Would like to share these lines reflecting Loksatta New Political Culture from Nissim Mannathukkaren’s article “THE REPUBLIC WITHOUT A LANGUAGE” published in The Hindu on May 20,2015 …“Narendra Modi came to power on May 26, 2014. Since then, these questions have been asked incessantly: can Mr. Modi change India? Can he do what Manmohan Singh could not? Can Mr. Modi take India to superpower status? But the critical point is this: these questions are completely contradictory to the ethos of a democracy. It is the inability to rise above them that is the greatest crisis in Indian politics: the lag between the formal shell of democracy and its practice, the republic and its language. That is why we already see ennui setting in about the Modi regime — things being the same, and fading hopes of a new India. But how can a nation of India’s size transform itself when people are completely divorced from the transformation? Increasingly, individual leaders are seen as agents of change. If Dr. Singh’s office was rendered weak being subject to extra-constitutional authority, Mr. Modi’s has concentrated power in itself. Ironically, the weakest and the strongest Prime Minister have both struck at the edifice of democracy and produced a policy paralysis. The strengthening of the executive wing of the state is not the only problem; unprecedented attacks are being launched on the judiciary, too. Despite these top-down moves, what is dangerous to the language of democracy is the servility of the people themselves. A pliant media refuses to question the government. If before only Dr. Singh was silent, today the whole government is silent. It arrogantly believes that a republic can be built by the monologue of “Mann Ki Baat”. The fawning NRI audiences of Mr. Modi reinforce this, and reduce politics to superficialities. Of course, all mass and popular politics is superficial to an extent, especially in a media-saturated culture, but superficialities cannot devour all substance. Witness the speech by Mr. Modi in Toronto, which was, like his other speeches abroad, ridden with theatrical hyperbole. Complex problems like India’s waste, which have dimensions of caste, class, technology, etc., were reduced to caricature. Unsurprisingly, the examples he gives to show a tectonic shift in cleanliness is Sachin Tendulkar cleaning up a street in Mumbai or two young women cleaning the ghats of Varanasi. That the Prime Minister can pitch his speeches at this level — seemingly addressing children — is incredulous in the Information Age. But they are met with rapturous ovation. It is a reflection of the consistent infantilisation of citizens in these democracies.The fundamental problem is the lack of a critical mass of people’s organisations challenging the status quo and deepening the language of democracy around substantial issues of food, education, health and ecology. India’s great agrarian devastation is more than two decades old but, astonishingly, the 60 per cent of the population engaged in agriculture has not been able to generate an independent democratic movement that could bring the nation to a standstill. The degeneration of political parties has led to the language of superhero as saviour. As writer and revolutionary Frantz Fanon recognised, empowering the masses means decentralising power: “The flow of ideas from the upper echelons to the rank and file and vice versa must be an unwavering principle.” The attitude of the citizens in a democracy to their rulers should be that of Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, to Alexander the Great. “Yes. Stand out of my sunlight”! The destiny of 1.3 billion people cannot be left to a single individual. Vibrant people’s struggles for democracy do exist, but are fragmented, and on the margins. They have to coalesce into new and robust social and political formations that are interested in building democratic language and institutions. Only then can we stop asking if the prime minister will change the nation’s future.
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