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The politics of the unspoken: face-reading Modi and Kejriwal


by Ratnakar Tripathy 

The purity of maskhood!

The purity of maskhood!

I believe there are two waves in the country today – Narendra Modi and Aam Admi Party [AAP] and the one thing they have in common is they deny the existence of the other wave. What they do not have in common is this – AAP is the sum of all the spoken statements from its leaders, including Kejriwal, whereas Modi is the sum of all that remains unspoken thus far. It is likely Modi will not really begin to talk before he finds himself plunked securely in the throne. So let us get ready to not be surprised by reading between the lines and highlighting the elisions, the eloquently hesitant pauses. On the other hand, if Modi doesn’t come to power we will in all likelihood never have the privilege of getting to know the real him. I do not pine for this privilege, I must admit. I don’t even think the Indian voter despite his worst masochistic fervour deserves it either.

There is something incredible about the report that when on the hellish night in 2002, the Gujarat leader received frantic last minute calls from the Congress MP Jafri he actually took a call, jeered at the soon to be victim and expressed surprise that Jafri was still alive. There is something incredible about the fact too that no one seems to care anymore. The unspoken implication floating in the nation’s air is the murder was just due punishment. This is murder redefined. What else are we to redefine now? Freedom, Liberty? This is the real vote.

I am still recovering from Modi’s interview to ANI seen on several channels last evening. It was a job well done. Modi came out unscathed and unblemished, wrapped in snow-white tissue paper, and sickeningly sinless. There was such a strong stench of Dettol and a battery of deodorants every step of the way, I choked.

The interviewer had a pleasant friendly face that spouted several taxing questions. But she was not allowed to contest any of the answers given by Modi, whose sharp and crisp responses came with deadly finality. Modi knows his laundry list of questions by heart now. And Modi is not a man to hem and haw. Unlike ours, his words are not formed of air but come carved in stone. Consider this – once a question is answered, you consider it answered completely and forever and move on to the next one. Like tick-marking in objective tests. That was the unspoken pact between the questioner and the answerer. No argumentative tangles for Modi. Debates are by appointment, they are finite and you have to go by the stopwatch.

The answers in the interview were structured to be blindingly obvious, requiring no reference to petty facts or details. Modi is above the trivialities of facts. The Modi mode is to give every word a seal of obviousness, crushing the questioner with a series of terrifying white dissolves. It is as if you lay the question on the pile and it gets beheaded at one stroke, bloodlessly. In case you are left with a doubt after an answer, you need to go home and introspect and not bother with further questions. Last night the interviewer didn’t.

Time and again, Modi glanced sideways at the interviewer with a look implying ‘as if you don’t know, as if you can’t read words writ large across the firmament’! Time and again, Modi insinuated that the interviewer was dumb. She just grinned and bore the pain. In fact her smile was so determinedly stuck to her untwitching face she may have been unable to remove it long after. It was the kind of smile that turns a living face into a mask. The interviewer was a supplicant begging for answers and had to take what was given. The asker of questions left the interviewer with a load of guilt over questioning and regrets over wasting the precious time of a fulltime 24 x 7 visionary. A permanent mask was being interviewed by a provisional mask worn for the occasion.

When the interviewer asked about the little business of snooping over a woman in Gujarat, she got a longwinded harangue on the need to protect women as a national duty. But Modi stopped just short of incoherence and manufactured an abstract air of relevance as he ranted. Imagine reacting with philosophical reflections on gender when someone accuses you of stalking a woman with the use of the state apparatus.

When the questioner asked Modi if he would like to apologize for the Gujarat killings, he said the Congress must confess to 1984 first. This was a provisional tactic – it meant if the congress apologizes for 1984, I may consider. On the other hand I may not. The idea is to tempt the other to risk confession and go ahead, to obviate the need to make one’s own confession. Even though, 2002 allegedly doesn’t exist.

Modi then tried another tack – if I really did commit what you say I did, apologies are not enough, and hang me in a public place if proven guilty. This is the arrogance of the perfect crime. Scrupulous erasure of evidence lies at the core of utter certainty. This is justice taken to a forensic lab and placed in formaldehyde for all to see. This is Sherlock Holmes on the wrong side.

The unspoken came out the loudest when Modi promised once in power, he will institute special courts to try the elected representatives with criminal cases against them and produce verdicts within the year. I can vividly see the artists of perfect crime walk free while many opposition leaders may be asked to please duly go sit in the jail. I wonder if they were listening to the sibilance last night.

As for Kejriwal and AAP, just as the voter chooses its rulers in 2014, he would have wittingly or unwittingly chosen the opposition as well. With all the spines broken or melted into jelly, AAP wave promises to be what the meek will inherit in 2014 – be it Rahul Gandhi, Advani, Sushma Swaraj or just a common victim of land grab in Gujarat or a debt-ridden farmer in Vidarbh – their hope will be a strong opposition as AAP.


One Response

  1. observer says:

    “AAP is the sum of all the spoken statements from its leaders, including Kejriwal”

    Really??? Let me point out just two.

    1 Main apne bachchon ki kasam khata hun -Na Support Lunga Na Dunga.

    2. Vinod Binny asked for MP ticket, I told him a decision has been taken that no sitting MLA will be given MP ticket.

    Now find out what happened on the support issue, Not only Congress but also JD(U) and Independent, and is Rakhi Birla not a sitting MLA?

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