THE WARS AHEAD
When the electoral battle ends, other wars will begin. No matter which side wins, certain fundamentals of politics are up for discussion as never before.
The war on culture Dinanath Batra and his army of ideological warriors have already been emboldened to take aim at everything that questions history as they know it. And they know it in a limited way. They have taken down Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus because her imaginative interpretation of Hinduism doesn’t coincide with their understanding of it as a religion rather than as a way of life. They are drafting a petition to attack Aleph on the publication of Doniger’s other book, On Hinduism. Batra, whose petition led to Penguin pulping the work rather than risking damage, is an old friend of Murli Manohar Joshi who, in his six-year reign as human resource development minister, did his best to correct what he thought was the Left-leaning slant in the teaching and practice of history in India. Of course, the liberals do themselves no favours by linking wrongdoing to the “inherent fascism of the right wing”.
The war on oligarchy Till the Aam Aadmi Party ( AAP) was a movement, politicians were easy targets. Now that they are politicians themselves, albeit with a penchant for sleeping on streets and going on vigilante raids, it’s time to aim at the oligarchs. Nobody likes a rich man, especially one who lives in a very tall flat which towers over Mumbai’s skyline. Linking his riches to undue favours from the government is a smart move. It also manages to unite BJP and Congress in the eyes of the voters. By questioning the silence of BJP and Congress on corporate links, Arvind Kejriwal is able to suggest that his is a different kind of politics. He is the David to corporate Goliaths, and anyone who believes that Goliath will win may please read Malcolm Gladwell on why giants are engineered to fail. Kejriwal’s trophy-scalping instinct is very much on display even in AAP’s first list of Lok Sabha candidates. Choose the dragons, and if you can’t slay them, at least wound them
THE BIGGEST ARGUMENT AGAINST THE UPA GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN THE LACK OF LEADERSHIP IN UPA 2. THE RISE OF BOTH NARENDRA MODI AND ARVIND KEJRIWAL HAS SHOWN THAT INDIANS, ALARMINGLY PERHAPS, WANT A STRONG LEADER. THEY HAVE NO PATIENCE NOW FOR SHILLYSHALLYING AND DILLY-DALLYING.
enough to make them lose balance.
The war on big government There is a certain sense of gallows glee among UPA ministers about their legacy. They believe that whichever government comes to power will find it impossible to dismantle the subsidy regime they have left behind. But as Arun Jaitley said at a book release the other day, should a BJP- led government come to power, it would ensure there is asset creation in NREGA, for instance. Narendra Modi has already spoken of tailoring big government schemes to specific communities. Newer methods will evolve.
The war on privacy As Indians leave a larger digital footprint, it will be easier to assess who said what, to whom, and when. It will enable the public to hold politicians accountable. Politicians like Kejriwal and Sushma Swaraj often take on critics on Twitter, Jaitley addresses a virtual press conference a day on his blog, and reading meaning into L.K. Advani’s blog has become a parttime spectator sport in Delhi. It will make private lives more open to scrutiny as we recently saw in the tragic death of Sunanda Pushkar. It will also emerge as a forum for instant feedback. Modi didn’t need to call a press conference to respond to P. Chidambaram’s jibe in the Vote on Account speech. He just went on Twitter instead to issue a crack on hardworking and hardly working.
The war on weak leadership Rahul Gandhi believes India is not waiting for a man on a white horse to deliver it from its morass. But as his own example has shown, he has been at his best— and inspired his party most—when he has acted decisively, as on the ordinance. The biggest argument against the UPA Government has been the lack of leadership in UPA 2 and the kindest thing being said about Manmohan Singh now is that he ought to have resigned at the end of his first term. The rise of both Modi and Kejriwal has shown that Indians, alarmingly perhaps, want a strong leader. They have no patience now for shilly-shallying and dilly-dallying. That’s bad news for those who prefer puppet masters to being masters of the universe.