- The BJP’s pejorative terms such as “anti-national”, “urban Naxal” and the over the top “khan market gang” are met with laughter, mockery and jeering.
- For a regime that takes itself very seriously and for a politician like Modi, who cultivates an image as an un-smiling “strong leader,” the mockery is considered derision, something that Modi is unable to tolerate.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his saffron twin, Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, are preternaturally aware of the power of words and terms. After all, if they had only used the magic words “persecuted minorities” in the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) instead of using a religious filter, the current wave of protests would not have happened.
But in ModiSpeak and ShahSpeak, if it does not target Muslims it can’t pass the Sangh test.
Modi used the sunny upward slope of “acche din” (good days) to get elected to his first term in office. At that time, his most fervent supporters were students and young people hoping for the good life. Modi also knows the power of stardust, whether it is the billionaires of India Inc or Bollywood stars.
All of them were courted assiduously to sell Modi to India. Modi flew kites with mega star Salman Khan, Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani. And all endorsed Modi’s superman credentials. Anil Ambani went to the extent of hailing him as “Narendra means a lord among men. And Narendra bhai is our lord”.
Words again and their power. When Modi unveiled an attack on his enemies he termed them the “Khan market gang”. Shah threatened what he termed “urban Naxals,” who he said needed to be taught a lesson. And lo and behold students protesting the CAA/NRC in campuses across India were beaten up by police or mysterious goons. In Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, chief minister, zealously got with the programme and unleashed his inner craziness, which led to 26 deaths.
Yet despite these blood thirsty attacks, the students and other protestors are unbowed and their ranks are swelling every day.
The crude terms
The BJP’s pejorative terms such as “anti-national”, “urban Naxal” and the over the top “khan market gang” are met with laughter, mockery and jeering. For a regime that takes itself very seriously and for a politician like Modi, who cultivates an image as an un-smiling “strong leader,” the mockery is considered derision, something that Modi is unable to tolerate.
Smriti Irani, is a former television actress, currently Cabinet minister, famed for her intemperance and mystery qualifications. She has variously claimed to be a commerce graduate and then an arts graduate in her sworn affidavits to the Election Commission. Irani has also claimed to have a “degree from Yale in her kitty”.
Irani has waded in to the protest debate and attacked actor Deepika Padukone for her support to the beleaguered JNU by bringing out the trusty weapon of issuing her a patriotism certificate. Irani accused Padukone with forces who wanted to break India.
And instead of what Irani hoped for would be claps of support for her soapy melodrama she was greeted with laughter.
Students pointed out that in her disaster tenure as education minister, she had set fire to the JNU campus, was accused of allegedly causing the suicide of a Dalit scholar, tried to make Christmas Day the strangely termed “good governance” day.
Irani had also withheld salaries from the government broadcaster - Prasar Bharti - in a similarly tempestuous tenure in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
Currently, Irani holds the portfolio of Women and Child Development, but you would not know if since she is mum on the issues of her ministry. Irani is still to utter a word on the alleged rapists Kuldip Sengar and Chinmayanand, both from the BJP.
Laughter is best antidote for would-be dictatorial leaders who take themselves very seriously. And that the protestors who are locked in an unequal power struggle with the Modi government are now making jokes about Modi.
Sample some “Jab Hindu Muslim raazi toh kya karega Nazi”. A JNU student at the protest told me “Modi and Shah are What’sApp uncles come to life. Most such uncles are harmless. These uncles have a lot of power”. This is from students who were Modi’s erstwhile supporters.
Read more from Swati Chaturvedi
- CAA-NRC protests: The Modi effect and the taming of the Khans of Bollywood
- India rises to save secular democracy under siege from Narendra Modi and Amit Shah
- CAA-NRC protests: Why is Narendra Modi so obsessed with Pakistan?
- CAA and NRC: A pyromaniac is at play to hound Muslims, turn secular India into a Hindu state
- CAA-NRC: Narendra Modi’s dreams of an image as global statesman and good days for India are history
- Maharashtra elections: The day democracy was stabbed in the back in India
What a steep downfall for Modi, who had just seven months ago won 303 seats and increased his margin from his first term. I had written a SWAT analysis on the curse of the second term and I do think that analysis has aged well.
Instead of fixing the economy now in free fall, Modi went looking for imaginary enemies to attack and has tried to ram through the Sangh’s contentious agenda of turning India in to a Hindu Rashtra.
Modi has earlier tapped in to the zeitgeist and made himself the epitome of cool. But when you call Deepika Padukone, a mainstream heartthrob, “anti-national” you’ve lost the plot.
And the protesting students are saying - Sit down uncle. How that must hurt Modi.