Strat­egy In Si­lence

Naren­dra Modi’s si­lence is his choice while Man­mo­han Singh be­ing mute was his com­pul­sion

The Day After - - CONTENT - By Asit MAnohAr

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has main­tained stoic si­lence over the most press­ing is­sues that have been de­bated in the last few weeks and this has re­mained his style for most part of his ten­ure. Most po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts and me­dia dis­cus­sions have re­peat­edly made ap­peals and read this as Modi los­ing con­trol of his govern­ment and things get­ting out of con­trol. Yet, Modi con­tin­ues to be silent, from Rafale deal, to #MeToo to the re­cent cri­sis in the CBI. We are inch­ing closer to the elec­tion sea­son but Naren­dra Modi is in no hurry to change his style of work­ing. Why is it so? Is there any pos­si­bil­ity whereby he seems to make a read­ing of how his si­lence will work not against him but in his fa­vor?

A pos­si­ble con­trar­ian ex­pla­na­tion of this si­lence could be found in some­what a new kind of cor­po­ra­ti­za­tion of gover­nance un­der Modi. Pre­sent­ing (read el­e­vat­ing) him­self as an elite brand that is not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. Fur­ther, he re­mains some­what mys­ti­cal, so do his ca­pa­bil­i­ties that keep his elec­torate guess­ing rather than ar­rive at any clear de­ci­sion. Most of the de­ci­sions of Modi dur­ing his cur­rent ten­ure have been geared to­wards ei­ther im­me­di­ate elec­toral gain in the var­i­ous elec­tions his party faced or as a prepa­ra­tion for a sec­ond term. This strat­egy of si­lence is in prepa­ra­tion for his next term. Par­tially it is an at­tempt to draw div­i­dends from grow­ing cyn­i­cism of the elec­torate, more the pes­simism and graver the sense of de­spon­dency, more the pos­si­bil­ity of peo­ple look­ing to­wards him to re­solve the cri­sis, by­pass­ing so­cial di­vides and in­sti­tu­tional niceties.

There has been a sys­tem­atic at­tempt to push all in­sti­tu­tions to the verge of cri­sis, start­ing with the ju­di­ciary, in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion and var­i­ous in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies, to lend­ing tacit con­sent to street vi­o­lence. If one ob­serves closely most ap­point­ments made to higher po­si­tions have been of those who are ei­ther medi­ocre or un­der scan­ner for one crime or the other. Apart from th­ese in­di­vid­u­als re­main­ing vul­ner­a­ble, it cre­ates a pal­pa­ble cri­sis in in­sti­tu­tional func­tion­ing. The per­va­sive sense of chaos, cri­sis and gloom that gripped us as a col­lec­tive in the last few years, along­side grow­ing nar­ra­tives of

im­pend­ing dan­gers and fear of ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal en­e­mies, makes the de­pen­dence on a de­ci­sive leader all the more graver.

The op­po­si­tion with di­vided lead­er­ship and un­sure agenda looks weaker and in­ca­pable. So­cial cri­sis marked by grow­ing street vi­o­lence to in­sti­tu­tional cri­sis marked by what is de­picted as in­fight­ing in the ju­di­ciary and now the CBI makes Modi’s pos­tur­ing all that more cred­i­ble. Si­lence is a modal­ity of main­tain­ing his moral su­pe­ri­or­ity, when he is above th­ese bick­er­ing and busy in na­tion build­ing the rest are sink­ing into the quick­sand of moral degra­da­tion, cor­rup­tion, in­fight­ing and sense­less street vi­o­lence. The po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts seem to have missed a point or two in see­ing in the emer­gent sit­u­a­tion a pos­si­bil­ity of it work­ing ex­clu­sively against the elec­toral prospects of Naren­dra Modi and his party. More the chaos, more have been the ap­peals in me­dia for Modi to res­cue us from this grow­ing cri­sis, but Modi has main­tained epic si­lence that has mytho­log­i­cal ren­der­ings tied to it.

The other end of the spec­trum of this not so-co­in­ci­den­tal rise of generic chaos is the nar­ra­tive of hope. Si­lence of Modi also aug­ments hope of he do­ing some­thing dra­matic to set things right. De­mon­e­ti­za­tion was only the first step he took to demon­strate as a test case of his abil­ity to take such de­ci­sions and there­fore the things to come. His un­tir­ing trips abroad, more than any other Prime Min­is­ter in the past, add to the mys­ti­cism of hope. The re­sults of th­ese trips will be there to see in times to come, in terms of global in­vest­ments, In­dia’ role in global pol­i­tics and the en­hanced im­age of In­dia in the world. In more con­crete terms, this mys­ti­cism of hope is tied to the nar­ra­tive of ‘New In­dia’ and ‘Vi­sion 2022’. The ‘2022’ does not start with his pur­ported new term nor does it end with it. It is sought to be made to look real and tan­gi­ble and noth­ing to do with elec­toral cam­paign by pro­ject­ing a year that lies in be­tween. The foun­da­tion laid now will see re­sults in the next term. There­fore, Modi has left no stone un­turned in claim­ing he will wipe out poverty; pro­vide hous­ing for ev­ery­one, and more by 2022. The sanc­tity of that can be felt in claims of suc­cess­fully elec­tri­fy­ing all vil­lages, in­clud­ing the ‘last vil­lage’ (mean­ing dis­tant and re­mote) in Ma­nipur. Th­ese are only the ini­tial mo­ments of suc­cess, even as Modi’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­main shrouded in mys­tery.

Fur­ther, Modi has main­tained nearcom­plete dis­tance from the me­dia, in spite of grow­ing crit­i­cism of his lack of ac­count­abil­ity. But the un­der­ly­ing nar­ra­tive is that of Modi be­ing di­rectly ac­count­able to ‘the peo­ple’ in by­pass­ing the me­dia. Demo­cratic prin­ci­ples of ac­count­abil­ity and neu­tral­ity have sought to be turned on their head, when on both oc­ca­sions of the cri­sis in Ju­di­ciary and the CBI, BJP claimed non-in­ter­fer­ence in their non­re­spon­sive­ness. It is also a way of then build­ing a mass con­sent for Modi to more di­rectly in­ter­vene, since the prin­ci­ples of non-in­ter­fer­ence dis­al­low him to re­solve the cri­sis; a way of set­ting im­pa­tience for ac­tion and lay­ing the grounds for some­thing more event­ful and dra­matic, which could be any­thing from wag­ing a war to tak­ing stern ac­tion against ‘in­ter­nal en­e­mies’ for which the dice has been cast with the nar­ra­tive of ‘ur­ban Naxal’.

The dia­lec­tic be­tween de­spair and hope, cri­sis and res­o­lu­tion, chaos and or­der, in­sti­tu­tions and ‘di­rect ac­tion’, pa­tience and street vi­o­lence, suf­fo­ca­tion and re­lief is play­ing it­self out in In­dian democ­racy with si­lence as a me­di­at­ing modal­ity that sym­bol­izes con­straints on ac­tion. A si­lence that is invit­ing ‘the peo­ple’ to de­code in ways they deem fit in their own ways that is in turn played out as vi­o­lence with im­punity. What has been noted is the dif­fer­ence of this si­lence by choice from that of si­lence un­der com­pul­sion of for­mer prime min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh but what we can­not af­ford to miss is its dif­fer­ence with the way Gandhi cel­e­brated and at­tempted to in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize the prac­tice of si­lence as a way of build­ing in­ner re­sources build­ing one’s ‘soul force’ as a pre­con­di­tion to pur­sue com­mon good. The cur­rent si­lence has re­placed in­ner self with ex­ter­nal ag­gres­sion. Gandhi had warned us and as on many oc­ca­sions he proved to be ahead of his times and by the time we re­al­ize it we al­ways seem to be be­hind his times.

Four se­nior judges of the Supreme Court ad­dress­ing the me­dia on 12th Jan­uary, 2018

Se­cu­rity per­son­nel de­tain two of the four peo­ple who were seen out­side the res­i­dence of CBI direc­tor Alok Verma

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