Book Review: India Witnessing the Birth of a ‘Second Republic’

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Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

“Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India,” written by K.S. Komireddi, is a well-documented and highly readable political commentary on Narendra Modi’s rule from 2014 onwards.

The debutant writer observes that India under Narendra Modi’s rule cannot be understood without a reference to his reign as Gujarat chief minister when communal riots killed more than 2,000 Muslims in that state.  

At that very moment, the book argues, Modi’s political career should have ended. Instead, some 12 years after the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, he has become Prime Minister of the country.

The 2002 violence and the abject failure of the state’s then ruler to stop the savagery are no more a disqualification in Indian politics. On the contrary, it turned out to be a ladder of success for Narendra Modi and his phenomenal rise on the national stage.

Now Modi is being viewed and applauded as the most competent leader that India has ever produced.  He is considered a man who has solutions to all the problems India faces now. This is reflected in the votes for his party which are, in fact, a thumbs up for his leadership.  This is a new trend in India and, therefore, the author calls it a “Malevolent Republic.”

According to Komireddi, this new phenomenon is an epoch-making trend. It has heralded the birth of a “second republic” meaning India, founded in 1947 by Congress, is dead. And Modi, through his indurated Hindutva ideology, has recast the Indian republic as the Malevolent Republic.

Central to this ideology is the “hegemonic [coercive] homogenisation” of the Indian people, through political manoeuvres, parliamentary legerdemain, etc. This is partly evident from the emphasis on ‘one’ since 2014: One nation- One tax; One nation- One ID (Aadhaar); One nation- One language (Hindi); One nation- One election and so on and so forth.

According to the author, the demonetization move which wiped out 86% of the currency in circulation was Modi’s sinister masterstroke. Though Manmohan Singh termed it an“organized loot, legalized plunder”, the likelihood of diverting huge amounts to BJP’s coffers for electoral use and financially draining other political parties into a sort of scorched earth policy has yet to be probed.

It is not to say that Komireddi has glossed over the perfidies of other political leaders such as Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who were edifying in their governance and politics the contours of Hindu nationalism and that has grown so rapidly since the 1980s. Narendra Modi just sat on the rising tide and crowned himself to glory, the author writes.

Komireddi further observes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi instead of directly engaging the nation with political and people-friendly practices of dialogue and discourse has reduced the Indian democracy to ‘Mann Ki Baats’, road and stage shows, and other such gimmicks.

“India will leap to a point from which return will become extremely difficult if Modi remains in power at the head of a government with an absolute majority in Parliament… If he succeeds, Hindu nationalism will become the official animating ideology of the republic,” cautions Komireddi.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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