The world has lost one of its greatest novelists, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, last week. The Nobel laureate is best known for his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude. The Nobel Prize awarding Swedish Academy has described him as one of those who will continue to cast a shadow long after his death. Even this genius of magical realism in literature, whom the BBC describes as “creating a unique blend of the marvellous and the mundane in a way that made the extraordinary seem routine”, would have been left gaping in amazement at the degree of surrealism that pervades the current Indian election campaign. Ironic, indeed that such is our homage to this great master.
The disconnect between the media highlighted agenda of these elections and the pressing issues that overwhelmingly concern the voters is near complete. The people are yearning for relief from the growing economic burdens that are crippling the quality of their lives. Untiring efforts seek to distract people’s attention into a spiral of sensationalism, say, like around the prime minister’s former media advisor’s account of his years in office. Or, for that matter, note the effort to persuade us that the BJP is underplaying its hardcore Hindutva agenda. This, notwithstanding the anti-minority ‘hate speeches’ delivered by its leaders. The core of this agenda is spelt out clearly in the BJP manifesto. A degree of solace is sought to be drawn by ‘experts’ pointing out that this agenda finds mention only on page 41 of a 42-page manifesto. We, therefore, are urged to ‘accept’ that the BJP, despite functioning as the political arm of the RSS, has put this hardcore Hindutva agenda on the ‘back-burner’.
They are perfecting a Machiavellian dictum, advising the Prince on ways to consolidate his rule. This says: First show the people the worst that your rule is capable of. Then proceed not to do that. The people, then, will heave a sigh of relief singing praises of the benevolence of your rule. Indeed, reliving Machiavelli.
Even after the PMO rubbished its former spin doctor’s so-called account of his years in office as a work of fiction, sections of the media continue to highlight this as a major issue in the current election campaign. Recollect that during UPA 1, this very PM was hailed as the ‘magician’ who put India on an 8 per cent-plus growth trajectory and was rubbing shoulders with the world’s influential and mighty at the G20 ‘high table’ putting India on the global map of ‘emerging economies’. He was also credited with having jettisoned the need for the outside support of the Left parties and, thus, liberated his government, and thereby India, from being the Left’s ‘bonded labour’. This same PM is today rubbished by the cheerleaders of his in the past. He is today charged with presiding over the ‘paralysis’ that is supposedly ruining our country.
Undoubtedly, the serious acts of omission and commission executed by the UPA 2 government, resulting in mega corruption scams, on the one hand, and backbreaking economic burdens for the vast mass of our people, on the other, invariably merit that this combination of policies must be rejected in these elections lock, stock and barrel. But, then, the alternative that is being projected as the ‘messiah’ does not have a different set of policies to offer. Both on the score of economic policies and corruption, as is well-established by now, there is little difference between the Congress and the BJP.
Ignoring this reality, powerful vested interests have chosen to project this ‘chosen one’ on the back of an unprecedentedly expensive media campaign. Here lies the hidden agenda shielded from public scrutiny. The so-called ‘Gujarat model’, which we examined in the last column, is, indeed, the recipe for extending all over India the policy of unprecedented concessions to big business at the expense of the welfare of the people. Venerable PM Manmohan Singh may well be qualified to do this. But he is, we are told, crippled by a rival power centre that ‘spoils the game’ by brazenly promoting ‘populist’ welfare measures. How can the government dare to ‘waste’ thousands of crores of rupees by providing a food security Act or the right to education or the guarantee of rural employment? It matters little that such promises and measures are too halting and inadequate. The PMO’s reforms of economic liberalism, spearheaded by the Planning Commission, we are told, is being tempered and tampered with by the UPA chairperson-headed National Advisory Council. It is abominable that the PMO is being remote controlled. Ignoring the RSS’ ‘remote control’, we are told, that the BJP’s PM aspirant has no strings attached and is not bound by any family ties (never mind the confession of a four-decade old marriage), preventing the unfolding of unbridled reforms, and, hence, crony capitalism.
The PM’s former spin doctor’s narrative is, thus, central to establish that to eliminate such a remote control, India has to be ‘delivered’ by this ‘messiah’. Elsewhere, spin doctors have written their accounts. Alistair Campbell has published his diaries: The Blair Years however with a caveat admitting to excising from publication, with the clearance of his former master, “anything that might either advance the cause of the rival Conservative party or damage the standing of the new (Labour) Prime Minister (The Guardian, Book Reviews, July 14, 2007). Such ethics are, of course, of no concern to us in India.
As a tailpiece, recollect that this former spin doctor, well before the 2004 elections, held forth on “Atal Bihari Nehru”. Recently, he has written ‘The world of Narendra Abe’ (alluding to the Japanese premier, Shinzo Abe). All of us know the 2004 results. In 2014, any guesses?
(Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal)