a sense of cultural politics. Some, in fact, many of them would be BJP influentials. I wonder how many of them would pick Mr. Modi as an exemplar. I was imagining whether a historian like Dharampal, a shrewd student of politics, would pick a Modi or see him as a straw man, an ersatz model of the BJP at a time where its political poverty cannot produce more than a mediocre leadership. Mr. Modi seems a solution of an RSS desperate for power rather than a BJP rethinking the possibilities of politics. Nagpur has fettered India for decades to come. Let us not confuse contempt for the Congress as approval for the BJP. Mr. Modi’s Neanderthal model of development in the age of sustainable and human development shows that Mr. Modi is an anachronism, dusted up and presented as technocratic model of development. It will not take long to prove that the Gujarat model of development and the Gujarat model of violence are part of one picture. I wish I was a politically curious fly on the wall listening to BJP leaders and workers thinking out private doubts about the public face of Mr. Modi. A psychoanalysis of the party reveals that there are deep fault lines in the party about Mr. Modi.
The wrongs of writing in Tejpal case
While the law sets the boundaries, journalists and editors must reflect whether their practice enhances or reduces the possibility of justice for all sides Fundamental questions relating to law, ethics
and journalistic propriety have been raised by two recent pieces in Outlook magazine and The Citizen, an online newspaper, in the
rape case involving Tarun Tejpal, former Tehelka editor and author. It has led to umbrage on the part of several womenjournalists,lawyersandhumanrights activists,withsomewritingtomediawatchdogs in the country seeking redress for what they believeisanorchestratedcampaignindefence of Mr. Tejpal. The rape case, in which a young woman colleague at Tehelka alleged that Mr. Tejpal sexually assaulted herontwooccasionsinside a lift in Goa in November 2013, is one of the most discussed matters of its kind in recent memory. If the Tejpal case was becoming one of applications and hearings, the articles based on the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, which was specifically requested for by the defence, has suddenly thrown the spotlight back on the case. Recent articles The Outlook piece by well-known author and till-recently editor of Open magazine, Manu Joseph, carries a cover picture of Mr. Tejpal with a strapline saying: “What the CCTV cameras saw when the Tehelka editor walked inandoutoftheelevatorwithaYoungWoman inaGoaresortlastNovember.Andthequestion marks that hang over what really happened inside the lift on those two nights.” In the story, Mr. Joseph also refers to Mr. Tejpal’s text message to the complainant — “the fingertips” — as the “most destructive message an Indian public figure had sent out in recent times.” “The message,” Mr. Joseph argued, “was either sent by a foolish rapist who, after his crime, was implicating himself through an SMS to a competent journalist whose area of special interest was the interactionbetween society, law and rape. Or it was sent by a drunken man who thought he was flirting.” Emotionsransohighthatafterthepublication of the piece in The Citizen, Seema Mustafa, editor-in-chiefoftheonlinenewspaper,claimed
their website was hacked after they published the article. “The Citizen site as many of you know was ‘raided’ after the Tarun Tejpal story and made to crash…We wish to assert that we stand by our right as a media outlet committed to the truth to write without fear or favour,” Ms. Mustafa said on social media. “We decry efforts from different quarters to intimidate us. We support the victim’s right to seek justice just as we support Mr. Tejpal’s right to seek bail.” Equally,ifnotmoreumbraged,wastheNetwork of Women in Media, India (NWMI), a group comprisingmanyrespectedwomenjournalists, that took the two publications to task for their reports. Pointing out that there was a trial court order that made it illegal to “show, see and write about” the CCTV footage, the NWMI argued that this was but one piece of evidence in the case. “Bypresentingpoorqualityvisuals as clinching evidence of innocence or guilt, credibility or implausibility — of the accused or the accuser — the articles fall short of journalistic standards and ethics. Any pre-trial article that does not analyse all the evidence related to the case is clearly prejudicial and unfair,” the NWMI said. Outlook editor Krishna Prasad, when approached by this writer for a comment, said via a text message that Mr. Joseph’s piece was a “balanced and nuanced journalistic exercise into a sensitive story and represents all points of view, including that of the prosecution.” To protect the identity of rape survivors, a provision — 228A of the Indian Penal Code — makes it clear that “any matter” printed or published without the permission of a court that leads to the identification of a rape victim could lead to a fine or jail of up to two years or both. Colliding with the law
There are and will be cases where journalistic exercise doesn’t quite fit into the four corners of the law and the spirit of public interest could be invoked to justify and argue such cases. Journalists have and will argue that their craft and the story might, on occasion, collide with the law, but when applied to the proceedings in the rape case involving Mr. Tejpal such a justification may not quite apply. Considerable effort has gone into the mission to protect the identity of an individual complainant in cases of rape and sexual assault in the country. There is little doubt that the legal boundaries in this domain for journalists — in print, television and digital — are well-defined and need to be respected.In a highly charged and polarised debate, anyone who says that Mr. Tejpal should be given bail, for instance, could be viciously attacked on social media given that his many political enemies come from the far right of the Indian political spectrum. Many who hate Mr. Tejpal for his politics are happy that he’s inside jail in the rape case. However, it must be said that the battle for his innocence or guilt, at the end of the day, will be decided in a court of law. At the same time, those of us who live in the real world are more than aware that what appears on television, in newspapers and the web does influence individuals involved in the legal process as well. Lawyers and judges, too, happen to consume the news in their capacityascitizens.Giventhedisproportionate attention some cases receive (the Arushi Talwar murder case being another one), we probably haven’t heard the last in the rape charge involving Mr. Tejpal.While the law sets the boundaries, journalists and editors must reflect whether their practice enhances or reduces the possibility of justice for all sides in such high-profile cases.