One of the most interesting thought experiments one can perform on the Gujarat elections is to travel in and out of the state, listening to the perceptions on its outcome. The pendulum swing of opinion going from the outside to the inside creates two oddly contrary views. The difference is not about the eventual victor (and, really, few were in doubt about who that was to be), but about the very nature of politics itself. And therein lies the social construction of the Modi victory: a win of two different orders and over two different levels.
It is the outside view of Modi’s politics that is flatter, almost homogeneous. It presents a pre-emptive view of politics: Modi as future PM. The outside view can be dubbed the politics of default. Modi had proclaimed victory beforehand of course, walking around like an ordained chieftain, a politician mentally assured of the result before the outcome was out. As if the question was not whether he will be prime minister, but when. The outside view sees Modi’s victory not as the result of an election with a fine-grained dynamics, but as vindication of a referendum on development—followed by the deserved acclamation. Mr Public Policy is on the way to being PM.
The inside view is the earthworm’s view. It smells of locality, soil, of internal doubt and dissent. Walking the streets of Ahmedabad, talking to people, one sensed—and senses still—a different ambience. People talked of specific issues. For instance, they were outspoken about the BRTS transport scheme or the project of riverside improvement. There was a sense that development, in the abstract, is one world and that concrete cases of development needed a detailed ethnography. A rickshaw puller complained that BRTS has created a multitude of minute displacements. Another thought the toll tax works against the poor. There was a sense that Modi’s vibrant Gujarat is a package that exists in the PRO’s mind. The people ask, “Development is okay, but what about the drought in Saurashtra?”
The contrast between the two images raises questions. Does the media write the history only through the lens of its winners or should the texture, taste, vibrancy, maybe even the surprises of the contest be looked at? The Congress, which has an outside view of politics, seemed to have given up as a party. Its local chiefs functioned in much the same way, content simply to sit back and register the presence of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. The Congress state unit behaves as if history begins when the dynasty enters Gujarat. Oddly, it isn’t the Congress entity that is the Opposition, but a rag-tag bunch of dissenters. The tragedy was that their complaints, doubts and critiques had not been politically aggregated. The party had failed in its minimum logic of politic duty. In the run-up to the election, what the Opposition failed to achieve, the dissenters, lobbies and ordinary people had signalled. The boat yatras, a battle of local people objecting to the hypothecation of the coastline to the corporations; the Kalsarian battle against the Nirma plant, the diamond lobbies’ unease with Modi, the Leuva Patel disgruntlement with politics—all highlighted it. And still, the Congress was a missing voice in Gujarat politics.
And there are the fears, under-articulated ones, that did not find resonance in electoral politics. The everyday fear of urbanisation. The development model might be hailed by the middle class, but even many city-dwellers feel the urbanisation programmes have shortchanged them. The riverside project has sanitised the river banks by refusing people living near the river access to it. There is the uneasy sense that urbanisation is a process of leasing land to corporations in the name of the middle class. These fears of the civics of the new urbanisation raises bigger fears of the fate of pastoral and nomadic groups.
This election had a different tenor. If the 2002 election was anchored on communal politics, the one after on a hybrid of communalism and development, this election by centering on Modi, the man and his achievements, depoliticised local-level issues, problems and protests, all of which would have added sparkle, diversity and perhaps even surprise. Odder still, though, was that the 2002 riots did not figure centrally. It was almost as if politics at the local level had been paused, to play out the bigger epic drama of Modi and his future. The 70 per cent turnout, almost festival-like, seemed to signal that these wider issues had been touched only perfunctorily—though the final tally suggests the heterogeneity of voices on the ground did find a vague articulation. There was always a sense that this election would be a split-level one, perceived through different scripts. In a way, that has come to pass.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
I Give up. I really couldn't cross the sentence giving the Rickshaw puller's perspective. Please also take up the plight of Gujaratis making Generators & Inverters. :))).
All these Libtards are making real Clowns out of themselves in their pursuit to demonize Modi or spin Guj Development.
//Development? What of drought-hit Saurashtra?//
Errm..we're hoping that the development will make drought resistant technology more affordable instead of getting caught in the vicious cycle of handouts?
Maybe then our farmers will move to the 21st century and stop relying on the monsoon?
With friends like Shiv who need foes for Congress. The Grand old party or the Grand old dynasty must wake up and smell the coffee, this man Modi has shown how things are done and what a articulate, effective leader at the top can do for the party..See his speeches and that of the Prime Minister and you know what I am talking.. I am a congress supporter, but they will never and I mean never get my vote again.
I want leaders who show some courage, have some stand on issue(even if it is against my view) and above all I want humans not robots.
Rahul Gandhi and his ilk better learn to face me if they want my vote, I am not voting for Jokers who Teek hai after a robotic attempt at speech making.
Your dislike for Modi and his party are well known. But but, can you please tell us what exactly has Modi to do with rainfall failures in Saurashtra (this year)..??
Do you blame climate changes and rainfall failures on Sanghis/RSS/BJP/Modi and his supporters? Can you be little more objective, at least once in your life?
See the picture at the top- the little boy looks healthy, cattles look well fed, the baggage look clean, ground around is green- if despite drought, condition of farmer/poor is not in bad shape, then Modi has done a lot of work for their betterment. But some morons will never see what actually.is. The picture also is not of a farmer family but of some 'KHANABADOS" who wander for their livelihood. Of course lot more has to be done, but still far better than rest of India. And the lady in picture seem more honest than 'whole of ( )secular media'..
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