Coronavirus: The Plot Twist Which Narendra Modi Never Anticipated
His plans to further tarnish the democratic fabric of India might still be intact, but coronavirus is acting as a minor shield. Months into the pandemic, did the microscopic organism really affect his divisive politics?
Back in 2014, when the BJP got into power with record-breaking numbers, a beginning of saffron-sympathised diaspora was immediately formed. The general discourse was already against Congress because of various reasons. This rejection for the then ruling party helped BJP to build an image of a hardline Hindu Nationalist party, helmed by a controversial politician who had played a contentious role in Gujarat riots against the Muslims in 2002. Narendra Modi, with his eccentric personality, has formed a following of millions who wholeheartedly worship him. Some have even forgotten his past. Moreover, they keep on forgetting his ministerial insufficiencies and incompetence. Even if we exclude his economic failures (Infamous demonetisation, GST, Petrol prices, Decline in GDP etc.), the rise in socio-political issues in the country have only gone high. In his term as the Prime Minister; hate crimes, riots on the grounds of religious differences, heavy weakening of institutions, controversial mob-lynchings, mindless violence and repressing freedom of speech are some of many other areas where the ruling party has proven to be a defaulter. He came back into power, despite all of these issues already pertaining in his first term. His second term, mostly driven by his wing-man and another controversial politician, Amit Shah, got the debatable Article 370 abolished from the constitution. They further went a step ahead with the highly objectionable citizenship law. The later met with serious dissent from all parts of the society (excluding bhakts). The country saw a minor revolution in the form of student protests across the country, demanding to abolish the law which is religiously biased and democratically disturbing. All in all, the script was well tight, the actors acted well (According to Modi’s Wikipedia, he did stage plays in school) and everyone was ready for the next move. But, there happened a big plot twist which Narendra Modi never anticipated. The Coronavirus.
The main question arises here that even if Modi didn’t foresee the pandemic (which 98% of the world didn’t), did it affect his divisive politics? The answer is yes and no. Many would argue that the world was stopped for at least two months as we saw complete lockdowns across the globe, so it put a brake on BJP’s future intentions. Although a valid argument, people fail to see that the Modi brigade can turn any event into a communal debate. Be it health, economy or even extraterrestrial beings. But, strong communalism is just one aspect to the plot twist. I will try to explain it in four aspects.
The number one, and one of the biggest threats to Indian Democracy, communalism, was at its peak with Tablighi Jamaat debate that the mainstream news channels started. The Jamaat arguably didn’t take the COVID-19 threat seriously. But who did until 24th of March 2020? The entire nation stood against the Muslims. WhatsApp forwards made sure that this crisis on humanity should efficiently be turned into a threat against communities. It was done systematically. I would rather say, strategically. But, I would also like to add, nonsensically. The IT cell of the ruling party was very much successful in creating the chaos, the divide and the hatred amongst the communities (This is their job profile).
On 25th March, when Modi came on the television screen to announce the most rigid lockdown the world has ever seen, I genuinely thought that this move could curb all the coronavirus chaos. The exact opposite happened. To be honest, I had my fair share of appreciation and questions for the lockdown process. The numbers are there for us to see. Modi, who belongs to the RSS lineage, has over years proved with his actions that his government wants complete control over the state. He wanted to build a ‘Congress-Mukt-Bharat’ (Making Congress disappear from the country). Although, I highly doubt that one can erase a party which has its roots going back to the 19th century. Modi’s party has been wanting to build a survilience app for a very long time. The infamous Arogya Setu App worked as a trial ground for that very agenda. The app raised several questions and so as the lockdown. While you lock everyone up at their homes (Most of India doesn’t have this luxury), are you snatching away the rights of the citizens? If Arogya Setu is an app to track the citizens to lower down the risk of the virus, then wouldn’t it be a breach of rights if you make it compulsory? Why did the government choose to send migrant workers back home when the country was planning to unlock the process (Reverse migration)? How did the government keep track of the possible police brutality under the strict lockdown (Jayaraj & Bennix)? I don’t even want to mention the ‘Thali’ fiasco. All these questions went unanswered as the PM has a record of never holding a press conference.
However, PM Cares fund attracted huge media attention. Advertisements with Narendra Modi’s smiling face was everywhere. It was reported that the fund aims to combat India’s fight against COVID-19. Many celebrities took the initiative and posted a selfie with a caption which highlighted the money. PM urged the citizens to donate money in the fund whose name is quite a marketing gimmick. Modi’s marketing team wants you to believe that PM cares for the country. But, does he care? In the age of social media, nothing can be hidden from the public. The abysmal conditions of hospitals were there for everyone to see. The videos of Indian health care system collapsing were heartbreaking. Many health care workers complained about the unavailability of necessary equipments to fight the virus. The testing statistics were highly questionable. But when political experts and the opposition raised their voices to make the fund transparent, BJP blocked the Parliament Panel review of “PM CARES Fund”. So, where did all the money go? Well, in my opinion, you need resources to indulge in undemocratic horse-trading of ministers across parties (Rajasthan’s political crisis).
“Never let a crisis go to waste” This famous quote comes from Winston Churchill (Who hated India by the way). Modi government has taken these words to create their own deep state. A deep state, also known as a state within a state, is a type of governance made up of networks of power operating independently of a state’s political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals. Let’s see it this way. Due to the pandemic, several sectors got severely affected. Education is one of them. When the order was passed to relieve the students in the further academic session, it was demanded that the course should be decreased. This would help the students to cope up easily. Although a good decision, the central government tried to play their own games. In an unprecedented move, CBSE removed the chapters of Secularism and Citizenship from the Political Science syllabus of 20–21. Modi government has already felt the threat from students back in the CAA/NRC protests. The world knows how it went. This time, subtly, they want to remove the genesis of questioning and dissent of which every citizen of this country has the right. This minimal move of specifically targeting two chapters which invariably act as the pillars of Indian democracy, is the lowest this government has gone since beating up the students who were peacefully protesting against the CAA/NRC. All of this reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451. If you didn’t get a chance to read that book, please make sure you do. Orwell’s 1984 can be the second one.
I only touched upon some of the aspects which were pressing. Communalism, Brutal/Unplanned lockdowns, Non-transparent PM Cares fund and removal of important and national-interest subjects. All of these had some sort of repelling effect in the country. There was a possibility of coronavirus acting as a minor shield (Deep state of thought) against the party which is emerging as a clear threat in many ways. But, this government hardly knows any governance. Bigotry, indecisiveness and division runs deep into the ideological DNA of BJP.
Months into the pandemic, I do not think that Narendra Modi’s divisive politics has taken a backseat. In fact, all it has done is to fuel his decisons to further torment the democratic fabric of India.