As Indians, we are fools in paradise, at least that is what most of our political leaders either take us for or make us believe.
There are two aspects here; one is the presumption that people are fools and when they are not, either they are fooled or made to look like fools. The other is that they are made to believe that they live in paradise, the problems like unemployment, inflation, hate crime and crimes against women, notwithstanding.
These leaders have changed the phrase ‘grass is greener on the other side’ to grass is greener here, with no grass on the other side (Pakistan) and they are aptly joined in this by a large section of television channels, who always compare our situation with that of Pakistan. It is like a child who clears the school examination with the minimum passing marks, pointing out to the parents that some other students failed!
Across party lines, this is evident from their actions, stands on different issues and statements from time to time. A compilation of such statements and acts would fill thousands of pages and would surely earn a PhD for scholarly research on it.
A cursory look at such behaviour of the leaders would make one believe that the leader is foolish, because most of the statements are ridiculous or lack logic and scientific basis. But deeper application of mind shows that people making such statements know that their followers will not question them, given their implicit faith in the leader and acceptance of their statements as unquestionable gospel truth.
Over a period of time, they create an image of themselves as divine individuals, with the power to liberate the people from all their sorrows and create paradise here on earth, without making them wait for death.
Such leaders have manipulated public opinion to such an extent that a large section of the population has stopped applying their mind to the situation around or to ascertain the validity of the statements made; contemplation is a quality that is now defunct in the case of these blind followers of the leader.
Though there can be no match to the way the Bharatiya Janata Party and its leaders Narendra Modi and Amit Shah manipulate public opinion, there are many others who fall in that category, but are far behind, as compared to these two. Modi and Shah must have spent most of their childhood playing bluff, a card game where the participants have to bluff to win. The more you bluff, the better your chances of winning the card game and when you think you are cornered, you let the situation pass.
That is the case with our elections too, and when you think you are cornered, you remain silent on the issue, the way Modi has maintained silence on issues like protests by women wrestlers seeking justice against sexual harassment, the ethnic violence in Manipur, the sexual assaults on women in Manipur, charges of financial mismanagement against Gautam Adani, and the farmers’ agitation, among others. It is his way of saying “pass” in the bluff game.
Political veteran Sharad Pawar is no less a player of the game. He has created history in electoral politics and in democracy. For the first time in the world a political party is occupying the treasury and Opposition in the same state. The Nationalist Congress Party, led by Sharad Pawar, split in Maharashtra, with one section joining the government in the state and another section sitting with the Opposition.
Pawar, an old hand at the game, has now made a statement that there is no split in the party, though some legislators felt they should join the government and others disagreed. Such a statement can be made so confidently only when the person knows that the recipients will not question it.
Surveys are often being carried out in the country on the assumption that people are fools. A recent survey shows that those giving credit to Modi for the success of the space programme that helped Chandrayaan-3, are far more than those who attribute it to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who initiated space research in the country.
This is another example of lack of application of mind, coupled with blind faith in Modi. Nehru agreed to space research, at the time when India had a huge crunch of financial resources, while it is not so with Modi. Also, the budgetary allocation to the Department of Space was slashed by 8% in the 2023-24 Union Budget, from ₹13,700 crore to ₹12,543.91 crore. Yet, with the success of Chandrayaan-3, the entire machinery geared up to give credit to Modi and he was projected on the screen from ISRO, when people actually wanted to see the delight on the faces of all those who worked hard to make Chandrayaan-3 a success.
In another survey, people gave a very high rating to Modi as compared to Nehru as regards work as the prime minister. One needs to see if the respondents to such surveys have informed opinions. It would be unfair to reach such conclusions without a critical analysis of the work of the prime ministers, which would also include the economic situations in which they worked. Otherwise, it is like giving credit for a beautiful building only to the painters, without a mention of the workers who constructed it.
If there is no awakening of the people from their slumber, one day they will realise that it is the country that has been fooled, not they.
(The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi)