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Sunday Sentiments

  • The polls are a verdict against people like me

    Posted On June 2, 2019

    By Karan Thapar

    He took a couple of days to ring but when he did Pertie sounded concerned. “What do you make of this election result?” There was something in his voice that suggested he had already worked out the answer. Nonetheless I still chose to reply.

    “What’s absolutely clear is that this is a personal endorsement of Narendra Modi. The Indian people have consciously voted to give him another term as Prime Minister. That’s a reflection of the incredible trust and faith they have in one man. Congress may deny it but if they do they would be wrong.”

    Pertie, however, didn’t seem impressed. “Yes, that’s obvious but what more does this result tells us?” He seemed to be challenging my thinking. I felt like a student at school. I was being told to think more deeply.

    “Well” I began, “it seems that right across northern and western India and large swathes of the east, the result reflects an acceptance of the hindutva belief that India is essentially a hindu country and that’s a distinct move away from the concept at the heart of Nehruvian secularism that this is a land of multiple religions, castes, ethnicities, cultures and languages. However, south of the Vindhyas we seem to have a different story.”

    This time I could tell I had engaged Pertie. He didn’t disagree. Instead, he used my answer as an opening to reveal another dimension of the electoral verdict. This was clearly the reason why he had rung.

    “Have you considered that beyond all of this – and I don’t disagree with any of it – is something much more profound and personal. It’s also very disturbing. This result is a verdict against people like you and me, in fact our whole class. It’s a verdict against people who, because of their birth and lineage, education or erudition, family contacts and influence, have come to believe they own this country and can run it as they want. Few of us were aware that India was seething with resentment. Modi recognized it and tapped into it. Today it’s given him a two-thirds majority in Parliament.”

    I listened to Pertie in silence as both the truth and horror of what he was saying sank in. Till then I hadn’t thought of the election result in these personal terms. But now his conclusion seemed irresistible.

    So, is this is the new India Narendra Modi spoke about? A new voice, a new attitude and a new definition of Indian-ness has been articulated and Narendra Modi is not just its expression but, possibly, its personification. Meanwhile, people like Pertie and I, indeed a whole class like us, find ourselves in a forgotten or even left-behind minority. I was so struck by this thought, in fact so shaken by it, that I didn’t realize Pertie had started speaking.

    “Let me put words in Narendra Modi’s mouth although I don’t think I’m doing so inaccurately. He might say the reason why people like Karan and Pertie are so upset is because a new India has arisen and they’re not part of it. Instead, they’ve ended up on the wrong side of history.”

    Now I don’t know if Pertie is correct but it’s possible he could be. Certainly his view seems convincing and hard to refute. I haven’t as yet thought of a counter. I’m still imprisoned by the thought Narendra Modi has made people like me irrelevant. And, remember, when I say me I mean many of you as well.

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