Modi's Mirage: Propaganda and Lies, Nationalism and Manifestoes
Screenshot from Narendra Modi’s fitness challenge
by Medha Singh
With the most expensive elections in the world taking place as we speak, comes a raucous confusion around funds and bribes. Are they distinguishable at all? Our politicians give 10 crore away to each other (approximately 1.3 million US dollars) in wedding gifts for positions, and go on to make sentimental notes in their journals about it. They’re only a tad short of writing love letters to each other. Thankfully, neither of them is dyslexic. (Can’t look good in the matrimonials).
Speaking of love, the highlight of these last days was Mr. Modi’s “apolitical” interview with a smitten and thirsty Canada Kumar. whoops, I meant Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar. Needless to say, it was propaganda in sheep’s clothing. The internet had a field day with Ravish Kumar’s parody of the same. Talk about good PR. The other was Mr. Modi insulting one of the most beloved PMs of the country, martyred Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, claiming he died a corrupt man (which is completely unfounded) in a retort to his son, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition. Rahul Gandhi responded with grace, offering all his love and a huge hug.
The actual interview was mysteriously “apolitical”. Mysterious, because no one could figure out how it had “nothing to do with politics,” given this was conducted by a ridiculously popular celebrity, centered around the PM’s love for mangoes and sleeping little (because God, he’s such a workaholic) right in the middle of the elections.
As our farmers continue to commit suicide for lack of food and resources amidst India’s badly managed agrarian crisis, the PM loves to talk about his dietary preferences and choices in fashion.
Nothing to laugh at. However, what follows, entirely is.
Enumerated here, are a spate of the BJP’s major campaign promises from their 2014 manifesto and how almost all of them – without exception – were failures of some sort or the other. This is important, because the interview was a brazen attempt at distracting Indian people from the key issues that face us at present: economy, foreign policy, and national security.
Click on anything at all in this list to see why this man has never given a press conference. Hint: he’s a grand, old failure. Shall I go alphabetically? Think not.
Make in India
Smart Cities (Almost designed to keep you in the dark. Here, another important source.)
Start Up India (And let’s not forget the Angel Tax)
Skill in India
Offshore Deposits of Black Money
Backtracking on the promise of a INR 15 Lakh Direct Bank Transfer to every poor citizen.
2 Crore Jobs
Kashi to Kyoto
Crop Scheme Insurance/Fasal Bima Yojana (aggravated the agrarian crisis, in fact)
Public Sector Undertakings/Assets
Inflation and Price Rise
Corruption (The Indian National Congress recently congratulated Mr. Modi on the event of his government completing 100 scams)
Devaluing the Judiciary
Attack on all of India’s democratic institutions (CBI, RBI, ECI, CVC, RTI, CAG)
Now, let’s look at the other not-so-clever wangles of the BJP’s propaganda.
The Election Commission (EC) has been issuing notice after notice to party hopefuls. Mainly, it’s the (surprise!) BJP candidates under fire over hate speech, threatening polling officers, attempting to take credit for the work of security personnel in their campaign videos, trying to politicise the armed forces, releasing a (mostly false and rubbish) biopic on their party leader, and slapping BJP slogans on innocent teacups in the Indian railways. The thing that the EC should have issued a notice for, is the pernicious NaMo phone app which, essentially, pulls any and everything off of your phone, is a major privacy breach, but little is said about it. It’s blatant government surveillance. The other thing that is beyond ugly, is the circulation of Modi masks and merchandise. Look, at this creep fest.
As we start taking Yoga and health tips from a Hindu nationalist with a massacre on his hands, on a television channel (named after him) that runs without a license, we ought to congratulate ourselves.
It’s a true feat to enter into such collective lunacy. Well done, India. One doubts if Mussolini had the same persuasion in his oratory to provoke his supporters into seeking health and beauty advice from him (despite his twinkling pate) in the same way.
Amusing, how it requires the will of both parties – the liar and the one being lied to – for this enigmatic machinery called belief to work. Hope is one thing, and clarity another. I’m all for patriotism and salute the Armed Forces for the work they do, but please don’t go asking India’s people to channel their personal frustrations into hate towards random Pakistanis and Indian muslims, just because our governments can’t get over a sword waving contest (I can’t say d*ck, so I guess I won’t).
I’ll tell you why: megalomania is an epizootic high, especially in a country like India, glutted with its own brand of machoism; an ancient and benevolent masculinity quickly turning violent, as it’s grasping at the threads of an old world, threatened in the face of an India unapologetically pressing on towards progress, en route to the emancipation of its oppressed. This masculinity has lost its sense of role in the Indian setup, and has turned to a politics that condones terrorism, transforms Hindutva-hypernationalist violence into mainstream political thinking, and slides into Kakistocracy full force. In polite society, we call this phenomena an intemperate populace. Generally speaking, BDE of the worst kind.
But our women politicians are batshit patriarchal too. Margaret Thatcher’s living corpse, Theresa May, and Hillary Clinton look like they’re auditioning for an episode of Teletubbies next to our candidates. This rhetoric goes beyond flouting the dimensions of the Model Code of Conduct.
The Election Commission are essentially professional whiners with no real power, they make a big hoo-ha and can’t do anything other than issue notices for misbehaviour. Where’s the action? Can someone at least go to jail, instead of coming out of it?
On National Security and Nationalism
As Mr. Modi boasts about the surgical strikes done by his party, and continues to mock Congress for being silent about theirs in a bid to prove them a lie, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? The Pulwama attacks in Kashmir, that took place in February.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had recently remarked, “We have not had one major terrorist attack in this country after 2014. This government, under the leadership of PM Modi, has ensured one thing. That there shall not be an opportunity for terrorists to disturb the peace.”
Apart from being a laughable lie, it’s also a big one. There have been 388 “major” attacks since the NDA government has come to power, according to the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP). 389 now, given the recent attacks in Gadchiroli.
There has been enough insinuation by people on social media that Pulwama was a deliberate security lapse. 300 kilograms of RDx were carried across the border, and the bomb was assembled ten kilometres away from the site. 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers were killed by the Pakistani Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist outfit in Pulwama on February 14th, 2019. This begs the question, how is this breach even possible? Given that we have tight border security. You don’t expect any less from a nation with two conflict borders (Pakistan and China). In fact, I have a friend who’d once jokingly told me, that “Kashmir me bakri ko pichhe se khol ke saman ke liye check karte hain” or “we open up goats by their assholes to check for contraband in Kashmir.”
The nail in the coffin is this: soldiers had requested priorly, that they be given bulletproof buses or be airlifted since the area was not safe. They knew they were under threat. That is, the government had intel. The request wasn’t denied, but totally ignored.
These attacks happened around the anniversary of the Gujarat/Godhra riots of 2002, a Muslim massacre orchestrated under the leadership of our current PM. At the time, he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. So close to the elections, it certainly did not bode well for the BJP campaign. Especially after they acquitted murder accused Babu Bajrangi this year, who admitted to slashing open the womb of a pregnant woman during the riots. They even brought Malegaon Blasts accused terrorist Sadhvi Pragya Thakur out of jail on flimsy medical grounds, to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Bhopal.
People began questioning whether the Kashmir attacks were tantamount to a ploy to delay the elections, as the BJP had done in 1999 under former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during the Kargil war. The elections were held after it was over. Wars have a tendency to turn into electoral games for parties, here.
In the days following the terrorist attacks in February, what was frightening, was a threat of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan (this is always a threat, when one party i.e. Pakistan is militarily weaker than the other i.e. India, you always risk going into nuclear conflict). The nation’s streets and the alleyways of social media were astir with calls to war, writhing on their tongues. Kashmiris were continually assaulted all over the country, as were Muslims in general. Nationalism had, alas, gained full momentum yet again, which the BJP had hoped would lead them to a second victory. PM Modi did not hold back on the chance to jump on it, talking about the success of the Indian Railways during a condolence speech for the Pulwama martyrs (which he allegedly arrived hours late for) at the Vande Bharat Express launch.
India had wasted an expensive bomb in Balakot on random trees (there is no international mandate on any evidence that confirms that India had cleaned out a JeM site at the time, despite her claims that she got 80% of them). Both India and Pakistan had shot down their own planes and helicopters, and one of our pilots was with the Pakistani Army (but returned safely). It was Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s astute decision, albeit under international diplomatic pressure, to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, that finally quelled the noise. He came back smiling, home to his family. Being a gentleman, he credited the Pakistani army for treating him well. Recently, the Indian Army released a notice stating that most insurgents behind the Pulwama attacks had been eliminated. Game’s over. Everyone, go home.
The damage was done, however. Today, nationalism has evolved from a dated political stance to a collective lycanthropy. We all know what this means. The wolves are out. They’re frothing at the mouth.
On the Manifestoes of the BJP and INC
Right, so the INC woke up a week before elections to release their manifesto on April 2nd, and the BJP caught up a week after (You’re reasonable in willing to believe they’d smugly assumed there was no need for one after all the PR stunts). The two parties do share a cultivated arrogance. Just a garden variety personality deficit among those who seek power. Let’s excuse that for now.
It’s fairly easy to find point by point comparisons of their manifestoes. Not much can be said about the BJP manifesto this time, other than it has promised to deal with pollution and environment issues for a first. It seems approximately the same as the one they proposed in 2014. The Indian National Congress manifesto, however, seems uncharacteristically impressive. Among their key promises are Universal Basic Income/Minimum Basic Income (NYAY scheme), The Women’s Reservation Bill, Farm Loan Waivers (which they have been suspiciously silent on lately), and in a deft new manoeuvre, mental health and LGBTQ issues also figure in this list. They’ve been praised by on ground activists and even the left. Both manifestoes are quiet on one essential issue, though: water.
Let’s see how far this circus travels. Something about chickens and not counting and hatching. Can’t remember much, since I’m Hema Malini (Inside joke).
A lot has gone on in India’s recent politics leading up to the elections, reading up on it might be entirely mind numbing (and it’s no one’s fault), but there is nothing like a good explainer video.
Meanwhile, do keep a track of Mr. Pinocchio, here.
About the Author:
Medha Singh functions as India Editor for The Charles River Journal, Boston. She is also part of the editorial collective at Freigeist Verlag, Berlin. Her first book of poems, Ecdysis was published by Poetrywala, Mumbai in 2017. She took her M.A. in English literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and studied at SciencesPo, Paris through an exchange program, as part of her interdisciplinary master’s degree. She has written variously on poetry, feminism and rock music. Her poems have appeared widely, in national and international journals. Her second book is forthcoming. She lives inside the eternal eye of the New Delhi summer.