Modi's chutzpah is his nemesis

He has no intention to loosen his iron grip on the running of the house

When the actual election results turned the exit poll predictions topsy-turvy, we had a week of euphoria in which we thought “We, the People” had rescued democracy; curtailed authoritarianism; reined in a potential dictator; saved our Constitution; revived the institutions of democracy; finished with the misuse of investigative and enforcement agencies; ended the age of the ‘godi’ media; shown up Islamophobic communalism for the inhuman menace it is; and restored the country to fundamental decency as expressed in our fundamental rights. An emeritus professor of philosophy drew attention to the parallel between the Modi hubris and Aeschylus’ play, ‘The Persians’, which depicts the Persian emperor Xerxes “combining foolishness with arrogance” to invade Greece and finding when he is beaten back that his people “no longer curb their tongue” for “a strong yoke has been removed”.

The past fortnight has shown that Modi does not see the results that way. For him, nothing has changed. He has sworn in virtually every previous ministerial colleague, including the dreaded Amit Shah. He distributes minor portfolios to his major coalition partners and resists their requests for the position of speaker. Clearly, he has no intention to loosen his iron grip on the running of the house and the longevity of elected MPs. He gives no recognition to the plain fact that he now has to contend with a revivified opposition that is snapping at his heels in a house where his majority is “very fragile” after the “tectonic shift” caused by the elections where “space has been blown open”, as Rahul Gandhi has said.

Illustration: Job P.K. Illustration: Job P.K.

On the ground, Kejriwal is granted bail only to have it set aside almost immediately. Despite winning his seat from jail, after eight years of continuing incarceration, Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid does not yet know whether he will be released on bail to take his oath of office and whether he will have to do his duties as the MP for North Kashmir from prison or as a free man. Monstrously, Arundhati Roy is charged under the draconian UAPA and threatened with imprisonment without bail for a speech made more than a decade ago. Two French journalists are “forced to leave the country” and their Overseas Citizen of India status withdrawn despite both being long married to Indian spouses. The three new criminal procedure codes, endowed with highly Sanskritised names to remove the stain of the “colonial mindset” while retaining colonial times oppression, such as “sedition”, are to be implemented without giving Parliament an opportunity to review them. The re-inducted Union Minister Giriraj Singh is not pulled up for saying he too will do nothing for his Muslim constituents because, by not voting for him, they have “weakened Sanatan (Hinduism) to bring Ghazwa-e-Hind to Bharat”. All this in just the last fortnight! Like the Bourbon monarchs, Modi has “learned nothing and forgotten nothing”.

That will spell Modi’s doom. What happens to national unity when delimitation issues loom following the 2026 census? Does Modi have the dexterity to accommodate stern southern warnings? Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu will stick to him as long as he serves their purpose, but their purpose is milking the Centre and retaining the loyalty of their minorities. So, what happens to fiscal devolution, cooperative federalism, and the Uniform Civil Code? No ‘One Nation, One Election’, no ‘caste census’? Will the RSS acquiesce in the abandonment of their core demands? And how will Modi deflect an attack from the rear from the RSS, for which Mohan Bhagwat has already sounded the bugle? Will there be an RSS-sponsored Gadkari take-over?

Modi once warned me in Parliament that I would soon be dumped in the bin of the bhoole-bisre (the forgotten and abandoned). Modi will soon be joining me there.

Aiyar is a former Union minister and social commentator.