How will life be under Modi?

It is not certain if Mr. Modi’s grasp of physics comes across in the comic book, Bal Narendra. That his sense of physics informs his politics has been brought home to all pretty clearly by Mr. Modi himself in his referring to the Godhra aftermath as being brought on as “reaction” to the “action” at Godhra. The sentence joins in infamy the supposed quote of Rajiv Gandhi that “when a tree falls the earth shakes”. While it is plausible that Rajiv Gandhi never quite said what is attributed to him by motivated forces, Mr. Modi’s will not on that count remain alone. It has since been joined by his inimitable expression of his feelings on the death of a thousand Muslims on his watch in his home state as how one feels on the death of a puppy under the wheels of one’s speeding car.

This is the authentic Mr. Modi. Through election time in India that his phrasing has been considerably more circumspect owes less to his reforming himself, but due to the fact that those in his corner have tutored him against straying too far from what can be considered merely conservative views to the views he may otherwise be more comfortable with, those further to the right. Since Mr. Modi needs their ballast for now, he is playing along and, if media is to be believed and opinion polls given any credence, increasing his acceptability as a conservative champion in the mould of a Patel and a Vajpayee.  

The answer to the critical question “What will life be like under Modi?” is displacing the question “Who is the real Modi?” Prospects of gains to be made under Modi make the latter irrelevant. Middle classes that may have largely contributed to his ascent can look forward to gains in a corporate takeover of the land. Peopling the capitalist innards he promises to give full play to put them squarely among the pickings. Hindus of rightist persuasion will be looking for psychological dividends in the form of a break out from their self-inflicted minority complex. Those of the upper caste will have got their champion to lay the Mayawatis and Mulayams of the lower human clay to dust. While some hope for India’s own Thatcher-Reagan era, others are pining for a very own Indian ‘Dubya’ Bush. Those linked to the national security establishment can then expect their windfall years begun under Vajpayee to continue.

Since this is a relatively narrow band of voters in relation to the number and diversity of India’s electorate, Modi and his campaign managers have astutely taken care not to rely on these sections alone. They have let lose Amit Shah and the Sangh into the dust belt with a more potent opiate of the masses: religion with a dash of nationalism. Thus both Indias, that of the multiplex going classes and mufussil cinema going masses, are being worked on to place Modi in 7, Race Course Road.

The resulting marriage has potential to come apart. Sanghis on the campaign trail will want their piece of the governance action. Some among them have been swadeshi (anti-globalisation). These two areas will breed discord with the upper crust buoy of Modi. This section wants second generation economic reforms. It would not like being embarrassed by reactionary demands of the parivar on Modi’s government.

It is at this juncture that the question of “Who is Modi really?” will kick in. If he is as worldly as his selection of kurtas (tunics) suggests, then he would allow regressive forces that claim propriety over him only as much leeway as to keep them distracted and contained. If it is the other way round, and Modi is being used by these forces to gain the support of the upper crust to take control of the state, then the reverse is liable to happen with the befooled upper classes being shown their place.

In either case, there is trouble ahead. In case Modi is hijacked by the conservative classes, then the diversion of the masses can only feed an inward frenzy against minorities in their midst. The backlash in the form of a leftist counter to his economic policies, that promise a freewheeling playfield for the business class, will expand instability from its current confines in the forests of central India into towns and cities. In case he turns out a creature of the Sangh, then he would use his new found state authority to keep the surprised murmurings of the educated middle and upper classes backing him now in check, in a manner he has already mastered over three tenures of rule in Gujarat. In both cases, the national security argument will be to fore.  

Though the real Modi will surface after the elections whitewash rubs off, it would be too late to find out who he is. The answer is wrapped up in the riddle of where he was when he abandoned his marriage, leaving reportedly for wandering across the land: in the Himalayas, if you please. It remains to be seen if these early impressions then have been watered down by his later day association with the likes of Adani.

Here the surmise is that Modi by his lights will begin well enough: keeping the economy in his sights; talking to Pakistan and China; following up with his feelers in Kashmir to the likes of Geelani; getting a computer to complement the Quran among Muslim youth; gaining a vice-like grip over national security agencies; making both his horses, the BJP and the Sangh, fall in line; and cornering the Gandhis, with Mr. Vadra providing a ready opening. It’s by middle of his first innings that the predicted cracks will begin to show and it is into his second term that India will begin falling apart.

How so? The hijack by the business classes will be resented by the right wing, who will take it out on the minorities. Modi’s economic measures will generate have-nots, forming a constituency for left-wing extremists. The haves will cover behind a garrison state. Modi for his part will emerge in his true colours, mostly saffron and mostly acquired in his wanderings, to use the right against the left at the expense of his current-day advantaged followers.

Late Khushwant Singh’s wisdom in entitling a book The End of India, will reinforce his posthumous reputation.  It is then the likes of Chetan Bhagat will regret their inability to look beyond showing the dynasty the door to the great demoralisation a-coming.

The writer blogs at

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2014 on page no. 1

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at

blog comments powered by Disqus