Divided Indians will take their own decision

Tomorrow and May 19 and then this long cycle of ‘whither Modi, whether Modi?’ will come to a close on May 23, the day the earth will shift on its axis and for millions it will be either a new dawn or the same, sit on the porch and watch the twilight throw its shadows. Either way, the journalist can only chronicle. The Economist’s Agent Orange has said his piece and Aatish Tasveer has added his words in Time!

Modi is ‘Divider in Chief’, says Time on its cover and Social Media has taken the classification to every nook and corner. While to those who want Modi unseated, it’s like their exact feelings stated and satiated, to others it’s an interference in India’s electoral process like the Russian media did in the American Presidential elections of 2016.

Also, hidden in the so-called ‘interference’, is the reasoning that media in India are largely sold out to the ruling establishment because business models do not allow freedom or because media are “afraid”. People who take this stand say the Modi Government has in the last five years beaten to submission Indian media. So, when media at “home” have been made incapable, media abroad had to come to the rescue.

That may only be partially true. At least in the television media, prominent anchors have a clear rightwing ideology and, if they have “succumbed” to the government, it is not because of fear. The powers be in such media houses took a conscious decision to choose and pick anchors who shared a similar bent of mind with the BJP, and therefore toe the Modi government’s line in all matters.

In the case of the Republic, it is glaringly so. Not only is the journalist anchor of two hours of primetime but also owner of the television channel, and he speaks with an authority and command which comes with that knowledge. If anybody expects such media and journalists to do a Time or The Economist then that somebody is unaware of reality. That being said, despite and in spite of “government control”, there are Indian media which have not buckled under Modi’s pressure.

The Time article, written by a British journalist of Pakistan origin, blasts Modi for “dividing” Indians along communal lines and for attempting to foist its “cultural nationalism” on Indians; that in Modi rule, fanatic Hindus got a free pass to intimidate Muslims and other minorities in the name of the cow. The Economist article decried Modi’s Pakistan and Kashmir policies and called him “reckless” for carrying out the Balakote air-strikes.

But the question arises, are these publications writing and working against Modi or are they helping him consolidate the Hindu vote behind him? Such views as those the two articles highlight to put Modi in the dock only go to harden the Hindu base of Modi and sway others who are on the fence, even as they unite those against Modi.

Such articles are double-edged swords, they tend to harden the bases of political parties in the fray and Modi’s base has only broadened in these last five years while the Opposition is a divided block, which begs the question, who is/are the divider(s) in chief? Besides, by injecting Pakistan into the mix, they’re doing a favour to Modi.

Pakistan’s conduct towards India is not such that it wins favour with Indians. It will be another mystery why Time hired a journalist of Pakistani origin to pen “Divider in Chief”? Was it deliberate and, if so, for what purpose to be served?  For the voters left to cast their ballots in the last two phases of general elections 2019, their minds must already be crystalized and no Time or The Economist will change their preferences.

Modi did not turn “Divider in Chief” post the announcement of elections and nor did he take on the mantle after he chose “national security” as his poll plank. Modi’s Pakistan and Kashmir policies had supporters from the word go and the Balakote strikes only added to those numbers.

Besides, the Congress and the rest of the Opposition should not have spoken in a language sympathetic to Pakistan. The Congress, particularly, should have kept its thoughts on AFSPA to itself, till after ousting the “Divider in Chief”. But, no, disunity among the opposition parties, made the Congress reckless and it contributed and helped Modi to consolidate and build his Hindu base.

The ‘Hindu’ of today is by far more militant than his father and grandfather and no Time or The Economist can change that in the last hour. The times they have a changed. The time to warn Indians of ‘Divider-in-Chief’ has come too late.

Sushil Kutty is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.

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