Notice something about Modi’s coronation? Besides the fact that everyone was there—estranged relatives (Pakistan), annoying cousins (The Congress Party), and even Dharmendra and Hema Malini, the most interesting thing about the coronation was the glare that Modi gave his line of demure ministers at the very end.
Behave! He seemed to say.
Discipline is in the air. But then something struck this Nepali right at the very end. As the program ended, two guards in colorful attire rushed down the aisle in a rather undisciplined fashion—right past the newly crowned PM? And the Prime Minister looked left, and then right, as if he was on a Delhi street, before scooting over to the other side, to be swept up by the Great Indian mass.
In other words, they hadn’t thought out their exit. Great start, bad finish. They had thought of everything, except how the event would end. No colorful guards ceremoniously guiding the new PM out, with the line of exalted dignitaries behind. And this, as everyone knows is important. How you end the story is as important, if not more important, than how you start the story.
Modi has a Visakha constellation ruling his ascendent. Of course birth charts are complicated and one shouldn’t read a lot into one sign. But guess what Visakha does? It creates: great starts, bad finishes. Meaning if the Indians want to avoid a Manmohan Singh like exit for Modi, they need to think about how his tenure is going to end. Hopefully with great achievements, rather than an indiscriminate scuffle.
Now I don’t want to put a damper on the new hopes of the subcontinent, but Nawaz Sharif’s dismayed face told me that perhaps the Indians weren’t as hospitable to him as we’d hoped they’d be. And what was that interview with Hamid Karzai all about? That big news FLASH! on Headlines India sensationally proclaiming “Hamid Karzai blasts Pakistan!” appears to be in bad taste—and a bit of a non-sequitor, in the middle of the coronation. Karzai admittedly was a bit of a rock star, well dressed in his dramatic cape, providing presence and glamour to the coronation that Nawaz Sharif failed to provide. Maybe the Indians were just taking revenge on his nodescript attire. Clearly the blasting of Pakistan’s support for terrorist outfits seemed to be a lead-in into India’s next moves—which appears to be heavy militarization. The subcontinent’s peace activists may have to take up their cudgels, since militarization seems to be in the air (“India plans to be an arms exporting country” was voiced by one fervent TV commentator). Lets hope that India’s plan for prosperity doesn’t rest on building Klashnikov factories in UP and Bihar.
Nepal’s hundred-year-old stuffed toy prime minister was immediately put right next to the most unpopular loser in the gathering—namely, Sonia Gandhi. Sushil Koirala beamed and seemed unaware he’d been sent to Siberia. The Gandhis and the Koiralas are tied at the hip—and just as the Indian Congress Party seems to have decimated itself tying itself to the fortunes of one dynasty, the Nepali Congress has just exactly that, holding on to the dregs of the Koirala glory. The remnants of past glory really cannot justify why Sushil Koirala is ruling Nepal at present, in much the same way as Rahul Gandhi could not justify to his constituency why they should vote him in. Modi I think would agree would this, since he gave Mr. Koirala exactly half second of his time. Which I think is fair—considering that Mr. Koirala looks more like a cartoon of a prime minister than a real prime minister in that august gathering where all other SAARC countries mustered up real leaders—the Bhutanese always send healthy, youthful people with big smiles, and the Bangladeshi and the Maldivian and the Sri Lankan leaders always look like they have a real constituency, rather than a century old ghost claiming his right to politics based on a tenuous link to a glorified name. Of course, there was Sujata Koirala, heiress of the Nepali Congress fortunes, annoyingly trying to get Advani’s attention—but I hope he gave her exactly the same time as Modi allocated to Sushil Koirala.
Sushil Koirala did perform one useful function in this ceremony. Ms. Gandhi, who had come in fuming and bitter, was even giving a helpless smile by the middle. You can’t take your life all that seriously when you are placed next to a century-old, moth eaten, stuffed toy Prime Minister from neighbouring Nepal.
I don’t know what the Nepali delegation discussed with Modi (I really hope they didn’t repeat the line his Indian supporters were saying, in a rather alarming and non-democratic fashion: “We will do exactly as Modi-ji says.”) But I hope they offered a bit of help in cleaning up the neighbourhood, including maintaining discipline in unruly areas. It appears the Indian Army in Kashmir has been rather undisciplined lately. It might benefit from some Nepali-style discipline—the Nepalis are considered a top-notch team in terms of peace-keeping, after all. Clearly some lessening of “raag and dvesh” is needed in the Kashmir case. And I hope the Nepali team also said: “We’ll be happy to discuss hydropower with you once you come to the table with some equitable agreements.”
Knowing Sujata’s history, however, she probably said: “Modi uncle, our water is your water! Take what you want. Just save me and my daughter and my son-in-law an apartment in Rastrapati Bhawan.”
I don’t want to get sidetracked into linguistics, but have you noticed how “raag and dvesh” take people directly into spiritual terrain? Meaning the equilibrium of the mind, where no thoughts of attraction or repulsion can enter. Somehow the English translation just didn’t make the cut. Also interesting how the subcontinental notion of treating all people the same has a slightly different connotation than “We will not discriminate based on race, ethinicity and gender”, as understood in Western countries. Just a non-sequitor for political scientists who may want to delve into the complexities of how the subcontinentals understand, and articulate, inclusivity.
Which leads us to: did Modi’s team seemed less of “vibrant democracy” and more of a Panchayat Raj with a patriarch ruling like an old fashioned ruler? In one way, this might be an asset since the subcontinent is clearly beset with autocratic patriarchs who only listen to one another.
Modi seems intent in taking India, and the subcontinent, to another level of prosperity. On the other hand, there’s his troubling endorsement of Monsanto, and other big companies of this nature that make you wonder how much of his rule is going to be democratic, and how much of it will be dictated by big financial entities like the IMF and the military-industrial complex. It didn’t escape my attention that Arun Jaitley almost blocked him from view in the group photograph (taking his “rightful” place in front of the PM?)—meaning the IMF is probably ruling this giant theatre behind the scenes, in more ways than one.
Lets see how things progress. Peace activists, get ready with your cudgels and your microphones to fight the Klashnikov factories in UP and Bihar!