Sunday, October 02, 2011

Open Letter to Mr. Manmohan Singh

I am pretty sure that you, being the Prime Minister of India do not read random open letters that people write to you. Instead, I believe that you, sir, heading the government in the largest democracy, are often hard pressed for time. Your job is not an advertisement for work-life balance for sure, and I do not think that you get time to even stumble upon social media. Unlike the man who could never be the Prime Minister.

It is pretty well established, then, that you would not be reading this letter. However, writing this helps me vent my frustration out. Moreover, on a slightly more selfish note, writing an open letter to you also gets potential new visitors to this blog. Nothing really succeeds like an idea whose time has come – and the latest idea doing the rounds in social media is about abusing the government and everyone related to the ruling Congress Party.

Sir, it is a good thing you are not exactly social media savvy. For if you were, you would not like what you would see. (Hell, even I do not like what I see in my Facebook feeds). You see, my Facebook feed is full of inglorious stories about Congress Party in general, and Mrs. G in particular. A latest story going about in Facebook has even hinted at the possibility of Mrs. G using her body to earn money when she was in England. I assume it is part of a campaign to malign the Gandhi family, but the attempt has definitely become a hit in the social media. And everytime I log into Facebook (which is like, every 10 minutes), the story has been shared by one more friend. Even you are not spared sir, and people insist jokes like “My phone is in Manmohan mode, because I am in a meeting” are more a reflection of truth that humour.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! I still remember the day when you had written a glorious chapter in the 5000 year old history of India on 24th July 1991 in your Budget speech, heralding in an era of globalization and liberalization in the Indian economy. And subconsciously, creating a whole new generation – a generation that till then had grown up on Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and which then found solace in Nirvana and Pearl Jam videos on MTV. This was the confused generation, a generation brought up on traditional Indian values, but one which was strongly impacted by the cable TV and other symbols of globalization and liberalisation. While we marvel at the completely Westernized lifestyle the generation below us has adapted itself to, we are also caught up with traditional notions of morality and ethics. And so for all practical purposes, we as a generation are screwed.

But today, this generation has suddenly decided to remove the cloaks of confusion that has bound it, and risen almost as one: Against you and your government as it were. At least in social media, where it is easy to protest, and does not cost much. You have suddenly fallen from being the man who heralded the economic revolution in India to a puppet who is dancing to “Master of Puppets” by Mrs. G. The amount of hatred in social media against your government as expressed through the social media was manifested during the Anna Hazare campaign. The slogans that were raised, comparing Cabinet ministers to animals and Mrs. G to mother of a corrupt government, just spoke of the disillusionment of the people with the government.

Yes I know only 50000 entered the Ram Lila Grounds, but if the Facebook and twitter movements are anything to go by, it was a mass middle class movement -the same middle class, which saw unprecedented opportunities for growth after your 24th July speech. Along with a confused generation, you had also spawned a Frankenstein - a new middle class, which after years of tolerating the License Raj, now wanted everything at their own terms. When the Congress surprisingly – and let us admit it was surprising even to you – ended up as the single biggest party in 2004 general elections, and you were selected by Mrs. G as the Prime Minister, India saw a new ray of hope. Finally, an honest, clean and secular government was what most people thought. While your first five years did not really set the pulses rising, you blamed everything on the “constraints of coalition politics.” And people believed you, gauged you deserved a second chance and returned the Congress Party with its highest tally since 1991. The decision to return you to power has proved to be about as right as making Senator Palpatine the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic in Star Wars. Or so the social media sites would have one believe. Your government is being portrayed as a collection of evil Jedis, and you as the unwilling Darth Vader. Mrs G, as you might have guessed, is the emperor.

Honestly, people are fed up. There have been scams and more scams. It is not the first time that scams have occurred, but with the advent of Facebook and twitter, people who can express their frustrations at the prevalent corruption are doing it. Ironically, it is that generation that you helped create and the middle class whose dreams you fostered, who are at the forefront of the revolution. They want to see India as a superpower – a country with unlimited potential, which however is being brought down by the various corruption activities, of which the government has been unable to absolve itself. Corruption has become a big issue for everyone and will be the single biggest reason of the return to power of BJP. Unless you clean up the house that is, and take full responsibility for the actions of your cabinet colleagues. Become the master of puppets for once.

I personally do not care much about corruption, and there are good points to be made in favour of corruption as well. However, I believe that the inability of your government to check corruption is giving rise to a new kind of emotion among people – the portrayal of Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate. The social media is enthused about Narendra Modi’s success in transforming Gujarat. How Gujarat has managed 11% growth, and how the state is virtually corruption free. (Though, from what I hear, there are many places where alcohol is available). And a lot of my facebook friends gush about how good a candidate Narendra Modi would make. In short, Narendra Modi has captured the fantasy of the social network. To use the Star Wars analogy, Narendra Modi is Luke Skywalker – atleast for the social media.

The more you remain silent about the whole issues that your government faces, the more Opposition claims that you are a weak PM seem true. And the more Narendra Modi gains credibility. Just like Hitler did back in the early 30s. The difference being that while Hitler’s campaign was aimed at German nationalism and the rallying point was the disarmament of the German army, Modi’s would be corruption plaguing the central government. And unless you set the house in order sir, just like in Germany, a wave will start here in India, which might be difficult to contain. Like Hitler, Modi is a brilliant orator and is able to control the public perception through careful propaganda, but I do not think the similarities end here. All I would like to say, Modi as PM could be the gravest challenge that India has ever in its long history.

If that were to happen, Mr. Manmohan Singh, India would never forgive you.


Ankur Shanker said...

Nice train of thought. I never allowed my imagination to envisage that kind of an end if Modi were to be the PM, but it can't also be ruled out altogether. After what he allegedly did in Gujarat, I think he has the potential to run amok.

Witness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Witness said...

Brilliant!And I so wish he reads it to contain the Modi malaise.

sidmohata said...

i have only one issue with the narrative, MMS has nothing to do with the liberalization and globalization of india...when india was in a balance of payment crisis in 91, IMF gave india a structural adjustment loan bail-out, which required india to liberalization, like most of our heritage, was forced on us by videshi haath

Shreyas said...

with my limited knowledge of indian history and that too commerce and liberalization, i am inclined towards the comment from sidmohata, tht liberalization was thrust on us more than anything else...the fact tht mms championed tht cause and made the change smooth is remarkable...but tht feat doesnt absolve him of being inactive to say the least in chking corruption...just as development of gujarat will never absolve modi of the massacre in godhara..
these are turbulent times in indian politics, but i must say tht i'd rather be a romantic and vouch for change rather than go by the saying "its better to live with the devil u knw than the devil u dont"

zubin said...

@Shanker: I might have taken things a bit too far, but then yeah - he definitely has the potential to run amok.
@Shweta: Thanks!!
@Mohata: Always trying to be correct, you are. :)
@Shreyas: For the romantic in you, you should read the Animal Farm. Or listen to the Who's "Wont get fooled again" or REM's "Ignoreland".

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