Year 1: Still Waiting for Acche Din?

Illustration: Satwik Gade  

Society: A victory of propaganda

Narendra Modi’s favourite incarnation was the hologram. It added dimensions to his stature and hyphenated him between the real and the simulacra because Modi has to be seen as a projection of the social. He is a social construct and it is the social changes that he has triggered, influenced and created that one must capture.

As a pracharak, as CM and now as PM, Modi created a vision of the nation state, as the ultimate loyalty, and then sought to rectify its history, and deeply and fundamentally created a majoritarian state that for the first time felt home in history and modernity. Modi has consolidated a Hindu middle-class, which is proud of its moment in History. He created a Nehru Mukta Bharat, which literally delegitimised words like socialism and secularism. The BJP failed to remove it from the Constitution but it has demobilised these words.

The first year of the Modi regime is thus not an achievement in policy or economic performance but in institutionalising an image, a mirroring of it in the electoral world. It was a victory of propaganda where the middle class, desperate for growth, found an ecology to articulate its world view. It beliefs were no longer embarrassing. It could combine religion and technology, recover the past as nostalgia, reduce history to myth and claim it was being scientific. It was a particular idea of India — not a diverse India of ideas — that Modi and his BJP regime created.

Modi won a war of ideas and can now create a set of cultures and institutions around it. Legitimising this world and its weird combination of culture, nationalism, religion and technology was the diaspora. The diaspora validated Modi’s dream of a new middle-class India, which wanted to feel at home in India and secure and powerful in the world. In the first year, Modi created a social imaginary and marshalled the electoral, political focus that would help routinise this world.

It also helped remove claims of the informal economy, doubts and protests of marginal and minorities by building a new religion around growth and development. In fact civil society groups, which criticised the costs of development, were virtually condemned as seditious. Margin, civil society, radicalism, minority retreated before the new cult of the nation state committed to growth. Modi was the new prophet and the priest of this cult of development. In fact one could witness this evangelism on his return from Canada, when he called nuclear energy the second modernity.

It is at the level of ideas and their incorporation into culture that the regime is performing. At the level of bureaucracy, economy, or institution building, it has little to report. In fact the regime’s celebration of itself seems to alternate between electoral victory and investment promises.

All this is obvious and clear. What is difficult to sense is the silences, the doubts, the ambiguities created by the regime. One hears little of dissent today, despite the sheer cheekiness of the Naxal attempts to kidnap people attending his rally. The regime has created a society through brute consensus and acclamation. Most of the news is about the technocrats around him, labouring like worker bees to create his image of a new society of instant cities, cloned IITs, a privatised medicine and a devastated ecology. A majoritarian India will celebrate the percolation of its ideas. The question is: will history and future feel equally open ended five years from now? The moral luck of politics is all on his side now as he comes up victorious trumping all dissent and opposition.


The growth-at-all-cost mantra has left a vast majority of people impoverished. >Read more


The business community that voted for Modi seems to be underwhelmed. >Read more


The paralysis continues in the fields of primary, secondary and higher education. >Read more


Mere slogans do not impress the people. They want to see results. >Read more

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 6:38:13 AM |

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