A string of hackneyed phrases passed through my mind at “India’s Verdict”, the Australia-India Institute’s lunchtime election watch event in Melbourne last Friday. The food was excellent, the company (most of them, at least) was jubilant, and as I struggled for an articulate way to express my fears, all that came to mind were cliches.
“Elephant in the room” was one. “Farted in church” was another. Not to mention “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea”.
The memory of the 2002 communal violence that tore through his home state of Gujarat under Modi’s Chief Ministership was the elephant in the room, for those who had gathered to greeted the dawn of a bright new political epoch. To raise the issue of Modi’s culpability in this pre-planned and targeted massacre on the day that the “great man” ascended to power and the talk was of a massive influx of foreign capital – it felt like farting in church.
Caught between the devil of the BJP’s religious nationalism and the deep blue sea of a Congress party dominated by the dregs of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Indian voters settled for the devil, tempted by the promise of neoliberal prosperity for the winners in an increasingly divided society. Did I hear you express concern about the losers? Well, that’s just loser-talk.
After all, the Congress party is completely discredited so what alternative would you suggest, other than Modi and the BJP?
To which I would respond with the punchline from the old political joke about the man who asked for directions after getting lost in the Irish countryside and was told “Well, I wouldn’t start from here.”