After The Box Office Hit, Are The Good Days Coming?

Lots of polls predicted a big BJP win in the Lok Sabha elections. Yet, as Amit Sengupta explains, something felt hollow about the obvious corporate-media hype, something disconnected with the realities lived by real people… leading many of us to treat such predictions with a measure of suspicion… only to be rudely awakened .

Unpredictably, unlike in 2004 and 2009, most Exit Polls did not prove wrong in the 2014 parliamentary elections, although they fell short of the euphoric final figure and the landslide victory led by BJP’s muscular prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. Most reporters and political observers on the ground suffered instant withdrawal symptoms, while some went through post traumatic stress, because ofground reports that were proved decisively wrong by the BJP’s huge victory. Indeed, the public spectacle of the moment is a one-man, one-dimensional, unilateral dream sequence. All other parties in most electoral terrains in the cow belt and western India have been wiped out by the ‘Gujarat model’, however fake or real it might be for cynics and fanatics alike.

The RJD lost the ceremonious seats of its supreme leader’s wife and daughter in Bihar’s totally unexpected defeat, the SP won a handful for only its top Yadav chieftain and sundry family members, including a daughter-in-law, the Gandhis won the mother and son’s high profile constituencies in UP, with soap queen Smriti Irani giving the rather clueless son a run for his money. Indeed, with 22 million votes, the BSP got zero in UP, even while Amit Shah floated a rumour that the ultimate fight is between the BSP and the BJP, thereby, confusing secular voters in the finale.

AAP did badly all over the country; it stretched itself beyond its means. Arvind Kejriwal put up a tough fight in Varanasi, but it seemed a lost cause despite the huge effort by secular forces. AAP won four seats in Punjab, surprisingly, and even Gul Panag scored huge number of votes in Chandigarh. So did their candidates in Delhi, two of them scoring more than four lakh votes, and all of them coming in second after BJP, reducing the Congress to a meaningless force. Indeed, currently, AAP seems to be imploding, unless it redefines itself.

Surely, this reporter too, failed to recognise the rumbles of the paradigm shift, as both UP, especially eastern UP, and Bihar, went on a ‘Modi  high’, breaking caste and identity polarisations, taking all of us by surprise. I was proven decisively wrong. There was a simmering, silent Modi wave on the ground in eastern UP and Bihar. And there was a combination of too many other factors that went his way.

In the end, despite the ‘happy end’ for Modi fanatics who see it as the ‘beginning of a new era’ and an ‘unhappy end’ for those who see it as ‘the start of Right-wing fascism in a subverted democracy’, the truth is that the results were unpredictable and unexpected. And yet, a landslide is a landslide, though the BJP got only 31 per cent of the total vote share polled. NDA got 36-37 per cent of the total vote share, and the rest were not even remotely touched by the alleged ‘Modi wave’: basically, 63 per cent of Indian voters did not vote for the ‘Modi wave’ at all.

There was no such wave in Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Kerala, Punjab, Tripura, even while the BJP swept UP, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya  Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, even constituencies in Kashmir and Assam.

Surely, more than the Modi wave, there was a bitter, vicious, angry angst-ridden anti-Congress wave across the country. It seems people have begun to hate the party, its ministers, and the dynasty in equal measures. Its heir has truly turned out to be an utter failure, lacking both strategic intelligence and the will to capture mass imagination. They failed and betrayed the people brazenly; they hit the poor where it hurt most; and they didn’t give two hoots even as scams and corruption rocked the government repeatedly. Indeed, the Congress had lost the battle in their minds much earlier, even while Modi flew across his corporate-backed helicopter across the far and wide selling the ‘Gujarat model’, his skills in demagoguery showcased ‘live’ on most TV channels, selling an impossible dream. The people showed utter contempt for the Congress and its regime led by a lame-duck prime minister. It gave them a long rope, ten years, and it could see that they are not serious, not about secular politics, not about inclusive economics. It was clear that they just don’t give a damn. No wonder most Congress ministers got a drubbing. It’s the same  story with all those who had allied with the Congress.

Add to this the non-stop onslaught of  manufactured consent shown live across the Indian television landscape day-in, day out, the subversion of Indian democracy by the corporate-media nexus, the bombing of hoardings and newspaper ads in the remotest small towns, the total denial and debunking of the discredited and scam-tainted Congress government, and the package deal was almost complete. What finally got the Modi factor riding a gigantic wave of aspiration on this contempt for the Congress was a not-so-subtle, concerted, sustained mix of Hindutva, communal polarisation, hate politics, the entire RSS-VHP-ABVP cadre tactically working on the ground, along with the heady aphrodisiac of the promise of a new era of prosperity, progress and pomposity.

Thousands of jobless people, millions on the margins, rootless youngsters, the vast millions of poor, low income groups and middle class, the homeless and poor,  all hit by stark, relentless, infinite poverty and betrayed dreams, they have all bought this Prasoon Joshi and Piyush Pandey ad-package; for them Modi will deliver the dream.  So why not give him a chance? Acche din aane waale hain… The good days are coming.

This dream is equally a heady aphrodisiac for that small section of upwardly mobile, ambitious, upper classes who have been the first beneficiaries of neo-liberal globalisation in the new corporate India of the urban mainstream. The more they have, the less they are. They want more. They backed Modi like a team. They were basically the Team Modi, even as thousands of crores and top-end PR agencies were hired to sell the packaged product to the masses in this final Hindutva orchestra.

Will the corporate dream sell? Or will it be packaged with the usual dose of hate politics? Will the corporates not want their pound of flesh after backing Modi with all their might? Will this create new contradictions and conflict zones in the troubled and tormented Indian landscape? Will the good days also bring bad tidings? Will it be India Shining, or a Long Dark Endless Night?

Time will tell. It will tell sooner than we can imagine. As of now, it is a seductive corporate-Hindutva honeymoon and this will stay for the days to come. For how long, that will be the next twist in the tale of this blockbuster box office hit. Surely, the twist might arrive sooner than later.


Amit Sengupta started journalism when he was 19, even while he was working in the relief camps as a student of JNU after the State sponsored genocide of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. Since then, he has been an independent president of the JNU Students' Union, writer, activist and editor, closely involved with multiple people's movements and conflict zones in contemporary India. He was Executive Editor, Hardnews magazine, South Asian partner of Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris. He has earlier worked as a senior editor and journalist with Tehelka, Outlook, The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, The Pioneer, The Economic Times and Financial Chronicle. Till recently he has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

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