Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Future is now: Polls and Gujarat

TV shows suggests Modi has been good for Gujarat. But they also ask if such a man is good for the country

Elections in Gujarat have almost become a pre-emptive exercise on TV. Modi is alreadypresentedastheuncrownedking,a man whose every move and every breath has been an election campaign. TV commentatorsrealisethatModihasresetthepolitical stage. There is no longer an assessment of party strengthandpolitics.ThereisModiandonlyModi.
    The dissent presented is ineffective, almost repetitive.ItiseitheralitanyalaMallikaSarabhai or a wail by a survivor. A tougher more thoughtful intervention comes from Achyut Yagnik. Yagnik was among the first to show that Modi had altered the rules of the game, moving from caste to a broader middle class constituency.
    One of the backdrops for a show was Gujarat Vidyapith, with a charkha rotating and casting a grand shadow on the wall. The tacit message was interesting. It was almost as if Gandhi was symbolically asking Modi’s Gujarat for a different response.
    As the show precedes one realises that a backdrop is only a backdrop, a visual prop and that Modi’s Gujarat has in fact rejected Gandhi. Gandhi in fact was never popular in Gujarat. He left Sabarmati Ashram in 1932 never to return to Gujarat. It is a pity TV never invited scholars on Gandhi to make a comparative assessment. Election analysis, TV almost suggests, becomes a bodyaudit.Theelectionismoreinthenatureofa referendum, for Modi. One channel, in fact, created a potted biography of Modi, with tits bits from Vadnagar acclaiming modi as a rags to riches story. He was visualised as a movement from the tea stall to the prime-ministership. This linear narrative created a mobility story rather than a political understanding of the man. Often TV seems to simply portray the man and the Gujarat elections. What one misses is a reasoned critique of Modi at different levels of politics. The occasional byte signalling a difficult view makes little dent into the stereotypical picture.
    Yet if we see TV as a jigsaw puzzle, a collage, one realises that silently and tacitly a different picture with a different set of questions is appearing.
    There is an alternative scenario beginning with an assumption that Modi has already won. It even suggests that he has been good for Gujarat.Butitthenmakesaflipandasksifsuchamodel,suchamanisgoodforthecountry?ItasksisIndia only a theory of growth, a society friendly to businessman?Ithintsatthesocialcostofamodel dividing between short and long run.
    The short run has been captured by the language of growth and the corporation. It is the long run that is pregnant with questions and these questions are not just about the 2002 riots. TVistootacticalandtoointelligentaforumtoremain glued to any one question. It is raising a set of doubts as gaps and silences.
    Itisaskingwhatisthedecentsociety?Isitonly growth or does it have a wider theory of citizenship? It is not just a question about the Muslim but of other marginals and minorities like nomads, tribes and pastoral groups as well? What will Modi’s push for imagination do to them ? Can a society afford to hypothecate the coastline to the corporation? What is the future city and who can live there? Does the middle class have a place for other classes? Is the business of Gujarat only business? Is Modi’s idea of governance adequateforculture,foradecentsociety?Thesilence is deafening. TV, by its innuendos is hinting about a larger debate.