Let me start with this piece with how the piece will end – Is the nature of our current discourse leading to the creation of Narendra Modi as a dictator?
Now, at the onset, let me clear the air. No, I do not believe that Mr. Modi is a dictator. Neither am I of the “camp” that hates Modi. On the contrary, my scale tilts in favor of the man when squarely evaluated through the lens of democracy – we have elected representatives, who needs to work tirelessly for the development of the country and its people, which Mr Modi is largely attempting to do, atleast at an individual level. That does not say I agree with everything that comes from him or his government or party and that’s how I believe it should be.
That said, this piece is not about dissecting Narendra Modi. It’s about “nature of our discourse leading to the creation of a dictator”, Mr Modi being the beneficiary in a sense. And we seem to be going about it without recognizing the potential outcome and of course doing so in a way which is absolutely democratic. This piece is about “us” and “our” reference points in political discourse today.
To contextualize this, let’s go back to history. The German Workers Party (DAP) was not started by Hitler but “over-reliance” on him (oratory skills apart from other traits that can be avoided here), allowed him to negotiate and become the party’s chief. And the rest as they say is history. In short, the danger signs appear when an individual starts becoming larger than the institution and the institution (with other stakeholders), directly or indirectly fuel the development. Closer home, and not in the very distant past, a certain part of Indira Gandhi’s tenure reflected the same.
Now, in a blooming democracy like India’s, the possibility of someone usurping power and becoming a dictator is somewhat remote (whether it is a banana republic is a topic of another discussion). In democracies, its citizens are the main stakeholders; they are the source of power for a leader. So then, is it possible that “too much” power can be accorded to someone to tip him or her from being a leader to a dictator?
That reminds me of one gentleman named Arvind Kejriwal. He was the flavor of the season and what a flavor it was. Cited as being different, the so-called intellectuals and even professions quit their jobs to shape a new India with him. Our discourses were largely about the man and then the change HE promised to herald. It was faith (blind) for the individual, not as much the institution and our discourse on the man were fueling the flame. The danger signs posts were cropping up. Soon enough, we started seeing another face of Arvind Kejriwal, this one reflecting a style more dictatorial. But we kept the blinkers on (some still have it on). But now the discourse is changing. Yes, there still exists the breed termed as “AAPtards” potentially implying blind faithful’s. But the power source is diminishing, hence a good chance there is a reversal on the continuum for the man.
That brings us back to where we started. Is the nature of our discourse leading to the creation of Narendra Modi as a dictator? Let us look at the danger signs. Earlier we had BJP sympathizer (and/or RSS supporters). Today we have seen the emergence of the “Bhakts” who will not tolerate any criticism of their (supreme) leader. And the kind of support you see them have for Mr. Modi does not follow through if another member of BJP, even a minister is criticized. Ironically, the opposition (the opposition parties as well as the public that supports these parties) are actually supporting the cause. Consider recent events, whether it was the church attacks, beef controversy or whatever else comes to memory; it was Mr Modi, who was largely called out to explain. Politics of personal slander aside, why isn’t there a similar reaction towards other personnel of the government or ruling party by the opposition. Surely, Mr Modi, the individual is not above the institution ie the BJP, or is he? What this potentially does is only add to the troops of Bhakts getting them to harden their support of their (supreme) leader. More power source for Mr. Modi. And that, my friends, are warning signs. It didn’t take very long for our friend and charismatic leader Mr Putin to get to that place, starting as has Mr Modi.