The question I am trying to answer today is: Why do they, especially the “opinion-maker” type media people, hate Modi so much?
The said hate is taken so for-granted by all of us that, despite the strong element of the personal in it, we forget to ask the obvious, puzzling question: Why do Modi-haters hate him so much?
I believe that, broadly, there are three categories of people who hate Modi viscerally. The first is Abdul from Azampur. I think I understand why he hates, or might want to hate, Modi. He was told that Islam is facing an existential threat world-wide, and he was also told that Modi is the kingpin of an anti-Muslim conspiracy. Faith and faith-based identity issues do trigger strong emotions, especially among the less educated, especially among Muslims.
The second category of ardent Modi-haters are some educated, middle- to upper-middle-class, secularism-spouting, liberalism-chanting non-Hindus. They hate Modi because assertive middle-class Hindus are rooting for him. This might seem complicated, but it all boils down to one’s .. err, forgive me for the cliche .. “idea of India”. Was India born in 1947, where citizenship essentially is the contractual obligation of affirming the Constitution, whose civilization and ethos are best described in terms of the new creed of “secularism”? Or is India a classical yet living Hindu/Indic civilization, owes its character and uniqueness to Hinduism and other native traditions, where people of non-native faiths and traditions also live — as they always lived — with equal rights and dignity? No prizes for guesssing which “idea of India” is the favorite of the Modi-haters of the second category. Many of these folks, pursuing a politics that legitimizes their prejudice, claim allegiance to leftwing ideology, but some strut about as “secular right”. I think I understand their hate too.
The third category are “opinion-makers”/journalists. It is their hate for Modi that is most puzzling. Of course, every paid hack has to say strong stuff about him. At the end of the day there are mouths to feed. But it is only a job, right? So why do some of them go the extra mile, so to speak, and are so into Modi-bashing of the morbid kind that manifestly has genuine passion piled into it? Take this celebrity TV anchor for example. Though not exactly sober most of the time, on the subject of Narendra Modi he becomes particularly cantankerous, and does not fear appearing off-balance or even insane to his viewers. What about Modi makes him go so bonkers?
Looking for a convincing, satisfying answer to this question, not the official or polemical kind, and pondering deeply over the matter in the caves of Himalayas, here is what I came up with.
“Intellectuals” and “opinion-makers” believe that their station in life is to be advisers to rulers. “Rulers” in their view are the Nehru clan. Happily, the Nehru clan “appreciates” the grand ideas of the intellectuals: secularism, liberalism, socialism and all other good stuffism. (It’s just a coincidence the clan’s divisive, self-serving politics could do exactly with this sort of sugar-coating). The dynasty humors intellectuals, and intellectuals in turn “advise” the dynasty: that is how life is expected to go on. India would be governed correctly, and everybody would know his/her place in society. But … rightwingers are a nuisance. The “Hindu nationalist” kind more so. Some of these village people don’t even speak proper English, yet have the gall to challenge intellectuals on the matter of … ideas and ideology! High-flying opinion-makers regard rightwingers as inferior beings. Because they sit at the high table of the powers that “need” their advise, they believe it is beneath their dignity to engage rightwingers in debate as their equals. The argumentative rightwinger is their bugbear. He must be shown his place at any cost.
That was to be Modi’s lot even before 2002. Vocal and combative with an unapologetic RSS background from the boondocks of Gujarat, he may have been a rising star in the BJP but he represented everything that the elite Delhi intellectual resented about the hinterland rightwinger. News stories of the time were already describing him as a “hardliner”, a “hawk”, an “extremist” and as a “controversial” politician. I recall a pre-2002 TV chat show where he gave it back good to the loud-mouthed anchor. He talked back! Modi, even without following the trajectory that brought him to where he is today, would have been anathema to chatteratti, for he offended their sensibilities by simply being what he is.
Yet, when journos lunged gleefully at his throat in March 2002, he was not their immediate target. The (then NDA) government in Delhi was. It must have been assumed — even taken for granted — that a cornered BJP would get rid of Modi to extricate itself from the tsunami of propaganda engulfing it. The crusading journos’ strategy was geared towards taking advantage of such an outcome. The shrill claims of state complicity in the riots were made with the expectation that such claims would ipso facto be affirmed by the forced exit of Modi. Indeed, Vajpayee wanted him to go. But his party colleauges, after listening to Modi in rapt attention at a meet in Goa (where he offered to resign), realized that such a course of action would have meant that the BJP walked into a trap laid for it.
So Modi stays put. Crusaders begin to understand that the man they expected to crush like an insect is proving an infuriating spoilsport. They now take a good look at the guy and recognize him: it’s Modi, the small-town knickerwalla they always had deserving contempt for. Bad enough that their combined might couldn’t unseat a BJP CM even when the situation seemed most opportune, even when it ought to have been a cakewalk, but worse that the CM is Modi! What a double whammy! It must be the sort of humiliating experience that strike bowlers feel when their furious toil cannot take the tail-enders out.
I believe celeb journos developed a thirst for revenge at this point. Their egos were badly bruised. The decision must have been: alright, he may have weathered the power of my propaganda this particular instant, but I am going to get him.
The journo’s hate of Modi, in my view, is the hate of the loser who had his nose rubbed in dirt; of one who was outwitted by the lowly upstart. I recall another TV interview that Modi gave right after winning 2002 elections. The expression on the face of the interviewer was a spectacle. The face was long, drawn, and it was manifestly the face of a loser pretending to have not been humiliated by a crushing defeat. His hair has greyed since then and he has learned not to betray his emotions so blatantly. But I am sure he, and many others like him, would still give their right arms to stomp all over the body of Narendra Modi. And go live on air doing it too. Vengefulness is an awful emotion.