Narendra Modi and the old elite

Towards the end of an article titled ‘Small number of people plotting return to power’, Swapan Dasgupta says: “Then there is the growing desperation of the old establishment that is finding itself edged out of positions of power and influence.”

He has defined the old establishment as follows: “Beginning from those who once held grace and favour appointments and extending to the influence peddlers in business, academia and media….”, and then he says “…there is profound unease over the possibility of Modi securing another term.”

Ten months earlier, Surjit Bhalla had talked about an ‘old elite’ whom he defined as: “politicians, corporates, left-intellectuals, academics” and said that they “cannot be expected to give up their privileges so easily.”

Earlier, in October 2015, Sanjay Baru wrote in The Week about what he calls the Delhi Darbaris and Nehruvian Elites (DDNE), and how Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to co-opt them into their own scheme of things, so that they do not become a nuisance but actually work for the betterment of the country.  Baru identified these DDNEs as: “the power elite of bureaucrats, diplomats, academics, artists, writers, journalists and business leaders who had benefitted from their proximity to political power through the Nehru family era”.

Baru also stated in the article that Narendra Modi was making a big mistake in trying to make the DDNEs irrelevant.  However, it is clear that in case of Rao and Vajpajee, it is the DDNEs who co-opted the new regime, rather than the other way round. In effect, the DDNEs still ruled the roost, and arrogated power to themselves without any accountability. The Nira Radia tapes exposed the shenanigans that the old elite was indulging in.

That the old elite would get upset (to use a mild word) was predicted by Dasgupta in August 2013 (that is some eight months before the Lok Sabha elections) in a Times of India article titled ‘Congress vs BJP? No, it’s the establishment vs the outsider’. He wrote:

“Over the years the Congress has used its discretionary powers to accumulate considerable baggage. From those who sit on innumerable committees and acquire the status of Cabinet ministers to the lesser ones favoured with membership of advisory committees of public sector units and governing bodies of centrally-run educational bodies, the corridors are invariably crowded with people who survive on the extractive potential of their visiting cards. It is this parasitic class that are most threatened by the winds of change.

The phrase ‘extractive potential of their visiting cards’ is quite cute.  I had asked Dasgupta if this meant that they were able to make money through the visiting cards, and he had said yes.

One of the steps that Narendra ji has taken against the old elite was to evict so many people from the government allotted accommodation in Lutyens’ Delhi.  I think it is really necessary to know who these people are, their profession, how long they were staying in these places, how much rent they paid (and what was the market rent, to work out how much was looted by these people), and other such information. The objective is to name and shame them.  From what little I have read, the occupants of these premises were otherwise people of decent means, and they rented out their own premises to earn even more money than they were getting.  And quite a few of them had declared that their profession is journalism.

In this article, Dasgupta wrote:

“Around (the Nehru-Gandhi family) has developed a durbar comprising politicians, bureaucrats, fixers, socialites, journalists, academics and others whose occupations remain a source of enduring mystery.”

I particularly liked the term ‘enduring mystery’.

At a practical level, it is not quite so important whether these elites (with whatever name they are called) are parasitic or some such.  What is important is whether they have done anything good for the nation and the people. I have often said that I do not believe in the concept of accidental redeeming value – but in this case I will make an exception. If they did do something good, then really the money that the samaj has provided them for their luxurious life style could be said to be well worth it.

I asked this question (whether the elites have done anything good for the nation and the people) specifically to Baru.  Regretfully, he did not answer, despite reminding him once.  And therein lies the crux of the matter.  The elite think that the samaj has a duty to fund their lifestyle, and the samaj should not object if they behave in a megalomaniacal way.

On Google, I found the following: “Megalomania is a mental illness. People with megalomania have delusional fantasies that they are more relevant (important) or powerful than they truly are. They have inflated self esteem and overestimate their powers and beliefs.”  But since everyone around them has the same mental illness, they think it is normal. And that is why they hate the Internet Hindus who now have a democratic platform (social media) to make their views known all the time.

So the old elite is now fighting back. Dasgupta alluded to their methods, but it is Bhalla who has been brutally frank when he continued in the quote above: “They will try to derail the transformation and object at every turn: If that means fake analysis, they will do so. If that means intellectual gymnastics, they will do so. The key point is that they must do so.”

This also answers my question, posed to Baru, whether the elite have done something good for the nation, and the answer is a resounding no.

In the sentences before the above, Surjit ji wrote: “As time went on, however, it became increasingly clear that the old elite had failed to notice and respect that India had changed from the illiterate and feudal order prevalent at the time the Nehru dynasty assumed control. There are complex factors feeding into each other to explain the public’s increasing mistrust in the old elite, but it can safely be pointed out that the educational level of average Indians has risen; the old elite mismanaged the economy — and power corrupted the old elite.”

It is necessary for the senior members of the BJP, not just in Lutyens’ Delhi but also in the state capitals, to realize that the elite will try and incorporate them into their coterie.  Of course, they will do it with the only purpose to alienate them from the core support base.  If the next election is lost, then these senior members will be dumped like a hot potato, and the elite will gloat about the tactics that they used.

I know some in the Hindu Right will say that I do not understand what is termed as realpolitik.  I will gladly accept this charge.  But there is a need to understand that the 2014 elections was a signal to change the realpolitik and not to perpetuate it, as had happened during the time of Atal Vajpayee ji.

It is time that all those who have the interest of the people at heart work towards changing the system, so that everyone of the more than 125 crore people work in unison to make our country great, and make a positive contribution to the world as a responsible and accountable power.  Some amongst the old elite may realise that the way they conducted themselves in the past has harmed the nation.  If they have a genuine change of heart, they can be part of the system.  Otherwise they should retire to the hills, and stop being the nuisance that they are today.  After all, they have quite a good retirement nest so that at least their physical needs are met adequately.


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About the Author

Ashok Chowgule
Working President (External), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharat.