His body was placed on a raised chair in a sitting posture. From the early hours of the morning, enormous crowds gathered to catch a last glimpse of their departed leader. People had started arriving in special trains from Poona and the entire area from Crawford market to Dhobi Talao was filled with a sea of sad humanity. All the mills and most of the markets were closed. It was as if the whole of Bombay had gathered together that day. It was the greatest funeral procession that modern India had witnessed yet.
Ever since 1498 when Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut on the south-western coast of India in search of “Christians and spices” and ever since Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese viceroy, carried out that fateful raid seizing cattle and killing local residents in 1509, Bombay was destined to be a colonial gothic invention of her western masters.
Bombay was not only a city born out of colonial wedlock but was also unmistakably the Christian outpost in south Asia. The first order of business for the colonial masters was proselytization. Over the next few hundred years, the Franciscans, the Dominicans and the Jesuits fanned out on the seven islands of Bombay, destroying temples, mosques and all the native iconography to be replaced by churches and colonial gothic architecture. By the 20th century, Bombay was as British/colonial a city as any in Europe.
The greatest funeral procession in Bombay
On 1 August 1920, even in death, Lokmanya Tilak had created and left behind an unparalleled patriotic fervour. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an overstatement to suggest that the humungous success of the non-cooperation movement and the birth of a Mahatma hinged on the funeral procession of Tilak as the Bombay citizenry got drawn into the vortex of the nationalist movement that day without any special effort on the part of the leaders. It was that defining moment of Indian history when an urban colonial city finally woke up the natives to rediscover their dormant nationalism. Balgangadhar Tilak had bequeathed “Swaraj” by the sheer act of death on the very first day of the non-cooperation movement.
Bombay was also the mecca of silent movies in the 1920s, so how could the world of movies be untouched by the patriotic fervour around it? Many top filmmakers of that era extensively shot the Tilak funeral procession and the silent movies were shown to a national audience. Bombay legend goes that one of the Tilak funeral movies ran to packed houses for three weeks and the fervour for Swaraj among the “natives” grew to such heights that the British even resorted to the first instance of censoring a silent movie.
The Tilak funeral is a colossal event that transformed the Indian independence struggle into a genuine mass movement of such humungous proportions that the British rule was virtually reduced to a lame-duck government, and India could have possibly become a free nation had Gandhi not suspended the non-cooperation movement in 1922 after the Chauri Chaura incident. The fact that it was all captured on celluloid and shown in hundreds of silent movie theatres of India converted the Tilak funeral into the first conscience of nationalism after the 1857 war of independence.
Gandhi appropriates Tilak’s edifice
Gandhi quickly realized the power of the film medium and the camera resolutely turned towards him. This was possibly the decisive moment in India’s rebirth as a nation. Most of the British censored press was already favourably inclined towards Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the intellectual class had only praise for his frank appreciation of the British rulers. Cinema helped Gandhi conquer middle India decisively.
A full-fledged feature film known as the “Great Bonfire of Foreign Clothes” released around 1920-21 completely captured the imagination of ordinary Indians and the Mahatma became a singularity. The role of cinema in propagating the Mahatma’s folklore across the length and breadth of India was probably second only to that of Indian Railways.
The Gandhi PR machinery of the 1920’s was already so attuned to India’s pop culture that it was able to disperse the imagery of the Mahatma brilliantly amongst the masses. Ruby Myers of Baghdadi Jewish ancestry, popularly known as Sulochana, was probably the first superstar of the silent era who had delivered such big hits as “Madhuri”, “Anarkali”, “Typist Girl” and “Wildcat of Bombay” and was regularly used as a prop to promote Gandhi. Short films of Mahatma Gandhi inaugurating Khadi exhibitions were popularised by interspersing with Ruby Myers’ popular dance numbers synchronised with sound effects.
The Mahatma and the Congress thus became the primary vehicles of India’s nationalism for the next five decades. On the other side of the spectrum, parallel nationalism was mostly encumbered with crude attempts at popularity that never really took off. An edifice that was built by a true patriot like Tilak, even in death, thus came to be totally occupied by Gandhi, Congress and Nehru under a liberal tutelage, while parallel nationalism suffered without intellectual patronage.
A Bhagat Singh was mostly painted as a misguided revolutionary and a Subhash Chandra Bose as a war-mongering reactionary. Hindu Mahasabha which was born as a consequence of Morley-Minto electoral reforms of 1909 which created a separate Muslim electorate, was often smeared as a pro-British motley group by the Congress-obsessed intellectual class of India.
While Nehru, a pukka British sahib in mind and soul, was constantly hobnobbing with the likes of the Mountbattens at the cost of national interest (bequeathing the Kashmir problem to the future generations of Indians), the intellectual narrative was always painting him as the only nationalist after the Mahatma. In fact, the Congressized accounts of the freedom struggle have been so singularly unkind to nationalist titans like Veer Savarkar, Madan Mohan Malviya, Lala Lajpat Rai and Tilak that they have been reduced to mere footnotes in our history text books.
Left-liberals encroach intellectual space
By the 1930’s, socialist-Left-liberalism had encompassed Indian intellectual ecosystems to such depths that the Right Nationalism had very little chance or scope to succeed.
In April 1936, all our elite Urdu and English writers congregated at Lucknow to create the “All India Progressive Writers Association” (PWA) to further spread the roots of leftism in Indian thinking. It was no coincidence that Lucknow was also hosting the Congress session at the same time and a certain Jawaharlal Nehru was presiding over that session in—surprise—April 1936. Nehru warmly greeted the formation of PWA, which consequently became a Nehru fanclub for all practical purposes.
The PWA consisted of such ‘luminaries’ as Ismat Chugtai, Sajjad Zaheer, Ali Sardar Jafri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Josh Malihabadi, Krishan Chander and others. The Urdu language masqueraded as Leftism even as nationalism was merely a tool to mould an India under the influence of these compromised thinkers.
Some of these “luminaries” like Sadat Hasan Manto openly ditched their favourite ‘whore-city’, Bombay, to go and live a luxurious life in “bungalows of those (Hindus) who had fled (and had been murdered in) Pakistan” (as per Chugtai’s own confession in her work Mera Dost, Mera Dushman). Most other Urdu Leftists though, remained back in India and created a generation of apologists who constantly reminded Indians that they were the only barbarians who murdered “innocent Pakistanis”. It was a unique blend of secular apology and socialist promise that found expression through such subtle anti-India poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi in Pyaasa (1957);
Ye kooche, ye neelaam ghar dilkashi ke
Ye lut-te hue karvaan zindagi ke
Kahaan hai, kahaan hai muhaafiz khudi ke?
Jinhein naaz hai Hind par woh kahaan hai?
These streets, these auction houses of pleasure
These looted caravans of life
Where are they, those guardians of selfhood?
Those who are proud of India, where are they?
The Hindi writers had given a near total miss to that 1936 conference, except for Munshi Premchand who died just a few months later and is still the only ‘official darling’ of Hindi literary history. All other Indian languages were totally made subservient to this Urdu-English clique which controlled India’s national discourse. While English set the political tone and the economic direction, Urdu controlled the social narrative by governing popular culture dimensions like cinema.
Hindi writers generally looked down upon cinema in their quest for pure forms. This compromised nationalism of the Congress variety came to overwhelm the mainstream discourse all the way till the 80s.
Winds of change
It took almost 40 years after Independence for the nationalist discourse to really take a tangible shape. It was in the late 80’s when the Ram Mandir agitation hit the conscience of middle India that we began to slowly realize that an alternate pathway can exist beyond the realms of secular-socialism practised by Congress and its progeny – most Indian political parties from the core of (non-Jana Sangh) Janata party experiment of the 70s to today’s AAP are nothing but socio-political offshoots of Congressism.
While Tilak’s funeral was recorded by the silent-era camera which elucidated Swaraj, it was the Sunday 9:30 am slot on Doordarshan that roused a parallel consciousness of an ancient civilization. Tilak in death created a Mahatma in 1920, whereas Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan resurrected Hindu nationalism some 66 years later. Never before and never after has anything on television created such a stir that a nation would come to a standstill on Sunday mornings week after week, every week, without fail, for more than a year.
The left-liberal elite realized quickly that their domain was under attack and fought vehemently against the rise of this alternate nationalism. Madhu Jain of India Today described Sagar’s Ramayan on DD as “moving calendar art pictures”, while feminists like Kamala Bhasin and Ritu Menon described Sita as regressive and typically created scaremongering by warning us that “with Sita as our ideal, can Sati be far behind?” – 30 years later we must remind the likes of Bhasin and Menon as to how wrong they were about their silly prognosis of India once again embracing a Sati system.
The deep-rooted leftist system too fought back tooth and nail against this reawakened Hindu cultural onslaught. Bhaskar Ghose, father of Sagarika Ghose and the then bureaucratic boss of Doordarshan was vehemently opposed to Sagar’s Ramayan, so much so that he wanted to kill the serial midway by refusing to give an extension beyond 26 episodes.
But, unfortunately for Ghose senior, by then Sagar’s Ramayan had become a ‘monster’ beyond his control and stopping it midway would have created a nationwide agitation so Ramanand Sagar got a direct ‘political clearance’ from HKL Bhagat himself (the then Information and Broadcasting minister). But Ghose’s tyranny did not end there as he would regularly hound Sagar to reduce the Hindu iconography of his serial and “secularize” it for a mixed audience. To Ramanand Sagar’s credit, he never relented and instead found novel ways of avoiding the Ghose censorship by delivering the video tapes only minutes before airing on Sunday mornings!
While Sagar’s Ramayan was waking up middle India, the Sadhu samaaj was finally gearing up for a decisive battle in the hinterland. Tens of thousands of wandering ascetics were traveling across the country (especially northern India) in the mid 80’s to narrate the story of Lord Rama’s birth place wanting to be liberated from Babur’s edifice. By late 1988, discussions, debates and storytelling had encompassed village Panchayats and town squares across UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and as far down as Marathwada and coastal Karnataka where ‘Ayodhya’ had hit the conscience of a restless nation.
The 1989 Kumbh Mela was the most important epoch in the birth of a new alternate India. It was under the leadership of “Pyaare Aatma” of the legendary saint Devraha Baba in the ‘89 Kumbh at Allahabad that the Ram Janam Bhoomi Andolan was launched by the VHP into the nation’s conscience. Although India’s independence from British rule was achieved in the August of 1947, it was merely a symbolic freedom for we remained systematically colonial for many decades. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an overstatement to suggest that at least the process of true rebirth of India began at the 1989 Kumbh.
In the 1989 general elections that followed, BJP took a quantum leap of parliamentary faith when it jumped from a mere two MPs to 89 and L K Advani hopped on to the Ram Rath Yatra in order to seek political legitimacy to restore Ayodhya to Rama. Some two years later, P.V. Narasimha Rao liberated India economically and a nation’s tryst with destiny began in the truest sense. Throughout the 90’s, one could almost smell the coming of age of the Indian Right nationalism and the possible death of left liberalism. It was as if India was on an irreversible path towards a liberalized economy and a new dawn of Hindu nationalism.
Once again it was Indian language intellectualism that had tried to make a difference. Popular Hindi newspapers of the heartland of that era like Dainik Jagaran, Swantatra Chetna, AAJ, Swatantra Bharat and many other regional language newspapers across India like Kannada Prabha, Eenadu etc. portrayed the true sentiments of ordinary Indians on the Ayodhya movement. There was some stellar reportage on the unfolding events of the late 80’s and early 90’s in different Indian language newspapers, especially on the excesses of the then “secular” governments of UP and Bihar which had crossed all limits of barbarity just to win Muslim votes
“Kartik ke snan parv per khoon se nahai Ayodhya, Jalianwala kaand beuna pada” was one of the screaming headlines in a Hindi newspaper (AAJ) after the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in UP resorted to daylight murder of more than 307 Kar Sevaks and sadhus through a police shootout on 1 November 1990. By the late 80’s Urdu had already started to die its natural death and for the first time during the Ram Janam Bhoomi Andolan, it appeared as if English intellectualism was also beginning to lose its primacy over the national discourse to its poorer Hindi and regional language cousins.
A False Dawn
All of this invariably culminated in the first dawn of Indian Right Nationalism in the second half of the 90’s when Vajpayee became the gravitational centre of Indian politics. Liberalized economy and chest thumping patriotism became the hallmark of the Vajpayee era at the turn of the millennium. The advent of telecom revolution, the dream-come-true of the Golden Quadrilateral and the privatization of public sector entities are the three unmistakable signs of Vajpayee-nomics which have made India an economic powerhouse of Asia today.
It was also the era of chest thumping patriotism in the popular discourse, which was best symbolized by Sunny Deol and his Pakistan-bashing blockbusters like Border, Gadar and Hero. While there were also three big productions on Bhagat Singh, even a smooth operator like Aamir Khan made his most patriotic statement through Lagaan. Seldom has Bollywood produced so much of patriotism in such a short span of time as it did during the Vajpayee era – in fact, for the first time Atul Kulkarni won a national award during this era for portraying a Hindu Nationalist’s role (even if the citation suggested coldblooded fundamentalism) in an otherwise didactic Gandhian lore, Hey Ram.
Everything was slowly falling in place for alternate Right Nationalism in India and an ancient civilization was on the verge of burying her disastrous and forgettable Nehruvian immediate past as the 21st century opened her doors.
Unfortunately it proved to be a false dawn.
The BJP made two fundamental errors of underestimation in 2004:
1] the power of the English media in dictating the national discourse, especially in a television era and
2] the impact of drought in rural India which proved to be fatal because the general elections were advanced before the next monsoon could alleviate the agrarian distress.
Equally, the Congress’s ability to make strategic investments to cultivate the English media once again proved to be a trump card.
Magazines like Tehelka were born overnight and created a sensation by selectively targeted sting operations, while star anchors like Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai systematically demonized Gujarat, Narendra Modi and the BJP (in that order). Hindi and regional language writers and intellectuals who were otherwise favourably inclined towards Vajpayee (and BJP by extension) just did not have the stamina or the inventiveness to change the narrative. By the summer of 2004, the Right was collapsing once again. In the end analysis, the 2004 general elections proved to be Advani’s greatest nemesis and he simply never recovered from that debacle.
The disastrous Sonia Gandhi decade
Over the next decade, Sonia Gandhi altered India fundamentally as more and more pilferage schemes were introduced into the system which corroded the country from within. From the 2G scam to Coalgate to MNREGA, India was converted into a financial blackhole, while at the same time the social fabric of the country was also dangerously realigned by inventing such laughably bombastic claims as “Hindu terrorism being a bigger threat to India than Islamic terrorism”. The Right was failing miserably even as the Nehruvian ecosystem had made a spectacular comeback through a more virulent Rights-based policy interventions – RTI, RTE, MNREGA, Food Bill being some of the most common examples of this madness.
The news media and the Lutyens intellectual brigade played a stellar role in marginalizing the BJP and the Indian Right for almost a decade. One man became the favourite punching bag of Delhi. He was constantly hounded, character assassinated and hung to death in TV studios and editorial pages without a trial. He was branded as the “merchant of death” and became the singular symbol and target of left-liberal poison. Such was the hatred of Delhi for this one man that any lesser being would have wilted long ago, but he was made of sterner stuff and was riding the horse of India’s alternate destiny.
Vajpayee’s good Karma had one last role to play. The strong foundation that the Vajpayee government had laid for the telecom and internet revolution in India finally bore fruits. As social media and mobile usage began to peak by 2010-11, the Indian Right began to find a voice of its own, and beyond Lutyens control. He who was hounded for more than a decade now became the trailblazer. The advent of Narendra Modi on to the national stage completely smashed the Delhi brigade. His charismatic ability was probably unparalleled in Indian political history, for wherever he travelled he was able to attract record crowds which in turn forced the Delhi media to turn their cameras towards Modi.
Understanding the battle for narrative
As past experience tells us, winning an election – notwithstanding the quantum of the May 2014 victory of Modi – is only half the battle for the Indian Right and the BJP, for deep rooted left-liberal systems will be constantly finding ways to strike back and alter the balance. We are already witnessing a multi-layered attack on the Modi government which has only gone more virulent in 2015. This is in stark contrast to the almost benign neglect of the media and the intellectual class towards the two UPA governments of the past until the zeros became one too many to handle in the humungous scams unleashed by Congress. Let us consider four recent case-studies to understand this battle for narrative:
- Case Study 1: The Terror Boat Incident – The battle began on the very first day of 2015 as a terror boat that sunk in the Arabian Sea was almost given a martyr’s farewell by the Indian media. Such was the hostility of media towards the Modi government that Indian journalists were willing to believe an unknown Pakistani woman’s diatribe over Indian defence minister’s official statement.
- Case Study 2: Delhi Elections – The entire gamut of Delhi media houses joined hands to defeat the BJP. Self-fulfilling prophecies based on dubious surveys were regularly flaunted to influence Delhi voters even as TV studio debates were totally skewed with supposedly “neutral” commentators whose one point agenda was to promote AAP. Eventually, BJP lost Delhi because the entire non-BJP vote was coalesced around Arvind Kejriwal with Congress and ‘others’ completely collapsing under media’s watchful eye.
- Case Study 3: The Land Bill – Every political party, every politician, every bureaucrat in India knows that the UPA’s Land Acquisition Bill in its socialist form would bring the industrial growth of India to a complete standstill and also push the already-poor rural India into a further morass of lack of options. Yet, the media and intellectual hypocrisy is such that the entire debate over the Land Bill was hijacked by out-of-work socialists and the Modi government was painted as working for the super-rich.
- Case Study 4: India as Rapisthan – A horribly inhuman rape that did not even occur under the rule of the present government has been converted into Modi’s act of shame: this is how inventive the intellectual class of India is. This same modus operandi was also used during the Vajpayee era when India’s own journalists and media houses helped create negative western perceptions to paint India as a continuing nightmare. During the Vajpayee era, the post-Godhra riots were often used as the leitmotif to paint Indians as barbarians, whereas today the likes of NDTV are using a deranged convict’s perverse interview to paint India under Modi as the Rapisthan of the world!
Mind you, all of this is happening in broad daylight even as the government is busy collecting some ₹ 2 lakh Crores by auctioning Coal which was given for almost free by a corrupt UPA regime and some ₹ 86000 Crores gathered through telecom licensing. All of these were carried out in the most fair and transparent auction methodology.
India is beginning to grow at almost 8% even as inflation is staring at actual deflation and negative growth of prices. Fiscal deficit of India which had gone totally out of control during the UPA era leading to various global rating agencies almost declaring Indian economy as junk is now at a respectable sub 4 levels which has renewed global investor confidence.
For the first time in Indian history 63 per cent of the economic power has been devolved by the Modi government to the states which is possibly the greatest example of the ‘minimum government maximum governance’ philosophy so dear to the PM. All of this is missed by most Indian media, in fact, every single positive story. Instead, Lutyens is busy discovering a deranged rapist who would hold a mirror to India or an unknown Pakistani woman who could disprove the authority of India’s defence minister!
Yet, it would be unjust to blame the media alone for this deliberate mischief because the Modi government will also have to apportion the blame for its inability to change the narrative despite being in power. If this state of being continues then this might prove to be another false dawn for Indian Right Nationalism. In fact, this Modi government is an idea and an opportunity that has rarely been bestowed upon India in the last few centuries and one can only dread to even imagine the advent of its failure.
It sounds wonderfully objective to talk about having faith in systems and processes and not worshipping an individual, but the fact is that individual leaders alone can create revolutionary changes as history stands witness. Thus if Modi fails, then India will have little chance of ever recovering her past glory, period.
The then right-wing Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich once described Ronald Reagan thus, “I don’t think Reagan is inherently or automatically anti big government nearly as much as he’s anti-Washington”. This was after Reagan, like Modi, had devolved a great deal of power to the states from the centre when Gingrich perfectly articulated Washington as a state of mind, just like Delhi is a state of mind of the intellectual elite in India who still believe in doling out schemes (and also the addendum of narrative news) from Dilli to the poorest corners of the country instead of empowering ordinary Indians.
The reconquest of Delhi
With Delhi as a state of mind that afflicts our media intellectual class, Modi must learn to conquer Delhi just like Reagan conquered Washington. In the 80’s, the American political zeitgeist changed from Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” to Ronald Reagan’s “The nine most terrifying words in English language are: I’m from the government and am here to help”.
This radical shift is what Modi must internalize to create a counter-Nehruvian nation state, for it is his historic duty to create an alternate Right Nationalist India. Reagan created a unipolar world by decimating the Soviet Union because he had the courage of conviction in his own words that Communist Russia was an “Evil Empire” and that Reagan legacy is still the hallmark of US as a nation after almost 30 years.
Modi’s electoral victory in the summer of 2014 should have a similar capacity to influence the India of 30 years from now in 2047 when we celebrate a centenary of independence from colonial rule. Therefore his conquest of Delhi as a state of mind is absolutely vital. Essentially this conquest has three dimensions to it:
The first immediate dimension is the narrative building exercise in which the Modi government is failing miserably right now. Until just about a year ago while the social media was dictating the agenda, the narrative modes were beyond the control of the Lutyens brigade simply due to the sheer numbers of support on Twitter and Facebook that Modi enjoyed. Most of those Social Media (SM) enthusiasts and the online volunteer support base of BJP and Modi are only part-timers with day jobs and bread and butter issues whereas the media and journalists are in the narrative business fulltime. Unless the BJP as a party evolves second generation internet and real world ecosystems to take on the media narrative, the summer of 2014 will mostly remain a one-off event.
Beyond the Internet and SM, what the BJP needs immediately are better trained spokespersons. Only God and Amit Shah know why the BJP is not willing to tap its vast network of online supporters to represent the party in TV debates. Then there is the Doordarshan (DD) news channel. Probably even God doesn’t know what is the purpose of having this sarkaari news channel. Why can’t DD news emerge as a good alternate news channel which can also be a genuine critic of the government while analysing the positives too, under an independent but ideologically committed management? Again, why can’t DD news or All India Radio commission small documentaries or news programmes and debates from the right Internet ecosystem and right online journals who are struggling hard to change the narrative? The combined power of DD/AIR and the Right-Internet ecosystem can potentially demolish the entire left-lib news media and other organizations. When will BJP realize this simple truth?
The second dimension is that of encouraging, inspiring and developing a pop culture ecosystem that celebrates Right Nationalism rather than mocking it. This is an important aspect where Right-Wing Nationalism has always failed in India while the likes of Nehru, Gandhi and even an Indira all succeeded brilliantly. In the west too, the Reagan legacy owes its primacy as much to intellectuals as to pop culture.
For instance, in the 80’s USA, Tom Clancy’s best-selling novel trilogy, The Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising and The Cardinal of Kremlin probably played a role second to none in propagating Reaganism. Furthermore, action movies like First Blood, sitcom TV series like Family Ties and chart-topping Bruce Springsteen albums like Born in the USA all created a lasting cultural legacy woven around Ronald Reagan’s socio-politics and foreign policy. Even an attempted satirical skewering of free markets by an out and out leftie film maker, Oliver Stone, in his delectable 1987 movie Wall Street, ended up eulogizing Reagonomics and Gordon Gecko due to a brilliant portrayal by Michael Douglas.
Back home in India too, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s short reign left a lasting legacy of “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan” mostly because it was such a rage among the pop cultural circles of the 60’s era, so much so that Manoj Kumar actually made a blockbuster movie Upkaar based on that one line by Shastri ji. The same Manoj Kumar then went on to make another blockbuster Roti Kapda aur Makaan in the early 70’s which was essentially a praise of Indira Gandhi’s “Garibi Hatao” political call.
The Central government in India has tremendous power and goodwill to influence the pop culture of India as a great amount of financing for various creative art forms still comes from institutions that are dependent on government largesse. The Modi Government must also unlock the value of Doordarshan and All India Radio which are still mostly existing in the 20th century while India has moved on.
AIR with its 414 stations has presence in 92 per cent of India’s geography and can potentially reach 120 Crore Indians, but it has programmatically never evolved to attract newer listeners of a newer India. Similar is the situation of DD National which has a total potential reach of 13.5 Crore households out of a total of 19.2 Crore households in India which is far higher than any of the other 825 TV channels in India, but it simply fails to attract eyeballs because of didactic, boring programming and lack of variety.
Both AIR and DD can be taken back to their glorious days if the Modi government wills so. In fact, the whole social media ecosystem which is supportive of Modi must be tapped to create this alter-narrative of a creative Right in the modern day India. For instance, why can’t DD commission compelling stories on the freedom movement with Tilak as the centrepiece instead of Gandhi? Or why not a comedy series mocking the left-liberals along the lines of Family Ties? Or why not a film or mini-series on Shivaji with international level production values? The list is endless and the potential limitless, but does the BJP government have the spunk?
The third long-term dimension is that of creating an alternate historic legacy which would eventually delete the militant excesses of Nehruvian secular-socialism. Intellectuals are the Achilles heel of the RSS. The Sangh has always failed to nurture a decent intellectual ecosystem which has been the primary reason why the media often succeeds in scaremongering ordinary Indians by painting the Sangh and affiliated organizations as monstrous entities. Unfortunately, the BJP too has mostly followed in the Sangh’s footsteps and is often found wanting in propagating an alternate history with finesse.
By the confluence of sheer luck, India today is at an inflection point where an alternate historic legacy can be pursued and promoted without a herculean effort. As older generation of intellectuals and historians with a communist-socialist worldview have started to wither away, a newer crop of younger Internet-era writers who owe nothing to Nehruvian systems continue to burst on to the scene. The very fact that you are reading this essay on a portal like Indiafacts (or 5Forty3) is testimony to the changing nature of Indian discourse.
Yet, most of these sporadic new right media ventures pursued by young Internet-media entrepreneurs are operating on shoestring budgets and lack institutional support. Thus, with only Twitter as the easy mode of advertisement, portals like Swarajya and Indiafacts are unable to match their richer cousins despite better content. For instance, new startups like Huffingtonpost India and Scroll have a reach of 3-5 lakh hits every day whereas Swarajya and Indiafacts are struggling to reach that number in a month. Furthermore, established players like NDTV have an online reach of crores of hits every day.
If the BJP as a party doesn’t evolve an institutionalized mechanism to interact with the emerging Right internet ecosystems soon, then there is a clear danger of stagnation in this area.
Creating an alternate historic legacy today requires both academic change as well as indulging the passionate New Right of India in the Internet era. On the academic front, the government needs to rigorously implement a post-socialist worldview and also liberate institutions from pseudo-secularism. At the same time, the New Right of the internet era must be encouraged to carry out parallel research activities in the realm of popular history. A little institutional support can go a long way in promoting various online channels of discourse. Does the BJP have the requisite creativity to combine the academics, institutions and the Internet Right to create an alternate historic legacy?
Epilogue: This is a new India that Modi is building and in this India there has to be primacy for Right Nationalism. In which case, how can we afford to have a narrative construct hijacked by the discredited left liberals?
This new India where greed is good and dreams are extraordinary, this new India that is not apologetic about her Hindu roots, this new India where nationalistic pride is guilt-free from Urdu-induced socialist encumbrances, this new Modi’s India needs a new poetic grammar that can effectively bury the ghost of Sahir Ludhianvi and in the process also say a final goodbye to Nehru:
Yeh chikni sadakein, yeh galiyaan swachh Bharat ki
Jan dhan se bunein sapnon ke amaanat ki
Hoon buland itna ke ban sakey mera chota sa ghar
Pukaar, pukkar ke kaho ke humein naaz hai iss Hind par!
These smooth roads, these cleaned lanes of India
People’s money that weaves the dreams of wealth
So empowered I am to build a small house of my own
Let us shout out loudly and proclaim that we are proud of this India!