Why the idea of Modi wins

Secular politics India has become an astonishing combination of imbecility, indecision and indolence. With Modi now becoming a preeminent figure in national politics, the risks of running with the Congress's construal of what constitutes secular politics are even higher. How ironic it is that that arch polariser of Indian politics, Modi, who should be saying that poverty has no religion. And how tragic that the Congress has not learnt the lessons of eighties and cannot rise above a politics of caste and religion that gives aid and succour to the politics of resentment that Modi thrives on. It was famously said of Napoleon that he could represent himself as France, because France consisted of little Napoleons. If Modi has gained some acceptance, it may not be because each citizen in Gujarat is a little Modi, but it is because we do have something of a little Modi in us. When Modi says, jo thare dil me che, woi mahre dil me che, he is tugging at something.

The worrying trend for our democracy is that Modi is yet another symptom of our yearning for a politics that is anti-political. It is not an accident that our strongest leaders at the state level are either those who have completely merged the party into their personalities, or completely sidelined their parties. Most of these leaders cannot sustain their hold for too long; they come to be tainted with the same veniality that made their parties lose credibility. So instead of trusting the messy processes of institutions like parties representing us, we yearn for greater personification; some figure that can stand above veniality. Again, it used to be said of Napoleon that the one thing he was incapable of was pettiness, especially in his crimes. A successful politician has to claim to stand for something big and larger than himself (and sometimes these ideas are dangerous) whether it be the Idea of India, Dalit Emancipation, of Gujarati or Dravidian Pride. It is again not an accident that the Congress and the BJP have no idea they personify, just an endless series of petty compromises and inept second guessings.

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