Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently brought charges that some quarters were not able to accept the fact that a tea-seller had gone on to become the country's leader and hence were conspiring to destabilise his government and defame him.
Modi's words uttered at a farmers' rally in Odisha give birth to an uncomfortable thought. Why does the prime minister, who is not even two-year old in the office, feel it to say this way? Is he losing control of things and feeling frustrated?
Indira Gandhi also had similar apprehensions but the situation was different then
It is not the first time that an Indian prime minister has spoken like this. In the mid-1970s, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, too, had perceived threat to the establishment and imposed an emergency in 1975. It was lifted in 1977 but by then, the world's largest democracy had a permanent scar both on its clean record and psyche.
In 2016, there are no imminent external threats as such and India's economy is far more healthier than what it was in the 1970s. But there are still concerns that can turn into a major threat if not handled wisely by the political authorities.
But there are other concerns in Modi's India
Take the JNU issue, for example. It was clearly a design by the Hindu hardliners to put the game beyond the opponents who could still hope to retaliate against the former after the Hindutva atrocity committed in Dadri last year. By arousing hyper-nationalism at the expense of some students who are soft targets, the right-wing hardliners played the ultimate card of exclusion.
When hyper-nationalism takes the game to abnormal heights
While in Dadri-like issues, the non-Hindu can yet take a counter position to that of the pro-Hindutva groups, in cases like JNU, taking a counter position renders one illegitimate for in our current system of nation-states, taking a stand against nationalism is just 'anti-national' and can't be justified on any ground.
Project to mobilise the majority into a universal support
This tendency of turning the majority support into a universal one is fraught with danger and PM Modi must ensure that this abnormal polarisation isn't encouraged by representatives of his government of party. It is because hyper-nationalism acts as a steroid, a temptation not many, whether individuals or institutions, can ignore to back their own cases. But in doing so, they can cause a irreparable loss to the very democratic culture that India is known for by shutting all avenues of peaceful co-existence.
But this fraught with danger
Indira Gandhi still was in charge of a India that was not a completely open system. Today, our system is so diverse that the slightest of provocation can leave it in a big mess. We have a reckless media today which, in a zeal to better its business, can label people in whatever way it prefers. We have motormouth politicians who bank on the endless media coverage to let themselves known, even through stupid statements.
A sum total of all these factors will always be more than Modi as an individual and if all of them help in pushing things out of control, then the consequences will be disastrous for our republic, irrespective of the deployment of the police and army.
Hence, it worries one when the chief executive of the country sounds pessimistic. It was one thing when he said the same before the Lok Sabha elections. Today, he is in power with a massive mandate and should care little about what one thinks about a petty tea-seller. If the PM himself starts sounding low, then there will be little check on the elements with evil ideas to subvert our democratic functioning.