Skip to main content

The personality cult

By Rajiv Shah
Gujarat has just finished celebrating 50 years of its foundation. The last event was the Golden Jubilee Exhibition, which began on April 29, extended beyond May 1, the Foundation Day, and ended on May 9. Formally, the babus who organized it were asked to showcase Gujarat’s history of the last 50 years. But one of the organizers revealed, “We were discreetly told to concentrate on three things – Gujarat’s development since 2001 when chief minister Narendra Modi came to power, achievements of the Golden Jubilee year, and put up a contrast between what Gujarat was between 1960 and 2000 and what it became post-2001.”
Modi’s babus got the message loud of clear. Organized just outside what the new Mahatma Mandir – the government’s own convention hall for elite gatherings – the Golden Gujarat exhibition showcased all three rather meticulously. There were huge Modi photographs and cutouts dotted all over the 2.5 lakh sq ft area in which the exhibition was spread. One could see curious visitors taking snaps while shaking hands with Modi cutouts. Modi, as if, stood taller than the Mahatma and the Sardar, who were hardly visible. Small photographs of all other former CMs’ photographs were put in an insignificant corner.
I went to the exhibition as a lay visitor. And what particularly struck me was the display of umpteen number of big and small electronic screens, where Modi was shown giving speeches on great strides under him. I was instantly reminded of my first visit abroad. It went to Cuba, where I was sent by my editor in Patriot, RK Mishra, to cover a world indebtedness conference, organized by Fidel Castro, a roaring communist figure then, in August 1985. A hard leftist to crack at that time, I had read of personality cult, and how it had harmed the Soviet Union under Stalin and People’s Republic of China under Mao.
On my way to the hotel from the airport in a cab late in the evening, it seemed that the personality cult had come alive. There were huge Castro cutouts everywhere. And there were big screens showing Castro giving speeches in a language (Spanish) I didn’t understand. The screens remained live 24 hours for two weeks I was in Cuba. Go anywhere, you just saw Castro. As if screens were not enough, TV also showed Castro. I wondered if Castro was any different from Stalin or Mao, the ruthless leaders who killed dissent. “If he is so popular, why is he afraid of popular mandate?”, I asked senior journalist Hari Sharan Chhabra, who accompanied me. “Enjoy young man. That’s what you’ve come here for”, was his cryptic reply.
During the seven years of my stay in Moscow as Patriot man, I learnt many more lessons in personality cults. It arises when an individual uses means of propaganda available to him to create an idealized image for himself. Flattery and praise are two accompanying characters. In my own home-state, Gujarat, I fondly notice similar tinges of communism which I had witnessed in Cuba in 1985 and the Soviet Union before perestroika and glasnost were initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev. There is no dearth of local politicians, even officials, who have compared Modi with the Mahatma and the Sardar. An IAS official even called him Lord Ram of the present times!
Modi, of course, has a limitation – he must operate in India’s democratic setup, and he cannot hope to rise beyond it. Yet, there have been occasions when he has betrayed his special liking for communist authoritarianism. It was an informal chat with reporters. The topic was his impressions of China, where he had gone 2006. Modi was all praise on how Three Gorges Dam, world’s biggest, was built in a record time of 14 years. Someone asked him, “Why couldn’t we complete our own Narmada dam so quickly?” And Modi’s determined reply was: “China doesn’t allow anti-dam environmentalists to raise the bogey of oustees. That’s why.” Scribes knew whom he was hitting – Medha Patkar, dubbed by officialdom as “anti-Gujarat.”
Of course, babus who organized the Golden Jubilee exhibition explained huge Modi photographs, cutouts and e-screen displays as their effort to follow in a faceless manner all that what the powers-that-be want them to do. “There is nothing unusual to see only Modi placards on display all over Gujarat during the Golden Gujarat celebrations”, one Modi aide said in justification, adding, “First of all, one must remember that Modi has grown much bigger than his party, the BJP. Secondly, which Indian politician doesn’t want to be displayed in a similar way? Indira Gandhi did it in her days, even imposed emergency to keep her cult alive. Mayawati has got her statues built around in Uttar Pradesh. This was equally true of the Amma in Tamil Nadu.”



Hold your breath! UK ex-Muslims to celebrate Blasphemy Day on September 30

Soheil Arabi The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), in a suprise move, has decided to observe September 30 as the Blasphemy Day. In an email alert, Maryam Namazie, CEMB spokesperson, has asked anyone interested to join CEMB in celebrating blasphemy by " uploading your photo into our #blasphemyday frame and sharing on social media."

Diaspora protest as Biden failed to publicly address persecution of minorities in India

As Modi addressed UN, human rights groups decried “monstrosity” of persecution of Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities in India. Demonstrators gathered outside UN to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India: A report distributed by the diaspora group Hindus for Human Rights: *** While observers said it was “shameful” that President Biden failed to publicly address widespread persecution of religious minorities in India when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, more than 100 members of interfaith and human rights groups spoke out as Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Speakers condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities in India under a government that openly supports Hindu supremacy. The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King S

What this veteran Gandhian witnessed at Rajghat is indeed intensely disturbing

Renowned Gandhian, activist and physicist Professor VK Tripathi witnessed an “intensely worrisome” event at the Gandhi Samadhi on his birthday on October 2, 2021. “The children of the Hindutva criminals who assassinated him have captured places which are supposed to keep Gandhiji's heritage alive”, says Deepak Joshi in a Faceook post, insisting, “We should strongly protest against it. It is already too late.”

Forthcoming book explodes Western myth: Personal qualities are biologically inherited

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, New York, has said in an email alert via JanVikalp that his forthcoming book about genetics and genetic determinism, provisionally titled "The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order" criticises the notion that personal qualities are biologically inherited: *** The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which predates Mesopotamian cities of 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationa

International Energy Agency floats new plan to end oil, gas, and coal expansion

In major shift, International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook has mainstreamed 1.5°C pathway, showing need to end oil, gas, and coal expansion, insisting on new fossil fuel phase-out benchmarks in order to test government ambition ahead of COP26. A report by Oil Change International, distributed by BankTrack: *** For the first time, the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s flagship annual report on global energy pathways, used worldwide to influence trillions of dollars in investment, details an achievable roadmap to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). By making a 1.5°C scenario the benchmark of this year’s World Energy Outlook (WEO), the IEA challenges governments and companies to back up lagging Paris pledges with immediate action to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels. Notably, this year’s WEO solidifies the policy conclusion, first presented by the IEA in May , that no new oil, gas, and coal extraction projects should be approved under a 1.5°C-

UN Food Systems Summit paved the way for greater control of big corporations

In a sharp critique of the  UN Food Systems Summit, a statement released by the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty, a global network of NGOs, has accused UN meet of being steered by big corporations, even as the Global South was pushed back. *** The Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems slammed the recently concluded UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) for paving the way for greater control of big corporations over global food systems and misleading the people through corporate-led false solutions to hunger and climate change. “It was just as we expected. While branding itself as the ‘People’s Summit’ and even the ‘Solutions Summit,’ the UN FSS did not listen to the voices of marginalized rural peoples, nor forward real solutions to the food, biodiversity and climate crises. Instead, it let powerful nations and big corporations play an even bigger role in determining food and agricultural policies. The UN has finally made it clear what ‘multilateralism’ is all about—paying l

Ex-official: Why not offer Vaishnaw loss making BSNL, Air India to prove his worth?

By Rajiv Shah A senior chartered accountant, whom I have known intimately (I am not naming him, as I don’t have his permission), has forwarded me an Indian Express (IE) story (July 18), “Ashwini Vaishnaw: The man in the chair”, which, he says, “contradicts” the blog (July 17), "Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?" I had written a day earlier and forwarded it to many of my friends.

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.

Known to have assissinated O'Dwyer, Udham Singh chose not to apologise to the British

Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940), best known for assassinating Michael O'Dwyer , the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India , on 13 March 1940, done in revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, for which O'Dwyer was responsible, was subsequently tried and convicted of murder and hanged in July 1940. While in custody, he used the name Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, which represents the three major religions of India and his anti-colonial sentiment. Writes a well-known analyst, "He too could have apologised. He chose the noose instead!" Udham Singh's speech prior to sentencing in UK: *** “I say down with British Imperialism. You say India do not have peace. We have only slavery Generations of so called civilisation has brought us everything filthy and degenerating. known to the human race. All you have to do is read your own history. If you have any human decency about you, you should die with shame. The brutality and blood

Indian Doctors for Truth want Modi to stop overzealous universal vaccination drive

At a time when there is a huge demand to ensure that vaccination should be universal in order to gain immunity against the pandemic, an organisation called Indian Doctors for Truth, have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “urgent need to stop the overzealous universal vaccination drive against Covid-19.  Read the letter, signed by 18 doctors and a health expert: ***