Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Why do young people love Narendra Modi?

Apparently Modi has "rock-star appeal" and young people love him. If it's even half true, what's that about? Perhaps they swallow the nonsense his PR machine spews out, but that doesn't seem enough to explain it.

So here's a nice simple-minded theory. We have a complicated relationship with authority and power in India. Pecking orders are everywhere and many people switch easily between fearful respect towards one person, and haughty superiority towards another. Grovelling and terrorising in quick succession. (Sometimes it's not clear cut - two people meet and they both think, "is this a grovel moment or a terrorise moment?") The fear and respect starts early, with parents; and teachers; and elders; and the police; and the military; and other representatives of the state; and people with power and money; and so on. Since it starts so young, maybe we end up so emotionally confused that love and fear are nearly indistinguishable. We resent our weakness and long for a higher power to come along to torment our tormentors. The hero film-star rescuer.

Maybe that's what Modi is to some people. A fantasy born of general impotence - the father you're supposed to love - benevolent and kind, provided you are sufficiently fearful and respectful. The people who claim to love him are then mostly just afraid, however cheerfully they announce their adoration. The Modi love-fear certainly transcends class - a quick trawl through the web shows that Modi has a significant "educated", middle-class following. It also transcends all reason, since the grubby, bloody reality of his rise to power is no superhero story.

One lesson could be that there's not much point being earnest and reminding people about the Gujarat violence of 2002 or encounter killings or the historical links of the RSS to Nazism - this just reinforces the love-fear. Maybe the careful and precise analysis you'll find on Kafila is mainly for the converted. More hope perhaps of toppling the idol in other ways like they try at the recently created, a website which makes a point of "cussing" him - attacking him irreverently with cartoons and satire. And even if such attacks just wind the Modi-maniacs up, that's good enough for me. Well done to those who conceived it.

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