The BJP responded to Chinese aggression in Ladakh by fiercely asking Indians, “What about Nehru?” This loudly nationalist government was first silent; then denied it; then lied; then belatedly uninstalled TikTok; then said it was in talks; then effectively conceded territory; and oh look, Vikas Dubey. People mistake mockery of the BJP’s lame reaction for warmongering. It needs nationalism, to erase all kinds of unsavoury truths. The ugliest part of the BJP’s nationalism is that it isn’t even nationalism – it’s just a tool to gain power. No surprise, given that its forebears largely sat out the freedom struggle. It is not ‘country first’, else it wouldn’t lie to the country; nor ‘people first’, since Indians live under the yoke of fear, surveillance and vindictive reprisal. It cannot be ‘party first’, since without Modi the party would founder. It is not even ‘Modi first’, dear reader. It is ‘the myth of Modi first’. The myth of Modi — strong, decisive, nationalist, democratic, economic genius, versatile genius, internationally acclaimed visionary, ace administrator, friend to the poor, terror to terrorists, Hero No. 1 in the eyes of the entire world — must be constantly replenished to eclipse his reality. Else India would see a man who lies, breaks his promises, who has crippled the economy, made cringe worthy diplomatic love only to be snubbed or stabbed in the back, who has diminished every democratic institution and norm, and created a fresh humanitarian crisis in the middle of a pandemic, and gave up Indian territory – all without ever holding an open press conference. It has fattened on the self-respect of journalism and eaten away the majesty of the law. It can’t stop, because the stakes are too high. The more reality flies in the face of the myth, the more reality must be mythified.
Hence the saturation media campaigns about each ‘masterstroke’ and, when it fails, its opposite — Modi holding hands with Nawaz Sharif, obliterated by the surgical strike; Modi on a golden swing with Xi, obliterated by Modi in camouflage in Ladakh. Inconvenient Indians still see a reality unsanctioned by the myth of Modi, including the fact that he is the Wizard of Oz, all fart and no poop. More than that, he and his government are destroying India. It’s all becoming harder to dress up. Controlling the terms of nationalism is an easy way to distract from truth and crush opposition. Is it any wonder that the myth-makers have taken off the gloves and picked up baseball bats, hiding the debacle in Ladakh behind their persecution of ‘internal enemies’? It would be laughable, except that being vilified, sued, beaten, jailed, and killed, thanks to that same bright breastplate, is not remotely funny. The BJP’s fake nationalism is merely a means to power, and it will cling to that power at the cost of rising unemployment, at the cost of ethics and of people’s lives and wellbeing; first of all, at the cost of truth; and ultimately at the cost of the country