By Baalu Kharel
Freelance jourlist and short-story writer
On Lighter Vein
The tion’s chief political executive, rendra Modi, is a corporate leader of sorts in the political universe. When he speaks, not just does the tion sit up and take notice, the world does it too. And that speaks for itself. Well, they say he thinks ‘differently’. But what ‘differently’? And why?
Perhaps demonetization is a case in point, even though his critics yell out: “No, he’s anti-poor, he’s pro-Ambani ilk; he’s against farmers, he’s for the richer sections; he has nothing to do with the businessman in the form of a grocery shop owner, but he has everything to do with businessmen of the likes of Tatas and Birlas and Mahindras and Jindals. No, he isn’t different. He merely pretends to be different as he talks high and mighty at rallies and meetings. His only expertise is in building up impressions. He creates a myth, and people believe he has worked out a marvel of reality. Perhaps this is his so-called difference.”
So that’s how the sceptic thinks – perhaps he too is thinking ‘differently’! But demonetization was a total shift in the fincial discourse of the country, with many comparing it with the fincial thought innovation that Indira Gandhi had worked on when she went on the rampage of banks tiolization in 1969. Recall, didn’t at that point of time many thought Mrs Gandhi had borrowed too much from the cosmos of socialism whose epicentre was the USSR, now defunct, thanks to perestroika – restructuring of the economic and political system of that huge country by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s? Didn’t many think she was absolutely anti-private players? Well, her supporters – a huge crowd of her sycophants in the then Congress – called her ‘different’ too. A ‘very different’ leader, they glorified her thus. ‘A bold visiory’, they sang in chorus. But her detractors? Well, they called her foolhardy! They said she was out to arrest the scent rise of private players – corporates who would have otherwise revolutionized a young independent tion. But anyway, she was ‘different’ for a whole multitude of Indians, people who were mostly poor and saw private players as a cruelly exploitative class out to suck the blood of every downtrodden soul. She was a living goddess in the political sky of a newly born tion.
And then came the Bangladesh War of 1971. The War of Liberation of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan writhing in agonies of the worst kind as the predomintly Urdu-speaking West Pakistan, now Pakistan, unleashed a reign of terror – including rapes of countless women – on the Bengali-speaking East Pakistan. Millions were fleeing East Pakistan, their destition being India, mainly Assam. And when the Mukti Bahini sprang up with full vim and vigour to resist the brutal West Pakistani onslaught, it had to be supported so that the exodus of people in millions to India, creating a huge refugee problem here, could be checked. Indira Gandhi came to the scene. She ordered the Indian Army, then led by the legendary Sam Manekshaw, to ‘bleed the marauding West Pakistani military by a million cuts’ if one may say so. War followed with Pakistan. India emerged triumphant. Pakistan was sliced into two. The surrender of the Pakistani armed forces was mammoth – and today’s Pakistan of the mullah-military mix remembers that wound with a sense of bloody revenge. But who really won in the eyes of the triumphant and joyous Indians of that time? Why, it was the Durga – as they called her – in Indira Gandhi of course. Well, she was so, so different a leader, chorused a whole gamut of Indians as if in an uproar that would echo a million years.
Thinking with a difference, acting with a difference, you know! I mean that’s how people perceived her. My father would recall her ‘difference’ to me years later when Rajiv Gandhi, her son, was sworn in as Prime Minister after her assassition in 1984. I was in Class IV then. I don’t remember Indira Gandhi that much, except for her charismatic looks in photographs. And we didn’t have a TV set then to watch her live. Doordarshan happened to us a year later, and by then Rajiv Gandhi was in full swing, especially when he roped in innovation czar Sam Pitroda to revolutionize the telecom sector. This duo looked awesome; both of them were good-looking too, especially Rajiv when politicians were thought of as typical khadi-clad, simple-living-high-thinking types inspired by the Mahatma. Well, Rajiv was ‘different’ – young, handsome, English-speaking, with an Italian wife, promising, pregnt with new and bold ideas. ‘Difference’, that is. And Pitroda? Well, he was a thought machine. Hence the ‘difference’.
But then we had to wait until rasimha Rao entered the theatre as Prime Minister, backed by the Oxford-returned economist Fince Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. They set the economic stage on fire with their bold ideas of liberalization. The industry was unshackled. Private players came in. Aviation was a huge event, as fliers heaved a sigh of relief when they had options other than the Indian Airlines. Well, that was some real change. ‘Difference’, as they saw it.
And now we have Mo – as he is referred to, thanks to the jourlistic language innovation of the media – setting every stage, perhaps, on fire, especially in the wake of the demonetization bomb he dropped in November 2016, taking the country by absolute surprise, forcing us all to think he is indeed ‘different’.
Well, as a jourlist with education as focus apart from the usual noise of politics, I believe he might emerge different indeed – at least from the youth angle and the perspective of a knowledge society in the making – if he allows a student pursuing Physics honours, say, to take Psychology too as a subsidiary subject! Interdiscipliry study, that is. Something possible in the best universities in the West. Difference! All for the sake of the Indian youth who wants to evolve differently.
Mr Mo, just the much-needed difference factor we are in dire need of. A task well cut out, isn’t it?