Friday, 9 September 2022 Did Modi just inaugurate the Second Republic? Prime Minister Modi has abandoned a strategy of stealth for a more up-front and in-your-face one. Thus far, his has been an incremental approach, with subterfuge thrown in to tide over structural disadvantage and temporary weakness. Recall Modi’s turn at the head of his run-up - the consequential meeting, since shoved under the carpet, at his chief minister residence of 27 February 2002. Recall also the alliance between the Indian ‘deep state’ – cultural nationalists in the national security woodwork – and Hindutva forces, that, through black operations depicting India as a weak state subject to Muslim terrorism, manufactured an unbreakable vote bank from the majority community. Recall the period when acche din, signifying development, were bandied to win over the middle classes. His in-plain-sight cover-up of above shenanigans in the run up to prime-ministership is best evidenced by the recent incarceration of human rights defender, Teesta Setalvad. The period of stealth is now comprehensively behind him and he can openly steer the ship of State towards uncharted waters of the Second Republic. The inauguration of Kartavya Path, with one end anchored by the Netaji statue and the other at Vijay Chowk – perhaps eventually - having one of ‘Veer’ Savarkar, suggests as much. It will be followed by the throwing open, with religious observances led by Modi - if the earlier bhoomi pujan and the recent unveiling of the parliamentary Simhas are any guide - of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, even as the mosque that was to come up there is held up by clearances being withheld. The new parliament building’s opening awaits perhaps the next G20 summit when visiting dignitaries are invited to an inaugural joint sitting of parliament, their attendance being depicted as India’s arrival as Vishwa Guru. There will be political tamashas too – such as the gerrymandered elections to throw up a Hindu Jammuite chief minister in Srinagar, failing which, there is Ghulam Nabi - conferred recently with a national award in anticipation - to fall back on. The aim is - come 2024 - to build a majority in the legislature to rewrite the Constitution. After all, if Nehru family icon, Indira could, then surely Hindutva champion, Modi can, will and must. A Hindu Rashtra of Hindutva’s imagining is taking shape in front of our eyes. Its verities have been interrogated by liberals, but their reservations have drawn little political blood. Return of awards, missives to the prime minister in wake of egregious violence to the national conscience, populating liberal websites – as The Wire, Scroll etc. - with dire warnings etc. only contribute to keeping up the veneer that India is not a totalitarian State led by an authoritarian leader. Even the blatant letting-off of rapists – with the Center’s concurrence of the Gujarat’s remission of sentences of perpetrators of crimes against humanity – has not been able to draw the political opposition – notably the party in the lead trying to wrest Gujarat - into battle. A two-thirds majority in the lower house is not necessary for jettisoning the First Republic’s Constitution. As the Article 370 amendment proceedings showed, the ruling party will have political parties band-wagon in parliament. The judiciary’s Ayodhya judgment reflects - as much as does the cold storage of the other salient cases, notably, the one on electoral bonds - the doctrine of basic structure will not stand in way of a Hindutva Republic. It is already being held that the iconography on the margins of the original copy of the Constitution shows it was of a Hindu Republic. Even so, a set of seers has helpfully drawn up a fresh one, with non-Hindus thoughtfully reduced to second class citizenship. The security of the Second Republic already stands endangered. A lapse in Raj Dharma has set its tone at the very outset. The subterfuge by way of which the Hindu vote bank has come to be is both illegal and illegitimate. It’s illegal in the way black operations are inevitably, as the term suggests. It is illegitimate in that the information operations surrounding these informed the electorate’s voting behavior. Skeletons are already spilling out of the cupboard with an affidavit in a Nanded court spilling the beans on black operations. However, infirm foundations do not worry the regime’s Chanakya-inspired security minders. The very artfulness of capturing the State is taken as proof of being worthy of running it. The ruthless pursuit of power - that has seen blood spilt along the route including of Haren Pandya, Ishrat Jahan, Brijgopal Loya and hundreds of false-flag terror-bombing victims of all religions - is evidence of a capacity and will to wield it. Chicanery is legitimised by an end result in a dharmic democracy. Their three millennia-old referents fit ill with a modern-liberal nation-state construct. So, they hark back a century-old fascism for inspiration. Adapting that doctrine to the Indian condition is given a national security spin. India’s diversity is its Achilles heel. It needs a strong Center, with a firm hand at the rudder. With Hindutva pervading political culture, any pushback can only be from the social and geographic periphery. Doctrine has it that suppression must ensue to display both a will to power and the Doctrine of State or the State as Leviathan. There is self-interest in this for national security minders, ensconced in the hierarchy corresponding to their role in facilitating their Champion’s ride to power. Power prevents their roles being scrutinized. The resulting set up is conspiracy of silence for those in the know and a comity of silence for those who prefer not to. While negatively, this makes for a ‘stay or sink together’ approach, positively, since they subscribe to Hindutva, they are sanguine that all means for its propagation and consolidation are good. Working for the greater good of Hinduism is adhesive. India, repository of Hinduism, must be made safe through militant, political, Hindutva. This explains the whittling of institutions. Not only can these pose a hurdle to the imposition of Hindutva but may bite back when push comes to shove. The ‘deep state’ – that is now the Establishment – can do without balancing that legacy forces in polity and governance might bring to their roles. They can also do without being shown up by dissident voices from within. Group think is the order. Appointments are weapons, lure of future appointments are a way to defang any Constitution-related hang-ups. Professionalism – internally speaking truth to power in an area of expertise - can be shown the door. Institutional hemming and hawing can be made up by tapping the wider Hindutva-adherent community. Ideas as Agnipath can only originate in spaces external to the organisation. If it was from within the organization, then the question of what about Nepali inductees would surely have arisen well prior. This brings us up till today, which in the words of Modi is a turning point. The First Republic has been ushered out with his words, “Kingsway i.e. Rajpath, the symbol of slavery, has become a matter of history from today and has been erased forever.” The continuity which the Indian State enjoyed as successor of the British empire in India – itself a legacy of the British takeover of over-lordship of India from the Moghuls – stands ruptured. The Old is swept away, and the New tepid. The Old had not exhausted its allure or credibility, the New does not command loyalty. It is therefore a premature call, one insensitive to security implications of a state of non-being: with the Old not dead and the New unborn. The New State is to be imbued with Netaji Subhash Bose’s vision, articulated by Modi as, “It is our effort that Netaji’s energy should guide the country today. Netaji’s statue on the ‘Kartavya Path’ will become a medium for that.” Finding itself bereft of heroes from the freedom movement, the regime has hung on to the coat-tails of Bose, for no better reason that being mistaken as being anathema to the Nehru-Gandhi family. This is yet another sleight-of-hand by the regime. Sensing it too early to bring Savarkar onstage, they’ve settled for someone associated with fascists, even if for different reasons than those of Hindutva progenitors. For Bose, it was pragmatic, for Hindutva it was ideological. Thus, not only is their interest in Bose subterfuge – to cock-a-snook at the First Republic – but the interest is itself a smokescreen, since Bose is only a filler to legitimate them. Though unsteady, Hindutva has its eyes on wider goals, with Modi intoning, “Netaji Subhash was the first head of Akhand Bharat, who freed Andaman before 1947 and hoisted the Tricolour.” This elides the question how did Akhand Bharat cease to be and the role of communal and violent extremism in its end. Bose is an icon, but a historical personality open to interrogation. Military history is fairly clear that the British Indian Army stopped the Japanese in their tracks. That the nation owes much to that army is clear from your reading this in English, not Japanese. By holding the Indian National Army in contradistinction to it, both stand reduced. To do so is only to de-legitimise the Old, associated as it is with preceding British India by the ‘transfer of power’, which included two-thirds of the military. Alongside, on a lesser note, it is meant to deflate the self-worth of the Indian military that takes pride in its duty towards and loyalty to the State, of whatever hue. Hindutva does not need an apolitical military – preferring one which is imbued with Hindutva. But as it gets to that stage, Hindutva needs to neuter the military – enchain it lest it as the only institution that can, bite back when Hindutva gets to the cusp of Constitutional tinkering. Agnipath, tethering to the doghouse in mountain fastnesses, orgnisational turbulence through ‘reforms’ and by keeping the key appointment of Chief of Defence Staff untenanted are means to undercut the military. Personalized loyalty is sought by deferring institutional accountability over Balakot and Ladakh. Hyping all things military – including how to define indigeneity in its latest aircraft carrier – keeps the military from introspecting its role in Modi’s India. Narendra Modi went on to declaim, “Today, India’s ideals and dimensions are its own. Today, India’s resolve is its own and its goals are its own. Today, our paths are ours, our symbols are our own.” It is his Tarzan cry, a foot on the chest of Lutyen’s elite. Further, to him, “(B)oth, thinking and behaviour of the countrymen are getting freed from the mentality of slavery.” This is to free up space for Brahmanism, its retreat from a temporary high after Adi Shankara’s travels being brought about by the advent of Muslims. The tributaries comprising contributions of those with their holy land outside the subcontinent are being dammed. Modi is partially right in saying, “(T)he emotion and structure of the Rajpath were symbols of slavery, but today with the change in architecture, its spirit is also transformed.” With India Gate continuing in place, it cannot be said that there has been a change in architecture. That the spirit stands transformed will be known soon enough, when the life and energy of that particularly effervescent democratic space is snuffed out by regimentation on its use. To find out, take a ball to kick around. (A personal speculation from forty years of constant and continuing access to the Central Vista, one wonders whether the Central Vista has been appropriated by the right wing-run State since it got too much of an eye sore to see gol topis and burkhas saunter on it in disproportionate numbers. It was the only open space in vicinity of Muslims at Chandni Chowk.) Importantly, the Kartavya Path and the slogan, ‘Shramev Jayate’, “becoming a mantra for the nation,” are indicative of the shift from rights to duties. That should please Modi’s corporate backers. The State is no longer going to be held accountable for delivery on rights. Voting for Hindutva, people can’t also have their cake and eat it too. Amrit Kaal and developed nation status await them, and they would have only themselves to blame if they don’t get there. The State is facilitative of Aspirational India making rapid progress by giving impetus to ‘social, transport, digital and cultural infrastructure’. Whereas social infrastructure is being increased, the branch India is sitting on is being cut alongside with National Education Policy, questioning of reservations etc. Transport infrastructure, perhaps the most ubiquitous, is the most damaging with its trans-generational environmental costs. Digital infrastructure has gone amok, making possible divisive policies as National Register of Citizens. (Wipro was beneficiary of the exercise in Assam.) Kartavya Path taken as symbolic, cultural infrastructure is the most significant part of the India makeover. It might be that here too much is being read into the event. It might just be another routine inauguration that Modi is rather adept at – observed by a governor with a mind of his own. Modi has not transcended his avatar as an event manager from his junior politico days. Even then, some events such as the self-narrated story of his police custody for protesting Pakistani treatment of East Pakistan have turned out as imagined. There is no also reason to rush to Hindutva’s India, when the First Republic is working just fine, having returned him to power twice and lining up to do so as long as his yoga-imparted fitness holds out. The turn to Hindutva open, Modi is indispensible also for the right wing. He can ride – Ajay Devgn style – both horses, the State and Hindutva. He should take care to not end up with legs split as those of the Statue of Liberty on last week’s Economist cover. To avoid such calisthenics, Modi’s national security minders would do well to work on Modi. Participants in Modi’s journey and authors of his image, they best know the shaky foundations the Hindutva house of cards. Not only is it on infirm foundations of lies and subterfuge, but - going by Modi’s speech at the bottom of Bose’s statue - will be bogus. Tickling his narcissism, they must get him into believing his avatarhood is merit-based and not dependent on birthing a Hindutva Republic, arguing why kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg.