A verdict against PLU

I may hardly visit the place but I’m proud to be considered a member of the Khan Market Gang. I shall wear it as a badge of honour. In fact, I might even consider attaching the initials KMG to my name. In Britain that would stand for Knight of the Order of St Michael and St George! But, levity apart — yet what else have we left except humour? — I can see that this electoral result is a verdict against people like me. By the way, that includes many of you.

One of the outcomes that’s most striking is this was a vote against entitlement, privilege and dynastic succession. By some estimates, of the 38 candidates with dynastic connections 25 were defeated. They come from parties such as the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Janata Dal (United) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. That geographically covers the entire country. Only dynasts with connections to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — or the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, for reasons I cannot fully understand — won. At least for now, Modi’s shield is sufficient protection from the electoral bombardment against entitlement and dynasty. But for how long?

For the rest of us the message is clear. We grew up with the comfortable assumption that because of our birth and lineage, education or upbringing, family contacts and influence, we owned this country and could run it as we want. We were, or so we thought, the natural ruling class. Yet we didn’t realise this was deeply resented. That antipathy may have been subterranean but it was seething. Narendra Modi recognised it and tapped into it. It’s now given him over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha.

This is a new India even though it was always there. But it was neither  recognised nor acknowledged. Now its voice and attitudes, its definition of Indian-ness, its style and behaviour, including its prejudices, have come to the fore and could become the established norm. This also means that people like us —  once upon a time PLU was such a comforting short form — find ourselves relegated to a forgotten or left-behind minority. To put it hurtfully but, I suspect, truthfully, we’ve ended up on the wrong side of history.

Two other aspects of the electoral verdict are connected with this loud blast of the Indian trumpet against entitlement. First, this vote was a personal endorsement of Narendra Modi. With enormous faith and trust, my countrymen have voted for one man to be our Prime Minister. He brought the BJP back to power not the other way round.

What clearer proof can there be than the message from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan? In these three states in December, the BJP was bundled out. That was a vote against the party. This time, when Lok Sabha MPs were being elected and, therefore, Narendra Modi’s future lay in the balance, they voted unanimously for him. He won every seat in Rajasthan, all but one in Madhya Pradesh and just two short of a full house in Chhattisgarh.

Modi’s BJP has 303 seats, his allies 50 more. That’s a two-thirds majority. At the state level, he either controls or is part of 17 governments. When Indira Gandhi had similar power they called her Empress of India. Now we have a new Emperor.

The other striking aspect of the vote is the message it conveys of how our countrymen view their identity. Right across northern and western India and in large parts of the east too they seem to have accepted the Hindutva concept of India as an essentially Hindu country and turned their backs on the Nehruvian view that we’re a nation of multiple religions, castes, ethnicities and cultures. It’s only when you cross the Vindhyas that you find the older form of secularism flourishing. But, again, for how long? The fortress of Karnataka has been breached and there are holes in the walls of Telangana. With time, I fear, Kerala, Andhra and Tamil Nadu could submit.

So, as a proud member of the Khan Market Gang, I have to admit Modi has changed my country. For now all that we have been left with is our defiance. Is it enough? Only if this is a wave that will eventually recede. If not, like Atlantis we could be drowned forever.

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