I started reading this Swapan Dasgupta piece on the budget, got to one particular graf, and got stuck.
For the Narendra Modi government rapidly approaching its halfway mark, the political pressures have been intense. Apart from the electoral setbacks in Delhi and Bihar, it has been hamstrung by the ‘irrational exuberance’ that greeted its outright victory in the 2014 general election. The slogan of ‘achhe din’ may have been a clever copywriter’s brainwave — what Amit Shah unwisely called ‘jumla’ — but it set exacting standards by which the regime is judged.
This is what happens when a journalist’s natural instinct to question wars with the apologist’s intent to deflect, to defend. Read the passage again. Shorn of its ornamental clauses, it says simply this: “Achche din” was just an election gimmick. And the current regime has no hope in hell of delivering on its own false promise. Follows this:
The inordinately high expectations from the government — what former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in another context, debunked as a belief in the ‘magic wand’ — have been further complicated by the nature of the 2014 verdict. The popular faith in the leadership of Modi also incorporated a varied set of expectations. The cultural agenda, now at the centre of acrimony, was an understated part of the Modi that people voted for. Equally, the image of Modi as an Indian Margaret Thatcher who would break the statist consensus was confined to a very small group, albeit an influential one. Overall, the expectation was that a no-nonsense leadership style would ensure maximum happiness at the minimum cost — an unreal belief that was nevertheless both amorphous and real.
Again, stripped down to its essence: The expectations on Modi (which, though Dasgupta doesn’t say so here, were raised by Modi himself, and amplified by his party and its propagandists) are unreal. The “cultural agenda” — in other words, the lunacy of the extreme right — was hoped to be contained, but isn’t. The expectation that Modi would create the all-inclusive big tent that is the essence of “sabka saath, sabka vikas” is pffft. The hope that a tough no-nonsense leader could steer the country out of the abyss — “unreal”.
Oh well. Ok, then, if you say so.
Off for the evening, folks. The Sunday leisure reading collection, tomorrow AM.