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Janta sold on the promise of a better life as packaged and promoted by PM

By Sujit Bhar

Was the media disoriented while reporting about the BJP wave in UP, or while reporting about the Congress appeal in Punjab? Were all other political parties in denial of the truth staring right in the face? There has to be a possible truth hiding somewhere within the folds of the infinite permutations and combinations that have been worked around and talked about. There has to be a simpler understanding of this immense complexity. Or is there?

Hindsight is always 20/20, or so it is said. Even accepting this, one cannot make much sense of the BJP sweep in UP and the Congress dominance in Punjab. One cannot also make much sense in the three other states involved: Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand. A simple BJP victory could have been explained by the split down the middle of the Samajwadi Party’s Yadav family, or of Mayawati’s corrupt practices. An indication was available when Mayawati asked, almost unbelievingly, “How can Muslims vote for the BJP?”

Let us look at it in a very different light. What does the man (or woman) on the street want? What does he or she want to see his or her life tomorrow as? Just the other day, he or she would have talked about regular electricity, jobs, a safe family environment and roti sabzi on the charpoy.

Now consider what they have had access to, in the meantime. Movies that show the glitz and glamour from around the world, the internet that promises a world that could be accessed with a little more effort and some education and with a smartphone that many can buy; the malls that promise a life that is a pretty much hathke from the day to day drudgeries of low to lower middle class lives. They have a high-powered mirage in front of them. They are determined to chase it.

Just the other day these existed only in Bollywood movies, things that were supposed to be taken with a pinch of salt, and they were. Today these are more life-like, actually real, things many never knew existed till they saw them and now cannot live without. Now there is this need to make life better, to be able to see far ahead of what has been shown to them by local leaders.

Remember that expensive coat that Prime Minster Narendra Modi wore during his meeting with US President Barack Obama, one that reportedly cost nearly a crore or more and had ‘Narendra Modi’ embroidered in the seams? It was an attire derided in the media, criticized within erudite circles and Modi quickly got out of it, even auctioned it, with the money “going for the poor.”

Well, ask the man in the chai shop (no analogy intended), or your favourite autowallah from UP. I did. Guess what I got? “A rajah is expected to wear a dress that suits a rajah. And if he is meeting the head of another country, should he not be wearing a dress suitable for the rajah of a great country like India?” Infallible logic, you would say. Because his aspiration level is now tagged to the country’s apparent aspiration level.

Is it practical? No. It is often disastrous in the long run. But that is not what hope is all about. Hope is about dreaming and realising the best in us, or even the best that has been around us. If in trying, we fail, at least we have tried.

Modi has delivered this dream, this impossible dream. And there are people dead sure of believing this. When demonetisation was brought in – an ill-conceived theory, conceived with tunnel-visioned “economic experts” – one expected the ill-effects to seep through the system and harm those at the bottom. It did. Badly. Yet, when I conducted interviews of those chaiwallahs, their eyes glittered. “It is bad for now, but it will yield great results in the future. Modi has made a great system.” Wow, I thought; so what was this system? “That I don’t know, but I hear it is a great system.”

That puts us right back to the basics and the results. The Modi Mirage has worked, it will, for some time now. Then when it fades, it will be called anti-incumbency. All the experts will start the predictions all over again.

Nobody realises the power of hope, in these desperate times. Even when hope leads to a mirage. We surely get the government we deserve.

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