They speak against ‘liberal hypocrisy’ but justify Hindutva hypocrisy.
A documentary film on the Lok Sabha election in Varanasi is denied a censor certificate by the censor board, reportedly, because the film has some scenes making fun of Varanasi Member of Parliament and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
I tweet about this as an act of censorship, and the Twitter Bhakts start replying faster than you can say NaMo. Making fun of a sitting prime minister, they say, can’t be allowed.
After lampooning Manmohan Singh for 10 years, the online Modi Bhakts now say that you can’t crack a joke about a sitting prime minister. This is the sort of hypocrisy that supporters of all political parties indulge in. What’s particularly ironical about the hypocrisy of Twitter Bhakts is that “liberal hypocrisy” has been one of their key ideas.
For years now, Twitter Bhakts have been pointing out the hypocrisy of Left-liberals and secularists: that they target Modi for 2002 but not Akhilesh for the Muzaffarnagar violence. They talk about Gujarat but not Godhra. They talk about Gujarat but not about the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.
This is in the same mould as their favourite party’s strategy, historically. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Lal Krishna Advani’s rhetoric was one of secular hypocrisy. He famously coined the term pseudo-secularism. The examples of pseudo-secularism became street lore: Kashmiri Pandits,The Satanic Verses, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, Shah Bano and the Uniform Civil Code. Such examples of pseudo-secularism apparently justified Hindutva majoritarianism in wanting a Ram temple replace Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
In the Vajpayee years, the excuse for Hindutva hypocrisy was coalition compulsions. But now, your favourite leader is in power with a full majority. You told us that if only this could happen, Achhe Din would be here. Narendra Modi is the most powerful prime minister India has had since Indira Gandhi. If tough questions are asked of his leadership, who do you blame now? How long will you blame the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the secularists, the left-liberals, the communists, the Muslims?
The shoe is now on the other foot, and now the Modi Bhakt shouting “Liberal hypocrisy! Liberal hypocrisy!” has lost its sting. The strategy now comes across as banal and boring.
This is the Modi Bhakts’ chance to realise that politics is actually much more fun when you can oppose the powers that be. This is somewhat true of the Aam Aadmi Party’s supporters as well, but the AAP government has had some success on finding a convenient punching bag in Narendra Modi, who is unwilling to grant Delhi full statehood.
As Sambit Patra becomes the new Sanjay Jha, defending the indefensible of a government riddled with confusion is increasingly a tough job. But the Twitter Bhakts don’t give up easily. You ask them about censorship under the Modi government, and they go back to 1975, Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, and start counting all acts of censorship the Congress party has ever indulged in. Ravish Kumar of NDTV India has coined the excellent term “is equal to” for such politics.
It can’t be said that Achhe Din have arrived when Modi Bhakts are still counting the Congress party’s misdeeds to justify the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) misdeeds. This strategy worked when they were pointing out liberal hypocrisy in not opposing the Congress ruling India despite the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, and yet opposing Modi ruling India for 2002. But when the Congress is out of power, down to 44 seats, Congress-bashing doesn’t work.
The only people you can perhaps silence with Congress-bashing is the Congress. Most of India’s voters are not sold to any political party for a lifetime. Everybody who opposes the BJP isn’t with Congress, and vice versa. The average Indian is not going to be impressed with the defence that it is okay for the BJP to do a Hindutva take-over of educational and cultural institutions just because the Congress used to put its cronies there. This only shows you up as a mirror image of the Congress, placing party loyalty over talent and professional excellence, never mind what this does to our national purpose.
Everyone played a role in the downfall of the United Progressive Alliance-2: Left, Right and Centre; BJP, AAP and regional parties; the media and judiciary and the CAG. From 2011 onwards, everyone helped form the national mood against the Congress.
Now, Twitter Bhakts have increasingly started sounding like Congress defenders in that era. They are simply not convincing when defending the Modi government’s U-turns. And there has been no dearth of U-turns: Land Acquisition Bill, a land swap deal with Bangladesh, the Goods and Services Tax Bill, black money, increasing income tax slabs, Section 66A of the IT Act, making public reports like the ones on the 1962 China war or the Subhash Chandra Bose papers, the Aadhar scheme, abrogating Article 370 in Kashmir, foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and insurance, the nuclear liability law, and so on.
Many of these U-turns are actually good news. They show that political parties are capable of placing national interest above partisan politics when in power. Yet the hypocrisy of the U-turn remains to be explained, especially by a party whose supporters mobilise for it by exposing everybody else’s hypocrisy day and night.
The hypocritical defence of the BJP’s hypocrisies by its supporters is resulting in taking the aura off Narendra Modi, showing him up to be like any other politician. Pragmatism is great, but when you have projected yourself to be a hard-liner, pragmatic politics makes you look fickle.
The smarter Bhakts on Twitter who realise this problem simply stay silent. Much like Narendra Modi’s own prolonged silence over Lalit Modi and Vyapam, such silence does not go unnoticed. Even if Bhakts dominate political discussion on Twitter, the sting is taken out of their bite when “Maun-mohan” jokes give way to “Maun-Modi” jokes.
Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it is the Bhakts’ time to answer the question: Why do you speak against “liberal hypocrisy” but justify Hindutva hypocrisy?
This article has been republished from newslaundry.com.