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(First published on November 16th, 2019)

“To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making” — Otto von Bismarck.

In the past six years we have discussed Modi and the India he is remaking quite frequently. In the past three months this discussion has focused more on the plight of minorities and residents of India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK). But his spin doctors have very effectively used even some of his worst excesses to their advantage at home and among his Islamophobic hard-right friends abroad. But no amount of skullduggery, oppression and spin can ready a nation for a wholesale surrender. You will notice how one by one Indian institutions have collapsed in the face of Modi’s growing power. This is unusual for any country. If you are puzzled by this, here is another mystery for you. The skullduggery that we have just mentioned would imply the presence of a level of intellectual depth, a conniving mind always two steps ahead of the world. But then why is it that the Indian government under Modi displays the intellectual range of a sausage in robbing the Kashmiris and Indian minorities. The August 5 unilateral measures in Kashmir are a part of an impractical overreach. The court-sanctioned decision to impound the Babri Mosque land in Ayodhya was a daylight robbery perpetrated in plain sight. We know Modi rides a tiger but even then he seems sheltered from the consequences of his own actions. So, who is sheltering him and why do he and his minions feel so emboldened? The making of this sausage must be particularly hideous. But we have to take a look.

Let us first build the case further. Selling Modi is not an easy task. He was banned from entering many parts of the West until shortly before he became the Indian Prime Minister. The reason was a bloodbath in the Indian state of Gujarat on his watch. His personal accomplishments are also remarkable. He holds a Master’s degree through distance learning in a unique discipline called the “entire political science”. His knowledge of science and warfare is so breathtaking that in a televised interview he surprised the world by sharing how he had informed his services chiefs that Indian warplanes could evade radar detection under a cloud cover. The bigger surprise was that between the meeting where this took place and the aforementioned televised interview, he had retained those views, which would essentially mean none of his generals or security advisors had plucked up the courage to set the record straight.

Modi’s fortunes seem to have changed mainly due to two factors: the tacit endorsement of the country’s security establishment and the support of the business community. After 10 years of Congress rule marred by a quite visible meltdown at the party’s top echelon, there was an appetite for change. Many thought the challenger would be a new party like the Aam Aadmi Party. But that changed with Ajit Doval’s speech at Sastra University shortly before the elections. Reforms can be boring. And people get fed up quickly when reforms are stuck for long. Here was an intelligence world veteran appealing to India’s baser instincts, telling them how easy it was to bring down a Pakistan badly shaken by terrorism. And why the Congress Party’s soft Hindutva was not working. This was bound to procure the security establishment’s blessing (including India’s intelligence community with its pathological hate for Pakistan).

The second part of winning over the Indian businessmen was easy. The last five years of Dr Manmohan Singh’s rule were pockmarked by corruption scandals. Media participated liberally in spreading stories that eventually turned out to be nothing more than rumours. But at the time of elections, they were presented as the divine truth. Businessmen like to make a profit. This may include bending some rules. But that becomes impossible if you have a government headed by people plucked out of a galaxy of world-renowned economists. Modi then was their brute force ticket into power echelons.

These business tycoons took over media houses and turned them into Modi’s personal propaganda machine. If you are a journalist who opposes Modi you were soon to lose the job. Either force the senior journalists to align with the man’s politics or replace them with the eager-to-please younger lot. And there was no dearth of sweet dough for the complacent.

Modi’s first years in power were spent in bringing about the silent change. Get the dirt on all key players. Win over the security establishment. Consolidate. Find yes men. Force them to purge their departments of the naysayers. When Subrahmanyam Jaishankar does that he is elevated to a minister’s post. When the army chief decides to act as Modi’s election campaign chief, he is promised to be elevated to the newly-minted powerful post of the chief of defence staff. When the outgoing Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi proves hard to get, a sexual harassment case arises out of nowhere. Result? Fixed. And if someone still refuses to bow, well, simply eliminate them.

But this is only the domestic part of the story. The international part is more breathtaking. On the day Donald Trump got elected, markets around the world were expected to witness a spike. But they tanked. Reason? Not Trump. The Indian demonetisation campaign had severely impacted the price of gold. India is very heavily integrated with the world. What happens in India, impacts the world.

While the Western press has a habit of attributing the rise of far-right in Europe to Putin’s alleged machinations, a visit by far-right European MEPs to IOK seems to have blown the lid off the Indian campaign to stoke Islamophobia abroad and support the worst possible actors to get what it wants. Now a string of rather obscure Indian-owned news sites has emerged which seems to spread hate against minorities and Pakistan abroad. This, ladies and gentlemen, is only the cruder surface. I have a feeling you will find far more sophisticated secrets buried underneath. It is good to see our European friends are looking into the matter keenly. Remember how Rachel Maddow argues in her book that Putin wanted a broken world dominated by racism so that the West forgets about Russia? Here is a small problem. Putin knows the West will never see him as an ally. But Modi knows he automatically is. If the world is an unhinged place nobody would mind if India is unhinged too. Putin has been in power for decades. So why would he start a new campaign in 2014, the year when Modi came into power? Can you now connect the dots or do you still need a pictorial description of how a sausage is made in graphic detail? It, too, can be arranged. And the cherry on top is that Modi’s junta doesn’t seem to mind anymore. Which means it has a plan B. A plan very similar to the Nazis’.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2019.

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