Recently, Yogendra Yadav, a well-known face to all of us as a psephologist and now the national president of Swaraj Abhiyan, wrote an article for The Print, highlighting the three major mistakes committed by those who criticise PM Modi. He was trying to go deeper into the remarks made by Congressman and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, that demonising Modi all the time is not going to help in confronting him. If one looks closely at the comments made by him, his commentary is another attempt to evolve the alternative in Indian politics that he has talked about in much detail.
But, Yadav’s assumptions in the said article compels me to observe the following:
Yadav calls the obsession with Modi the first mistake committed by his critics, which according to him makes the PM a larger-than-life figure. I beg to differ with him on this. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can surely say that it is those supporting or benefitting from this government who are obsessed with Mr Modi, which reflects in the unconditional devotion (yes, not support but devotion) for him. He has been made a larger-than-life figure not by his critics, but by his devotees – who range from Bollywood actors to media persons, from social media trolls to self-styled godmen.
Knee-jerk anti-Modism is the second mistake, according to Yadav. I again beg to differ with him. We are living in a time where the distinction between the party, the government and the leader has been blurred to the extent that as soon as you criticise or question the first two, your criticism is automatically directed/diverted to the leader. The leader has completely taken over the other two. He presides over almost everything for example a budgetary decision, foreign policy, armed forces, legislative business, scientific achievements and so on. Whenever you say a word against any of these, you are termed anti-Modi.
Yadav argues that the failure to acknowledge his popularity is the third mistake committed by Modi’s critics. I definitely agree with this. I believe that he is the tallest politician of our time and we don’t have any other leader with the same kind of pan-Indian appeal as he does. But at least, this fact has an explanation. The kind of press coverage that has been given to him from 2013 onwards, makes him so. He has not been held accountable and answerable for any of the things his government has done so far. The shrinking space for others and simultaneous hyper media attention with a sense of benevolence for him, has resulted in this unprecedented popularity.
I too think, like Yadav, that yes, there is somewhere a lack of constructive criticism on the part of the opposition but we need to ask first if there is any space left for the expression of such criticism. From media to social media, disagreement and dissent is being treated with aggressive contempt and is being conceived as unpatriotic and an act of treason.
We are in dire need of both the platform and the message. But what we shouldn’t forget is that there can be no opposition if everyone else pushes a particular narrative, i.e. the government’s story.