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Chetan Bhagat’s latest column in
the Sunday Times (the masthead of the
Times of India on Sundays redolent of
a publication in UK),
The Underage Optimist, is titled ‘And the people’s choice is…’ (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/all-that-matters/And-the-peoples-choice-is--/articleshow/14539995.cms).
He considers two candidates for the answer, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.
Bhagat exercises his democratic right in favour of Mr. Modi. There is nothing
exceptionable with either his debunking of the Congress ‘crown prince’ or his
political inclination for Mr. Modi. The issue is in his arriving at Mr. Modi as
the ‘people’s choice’.
He claims that 82 percent of
those voting on a poser from him on his Facebook page between the two political
personalities weighed in favour of Mr. Modi, helping Modi beat Rahul Gandhi by
‘an astonishing 16 times’. Those who follow Bhagat’s socio-political writings
in his columns and op-eds as against his bestsellers are by now familiar with
his political predilections. Yet again in a free country there is no problem
with that. It can be expected that those agreeing with him would also be linked
to his site on Facebook. Therefore, if the vote goes a particular way, it
cannot but be otherwise. From that to stretch the argument and prejudge the
national election two years away is, to quote a phrase in his article, ‘a bit
The matter of using his column
for propagating a candidate as he has been indulging in over the past is also
one between him and his editor. However, it is important to equally
consistently dissect Bhagat’s argument in favour of his choice, lest through
biased propagation by his influential supporters Mr. Modi does end up acquiring
the prime minister’s chair in the real forum as against Facebook.
Bhagat, as befitting an IIT-IIM
graduate, sensibly builds up his case as a comment on the manner Mr. Modi is
acquiring a following in cyberspace among the youth. He caveats his advocacy by
requiring Mr. Modi get ‘lucky, stay humble, has some genuine remorse and make
the right moves.’ Getting ‘lucky’ is meaningless. ‘Staying humble’ is a notably
tall order for Mr. Modi, as his recent campaign against his bete noire in the
right wing, Mr. Joshi, indicates. It is the contradiction between the latter
two – ‘genuine remorse’ and ‘making the right moves’ – that needs
‘Genuine remorse’ cannot be felt
and expressed as part of making the ‘right moves’. While remorse is right, it
cannot be a right ‘move’. It cannot be taken as a means to an end. It has to be
an end in itself. Genuine remorse in this case would amount to abdication, not
only of the gaddi but by taking political sanyas. A life spent
thereafter in service of the victims is one that can efface the blot, since the
state and its judicial system has not deigned to bring justice to bear. However,
since neither this is not about to happen, it is best that Mr. Modi be shown
the door democratically.
Will that happen? Not if the
likes of Mr. Bhagat manipulate their fan following into turning in a
majoritarian verdict. Even if backed by the majority, it would hardly be
‘democratic’, since political theory well knows that majority and democracy are
not synonymous. A graduate with a technical degree such as Mr. Bhagat cannot be
expected to know better.
A decade of uninhibited
manipulation of the evidence in the Gujarat carnage using a cowed down state
machinery and docile police has led to Mr. Modi being given the benefit of the
doubt by the likes of the Supreme Court appointed SIT led by RK Raghavan.
However, his supporters are ever willing to keep skepticism in suspended
animation blinded by majoritarian supremacism.
This does not imply, as Bhagat
suggests, a willingness to forget someone else’s past in order to gain a future.
It is instead to be well aware of the past and not be bothered by it. Bhagat’s
suggestion that the nation should follow such a cohort is to be blind to their
motives going beyond a development orientation as Mr. Bhagat selectively
Bhagat’s selective blindness
tells more about him than does his column. It is for this reason his case needs
interrogation. And the fact that as a ‘youth icon’ – in the wikipedia’s words –
his words may be taken as gospel in youth liable to mistake the credentials –
IIT-IIM – as those of Almighty himself. It is no wonder then that Bhagat in his
conclusion advises the BJP to go about ‘mobilizing people to vote’.
There remains one last bone to
pick. Bhagat in drawing up his negative contrast of Rahul Gandhi to his
champion has Gandhi ‘hiding whenever there is a national crisis.’ Bhagat can be
forgiven for not knowing where Mr. Modi was in late February 2002, since
Bhagat was perhaps over in Hong Kong busy with
But, where was Mr. Modi hiding
during the national crisis in rajdharma?
Keeping his political buddies in police control rooms, Mr. Modi was certainly
not busying himself with preempting the carnage at the controversial meeting on
the evening of 27 February 2002 in his residence office. The SIT claims he was
not busy precipitating it either.
The vote on this due in 2014 will
surely confine Bhagat’s ‘people’s choice’ as PM of his Facebook page.