Friday, 19 July 2013

Tarok And The Ghost

So you want to hear my tale, do you? Sit down then, and stop fidgeting and pushing each other around. If I’m going to tell my story at all, it isn’t going to be to children who are listening with half an ear.

Back when I was a child, we weren’t like this. When our elders told us a tale, we’d hardly dare breathe for fear of missing a word – and we wouldn’t be playing with twigs and stones either. And it will be night soon, and your parents will be calling you home to dinner. If you want to listen, settle down.

Right, so I was going to tell you about the ghost. Yes, ghosts exist, and they’re everywhere, yes, even here in the town – they just don’t make themselves known to people most of the time, because it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But those of us who know what to look for can always tell when one’s around.

This happened when I was quite a young man, living in the village back in the country. You – with all your electric lights and your cars and bustle – don’t understand what life’s still like in the villages. People live in mud-walled huts with thatched straw roofs, and still travel by bullock cart along dirt tracks. And of course, everyone knows about the ghosts. They’re everywhere, in the ponds and fields and in the trees – especially in the trees.

Of all the haunted, trees, there was a particular banyan tree growing by the path which led to the market. Everyone in the village knew that a whole city of ghosts lived in that tree. Why, nobody would go past the tree even at high noon without leaving something beneath it as an offering, a small fish or a fruit, or maybe a sweet or two. And nobody would ever, of course, go that way after dark. We were poor and uneducated, but we weren’t crazy.

Now old Uncle Tarok wasn’t crazy, either, but he was a little bit fond of the drink. This fondness especially took him on market days around the festival season, and someone had to be there to see to it that he went home before dark. Usually, his son would do it, and if his son wasn’t around, someone or other from the village would take the responsibility.

But one time, his son was away – visiting his in-laws, I think – and Uncle Tarok went off to the market in the morning, as usual. One of his neighbours, Babla I think it was, had volunteered to go to the market and fetch Tarok back before dark. But during the afternoon Babla’s old father fell violently ill, and he had to rush to bring the kabiraj to treat him. The old father made a complete recovery, later, but in the confusion everyone forgot about Tarok until it was far too late, and the sun was already kissing the western horizon.

“He’ll just have to sleep off the booze in the market,” Babla’s wife told him. “Surely he’s smart enough not to come back at night, even if drunk, and they know him in the market, so they’ll give him a place to stay.”  And because the old father was still not recovered, Babla found it convenient to believe her.

And it might have been as she said, too, had it not been for Uncle Tarok’s booze binges. Now, normally, Tarok was a nice old man – none nicer – with not a stubborn bone in his body. But when he got drunk, he changed completely. Then he began to think of himself as an invincible hero, who could do absolutely anything he wanted, and whom nothing – but nothing – could harm. 

Now, this was the last market day before the Kali Puja festival, when it was the custom to get drunk anyway; and old Uncle Tarok had got good and sozzled on mohua liquor, even more than he normally did. Unfortunately, instead of drinking himself into a stupor, what he ended up doing was fire himself into a state of acute bravado.

Later, the merchant Gobardhan, who sold cloth at the market, told me that he had made a tentative effort to hold Tarok back from trying to get back home that evening. “I’ name won’t be Tarok,” the old man said, thumping his chest, “if some stupid ghosts try and stop me from getting back home. Let’s see ghosts trying to stop me from going home. Let them try, I say!”

Now, of course, you’ve got to understand that if there’s one thing you should never do, it’s challenge ghosts. Under no circumstances, ever, should you challenge them, even when you think it’s safe. There could always be a ghost of some kind hanging around, somewhere, and if it hears you, it will go right off and tell the other ghosts. And then they have a point to prove, you see. Even drunk, Uncle Tarok should have known that. But he didn’t.

Now, Gobardhan was a careful and compassionate man. Of course, since it was already getting dark, he couldn’t order one of his men to see Tarok home – but he would have ordered them to see to it that he remained in the market. But then there was a big rush of customers, and he forgot. I don’t blame him – we all make mistakes, and it really wasn’t his responsibility in the first place. But, in any case, he forgot.

Meanwhile, with everyone busy at their trade, and nothing to keep him longer at the market, Uncle Tarok began to weave his way home. It was a new moon night – the very night, of course, when ghosts are most active – and he had nothing but starlight to illuminate his way. But he’d walked that path so many times before, boy and man, that he had no real problem keeping to the path, drunk as he was. It would probably have been much better if he’d lost his way.

Now, as you’ll have realised, the ghosts in the banyan tree were boiling with indignation at Tarok’s challenge, which one of their roving spies had reported to them. So they gathered together and decided to teach Tarok a lesson.

So when Uncle Tarok reached the tree, the ghosts were waiting and ready for him. The first he knew of this, though, was when one of them jumped right out of the tree and into his path.

It was a fisher ghost, very tall and thin with long arms and legs, eyes big as oranges and red as blood, teeth like radishes and ears like winnowing baskets. It stood across the path, arms akimbo, and glared down at Tarok.

“Who are you,” it said nasally, because, you know, ghosts can only speak through their noses, poor things. If you ever meet a ghost, even if it’s disguised itself perfectly as a human, you’ll know it by its nasal speech. “Who are you, that dares to come this way after the fall of night?”

Unfortunately, though, old Tarok was so drunk that the ghost’s nasal speech made no more impression on him than its enormous eyes and stick-thin limbs. “A cold?” he enquired. “You have a cold? What you need is a good strong shot of mohua and it’s gone. Look at me,” he yelled, so loudly that the ghost flinched, and thumped his chest. “I never have colds.”

“I’m...” began the ghost, trying to recover its poise. “I’m...”

“I know,” Tarok bawled. “You have a cold, and that’s what’s making you look so miserable. Look at you,” he yelled, and took hold of one of the ghost’s hands. “All skin and bone. You need feeding up before you fade completely away.”

By this time, the ghost wished it could fade completely away. It tried, but the grip Tarok had on its arm was too potent. “Come with me back to the market,” he shouted, “and I’ll fill you with mohua. You’ll never regret it.”

Oh, but the ghost already regretted it. It regretted a lot of things, but most especially it regretted not wringing Uncle Tarok’s neck immediately, as it had intended. Why, oh why, it lamented to itself, had it chosen to grandstand by challenging the drunkard face to face?

As though on cue, Uncle Tarok released a cloud of alcohol-laden breath at the ghost, so potent that it would have sent it reeling but for the death-grip the old man had on its arm. “Come along,” the horrible reprobate insisted, tugging. “I’m sure there’s still a lot of mohua around.”

Now it so happened that the fisher ghost was rather unpopular with the other spirits in the tree, dating from a recent incident where it had tried to dictate to them how they should spend the rest of forever like it, fishing in the scummy village ponds, instead of as they wished, according to their various ghostly wishes. Also, it had insisted on jumping down to confront the man, ignoring advice to merely drag him up into the tree and finish him off at leisure. So, though normally they’d have been furious at a mere human challenging one of their number, they were delighted at this ghost’s plight. “Go on, go on,” some of them shrilled, hanging from the branches like strange fruit. “Go to the market, and get drunk. It’s going to be such fun.”

The fisher ghost would have blanched if its features had been capable of blanching. “No, no,” it began protesting.

“What do you mean, no?” Uncle Tarok had progressed to the truculent phase of being drunk. “Listen, when Tarok tells you something, then you do what he says, you understand?” Without waiting to discover if the ghost did understand, he began tugging it lustily back in the direction of the town. Utterly helpless, the ghost had no option but to follow.

It was just about that time that the people in the market had discovered that old Tarok was missing, and they had been looking uneasily at each other and reassuring themselves half-heartedly that he’d be all right, while secretly believing his broken body would be discovered along the way in the morning. So when he arrived in their midst, they were both astonished and relieved...until they saw what he had by the arm.

“This friend of mine,” Tarok explained conversationally, “has a cold. He can hardly talk at all, you know, because of it. He needs mohua, doesn’t he?” He glared around at the dumbstruck multitude through bloodshot eyes. “Doesn’t he?”
Trembling, Gobardhan allowed that perhaps Tarok was right. “How did you bring him here?” he asked, awestruck.

“What do you mean how did I bring him here? He came along of his own free will. When did I ever force anyone to do anything? Tell me that. Did I ever force any of you to do anything?”

Everyone allowed that old Tarok had never forced anyone to do anything.

“And I’ll fight anybody who says otherwise,” Uncle Tarok declared. “Mohua!” he shrieked without warning. “Where the hell is the mohua for my friend?”

A pitcher of the drink was produced. Old Tarok picked it up and examined it dubiously.

“I’d better taste it to make sure it’s all right,” he proclaimed, and drained off almost half in one gulp. “Not bad, not bad. Here,” he said, yanking on the poor ghost’s arm, “you have some.”

By now the ghost was wishing it had never died. All through the trek back to town it had tried desperately to free itself, but the more it struggled, the more determined the old man’s grip had got. And when they’d arrived at the marketplace, the ghost’s morale collapsed completely. For one thing, it had never seen so many people together in all its unlife. For another, it suddenly realised that it was stark naked.

These things might have fazed anyone. They absolutely wrecked the ghost. So cowed was it, in fact, that it submitted to Uncle Tarok pressing the pitcher of booze to its lips. A moment later, it had swallowed the vile stuff. All of it.

In order to understand what happened next, you have to realise that the ghost had never imbibed alcohol before. Of course, half a pitcher of mohua would have knocked out almost anyone, barring exceptions like Tarok, but to the ghost’s defenceless system it was like being struck by a train. The world began tilting from side to side like a ship in a gale, and, with a piteous howl, the ghost fainted on the spot.

“You’ve killed it!” some people shouted. “Old Tarok’s killed it!”

“I never did,” Tarok said, turning pale and raising his free fist. “I’ve never killed anybody. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.”

“You killed it!” People surged forward and hoisted Uncle Tarok on their shoulders. “You’ve killed the ghost!”

“What ghost?” Tarok blinked, beginning to wake from his drunken haze. “What are you talking about?”

A hundred voices told him.

“You can’t kill a ghost,” Tarok proclaimed judiciously. “The idea’s absurd. A ghost is already dead; otherwise how could it be a ghost?”

“Look!” people said, bearing him to where the fisher ghost had collapsed so pathetically. “Absurd or not, there it is!”

But there it wasn’t. Recovering just enough to be able to escape, it had crawled away from the market. A little distance away, it clambered to its clawed feet and ran. But not being familiar with the way, it turned down the wrong alley once, and then again.

Only a little distance out of town, it passed below a certain tamarind tree, and with a thump a huge brohmodottyi ghost jumped down out of it. It was, like all its kind, immensely obese and besides, had a ragged beard which was tangled and knotted.

“How dare you come this way?” it thundered. “I’ll teach you to...”

The alcohol was still working away on the fisher ghost’s constitution, and quickly changing its mental landscape. “Fiddlesticks,” it said, and grabbed the brohmodotyi by the wrist. “I’ll teach you to lose some weight. And what do you call that beard?”

“What?” the brohmodottyi began. “I’ll...”

“You’ll come along with me to the town,” the fisher ghost said. “And I’ll get you a nice shave and get you to join a gym of some sort. You look like you need it.”

“This is...” the brohmodottyi began, enraged. “You are...”

“Your best friend,” the fisher ghost declared. “Come this way.”

That was a night the townsfolk would never forget.


What’s that? You doubt my story? Listen, you young tadpole, I’ll have you know that every word in it is true.

How do I know, you ask? How do I know what the ghosts said and did? I know because...they told me.

Yes, a few nights later I was walking along that way, and they grabbed me and told me all about it. Then they told me how humiliated they felt about the whole experience, and how they wanted revenge on the human race.

What are you asking, you back there? How did I get away, you’d like to know?

I didn’t. After they talked to me, they wrung my neck. It’s my ghost who’s talking to you now.

Why, just look how dark it’s got! Your mothers will be looking for you, children. Go home now, and go to bed – and I have just one more thing to say to you.

Sleep well, children. Sleep deeply. And...pleasant dreams.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2013

Child Soldier

Once upon a time I saw a child soldier
Interviewed on TV
From Sierra Leone or from Liberia
Armed and ready to please.

Oh, he was quite a soldier
With a gun in his hand
And a machete on his belt
With which he’d chopped off hands and heads.

Oh, he was quite a soldier
And smiled for the TV
Saying, yes, sah, I did all those things,
Because my commadah ordered me.

Oh he was quite a soldier
Smiling and so ready to please
If you smiled back, he’d go to hell for you
If he wasn’t already there.

Once upon a time I saw a child soldier
Smiling on TV
And I turned the channels, and elsewhere
A child sold soap to me.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2013

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Trayvon Martin

You argue about what might have
Happened, or did not –
You fight over what a judge
Jury, a prosecutor
Should or should not have done
 Who is racist, who isn’t.

And meanwhile
Cannibal headhunters terrorise the towns
Of Syria, torturing and looting;
Car bombs blow apart
Iraqi schools and markets
The drumbeat of ten years
Of liberation.

And meanwhile
Heroes hide in airports
While evil empires try to hunt them down –
Or rot naked in jail cells,
Just telling the truth about the way things are
Is heroism now.

And meanwhile
Girls in Pakistan are shot
For falling in love,
Villagers in India are jailed and killed
For not giving up their lands for mines
For daring to ask to be treated as people
And not as things.

And meanwhile
Drones stalk the skies above
Afghan weddings and Yemeni mosques
Killing teenagers because of who their fathers are;
Piloted by freedom warriors half a world away
Killing on a suspicion
Death on a whim.

And meanwhile
Poisons pour from factory chimneys
Forests turn to slag, icecaps melt
Rivers wither and grasslands die
And the sullen seas rise to swallow the land.

And meanwhile
Earth is still a ball of rock, turning, turning
Round a minor sun on an outer spiral arm
Of just another unexceptionable galaxy,
And the time will come
When it will be a cinder hanging
In an incandescent cloud of cosmic gas.

Where will be your argument then
Of what the judge and jury should have said
Or the prosecutor done?

Copyright B Purkayastha 2013

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Pride before the Fall: Narendrabhai Modi and the future of Hindunazism

A few days ago I’d written an article about Purkayastha’s Four Laws of Modern Internet Debate. I believe I am now ready to add a fifth law, also known as the Law of Modi-fication:

In any online discussion involving Mr Narendrabhai Modi, anyone who opposes him or points out his history of inciting genocidal pogrom will be referred to the so-called Godhra fire, and, further back, to the Congress-incited anti-Sikh pogrom in 1984, as though one excuses the other. Furthermore, supporters of Mr Narendrabhai Modi will insist that he, single-handed, will solve all of India’s problems if only given the chance

So just who is Narendrabhai Modi?

One of the reasons – in fact, just about the only reason – I comparatively rarely write about Indian politics on this blog is the fact that I have to explain background and context at the start of every article, so that non-Indian readers will know what I’m talking about. It’s irritating, often exhausting, and always a waste of time I could be spending on, you know, talking about the issue at hand. For comparison, just imagine if, each time I were to talk of current violence in Iraq, I’d first have to discuss the American sanctions against Saddam Hussein, the illegitimate Bushist invasion, the resistance, the growth of al Qaeda, the Iranian influence, etc etc. I’d hardly want to write a line, right?


Anyway, this is kind of important for the future of this country, so pay attention while I explain as briefly as I can.

As I have stated before, the current government in power (an alliance led by the Congress Party, basically a family-owned private firm belonging to the Gandhi dynasty) is positively the worst, most corrupt government we have ever endured in this country; a government so utterly vile, so incompetent, so venal and so in the pocket of Big Business domestically, and of the Americans abroad, that it makes every previous government look good in comparison. Nobody, in their right minds, would normally imagine that such a government, held in utter contempt by virtually everyone, could ever win another election.

Well, I don’t know about that.

The reason that I do not automatically assume that the Congress will lose the next election can be summed up in two words: Narendrabhai Modi.

Now Narendrabhai Modi (his name is usually shortened to Narendra Modi, or, to his supporters, increasingly to “NaMo”, as a branding exercise) is not part of the Congress. He is, on the other hand, part of what is allegedly the main anti-Congress political formation in India, the Republicans to the Congress’ Democrats as it were, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Though the name “Bharatiya Janata Party” translates into “Indian People’s Party”, which suggests a left-wing political formation, the BJP is about as left wing as the Nazis were socialist. That’s not really an inappropriate comparison, because the BJP is an extreme right wing Hindu party which admires the Nazis, has many features in common with them, and has highly fascist designs on India, with the Muslims and Christians standing in for the Jews as the Designated Internal Enemy. That's why I call them Hindunazis. They are also quite as pro-Big Business as the Congress is, and, as for their foreign policy: when they were in power last, they came within an ace of sending troops to help in the occupation of Iraq.

It’s important to remember that the BJP has never managed to capture power on its own at the federal level; it’s always been at the head of another coalition of parties, the so-called National Democratic Alliance, or NDA. This NDA is – like the Congress-led UPA – a collection of opportunistic parties, some ideologically close to the BJP, but others just hanging on for a share of the power. However, the BJP needed these opportunistic parties to maintain a majority in Parliament, so it had to moderate its fascist tendencies to some extent at least at the federal level in order to keep the flock together. That didn’t apply to states where it managed to capture power on its own, and especially not to the western state of Gujarat.

In Gujarat, the BJP had been engaged in a campaign of Hindu radicalism for years, so that it began to be called the “Hindutva (‘Hinduness’) laboratory.” Then, in circa 2001, a particular up-and-coming politician was put in charge of the state, as its Chief Minister: Narendrabhai Modi.

Elsewhere, I’ve written about the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation, when Hindunazi goons destroyed a medieval mosque at Ayodhya after claiming it to have been built on the birthplace of the mythical god-king Ram. This event, in December 1991, led to weeks of rioting throughout India, and polarised the Hindus and Muslims in much of the country. When the BJP came to power, it had declared that one of its stated objectives was to build a Ram temple “on that spot” – where the mosque had stood.

By 2002, that expectation had cooled, because the BJP hadn’t the clout in the NDA to have it all its way. The Hindunazi stormtroopers, though, exactly like the Nazi stormtroopers before them, were primed to violence and looking for a confrontation. Some thousands of them went on a trip to Ayodhya and, on the way back, a train with many of them caught fire at a railway station in Godhra, Gujarat.

The cause of this fire is disputed. The Hindunazis claim local Muslims stopped the train and burned it. A judicial commission later concluded it was an accidental fire of the sort which has occurred on Indian trains many times before and since. Whatever the cause, an alleged 59 Hindus, mostly stormtroopers, were killed in the fire. Narendrabhai Modi arranged for the corpses to be paraded through the cities of Gujarat, and then unleashed his goon squads on a carefully preplanned pogrom against the Muslims.

That the pogrom was preplanned can hardly be doubted. Hindunazi gangs went around with documents identifying Muslim shops and houses, even where these were under Hindu or neutral sounding names. For days on end, Muslims were hunted down, raped and burned to death, their properties looted right in front of TV cameras by middle-class Gujarati Hindus. The Gujarat state police either did nothing or actively joined in the pogrom. Officials later testified that Modi’s ministers sat in the police control rooms to make sure that the cops did nothing to contravene Modi’s orders that the “people should be allowed to vent their natural anger.” 

Goons who were arrested were quickly let off again by Modi’s state Home Minister, Gordhanbhai Zadaphia, who claimed that he “felt they were innocent.” Nor was the anti-Muslim “anger” directionless: in one village, as I recall, all the Muslims were killed or driven out except one man, who was allowed to survive because he was the only one there who knew how to operate the water pumping station.

(This is far from the first political-party-controlled genocide in India; the Congress has bloodied its hands on numerous occasions, too, most infamously in 1984 after the killing of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, which was followed by an anti-Sikh pogrom led by Congress goons in which thousands of Sikhs were killed.)

The Hindunazi-led government in Delhi, which could have dismissed the state government and taken over, carefully did nothing, allegedly because Modi had the backing of Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani (this is the same Advani who would, the following year, pledge Indian forces to join in the occupation of Iraq). Muslims were driven into ghettoes, where they remain to this day, isolated, ignored, and systematically discriminated against. The state opposition Congress party – fearing that the Hindu vote would desert it – tried its own brand of pandering to the Hindus. It brought them no benefits.

It was Kristallnacht, all over again, as readers might have noticed, and that owes a lot to the fact that the Hindunazis have always been admirers and close students of the policies of the Nazis. At the end of it, with the Muslims neutralised, the Congress reduced to aping the BJP, and the Central government on board, the Hindunazi triumph looked complete. Modi was called the Hindu “Emperor of Hearts” (Hriday Samrat), and it looked like nothing could stop his drive to the very top.

That he didn’t owes everything to an essential fact about Hinduism, which no amount of Nazi ideology can wish away.

Now, there’s a huge amount to despise about Hinduism. It’s caste- and ritual-ridden, hopelessly inward-looking, as illogical as any other religion, and has an inherent racial bias. But it’s also an incredibly heterodox and inclusive religion, in fact, not so much a religion as a conglomeration of separate and distantly-related faiths. There can never be a Hindu Pontiff, or a single Hindu Holy Book, or anything of the sort, simply because most Hindus would never accept it. Even the Great Indian Muddle Class, for all its anti-Muslim sentiments, would never accept being dictated to whom it should pray or what it should eat or how it should dress. The essence of Nazism – the forcible inclusion of people into a single, defined straitjacket – is impossible in Hinduism. This is the main reason why the Hindunazi project has always failed in India, and will continue to fail.

This also meant that, outside Gujarat, the Modi pogrom was met not with approbation but with general revulsion. Also, though Modi handily – and predictably – won the elections in Gujarat, he no longer had the protection at the federal level he’d been used to. In 2004, the NDA was kicked out of power (not because of the pogrom, but because of staggering incompetence and levels of corruption which were unprecedented at the time), and the Congress-led alliance, the UPA, took over. For a few short years, it even tried to govern with relative even-handedness. Judicial commissions were set up to examine the pogrom. Genocide victims began, hesitantly, to testify. One of Modi’s top ministers, Harin Pandya, who had been neck-deep in the genocide and since fallen out with the Heart Emperor, also testified about the great man’s complicity in the pogrom. (Remarkably, he was soon murdered, allegedly by Islamic terrorists – to whom his value alive would far have exceeded his value dead.) Modi was on the back foot.

He responded in a manner which has since become a complete trademark. Declaring that the “campaign” against him was an “insult to Gujarati pride”, he turned himself into a purely Gujarat-centric politician, clinging on to his power base in the state, and threatening the federal government that he’d cut off Gujarat’s dues to the national exchequer if the so-called “anti-Gujarat” policies (meaning policies to bring him to book or at least clip his wings) continued. Even the conservation of lions (Gir Forest in Gujarat is the last place in the world where the Asian lion still exists in the wild, and the Supreme Court has ordered some of them to be relocated to other sanctuaries to preserve them from catasatrophic epidemics or natural disasters) was denounced as an insult to Gujarati pride.

At the same time, his former colleagues and co-genocidaires (to use the handy Rwandan term for genocide-perpetrators) began to fall away one by one, realising that they’d been used and marginalised. Even Gordhanbhai Zadaphia, the former Home Minister who’d had some of the actual killers released from prison, turned against Modi. Cases began to pile up in court, as well, as some of the victims and their relatives began taking what legal action they could.

At this point, Modi was also steadily being shunted aside by the BJP’s national-level leadership, which was – and is – as much a collection of competing, egoistic self-promoters as the Congress leadership is full of sycophants worshipping the Gandhi dynasty. Even internationally, he became a persona non grata, with the US putting him on a visa blacklist because of his genocidal proclivities (shades of irony there). Suddenly, then, “Islamic terrorists” began to try and kill him – just as they’d allegedly killed the minister who’d testified about his involvement in the pogrom. As remarkably, none of these “Islamic terrorists” ever got close enough to actually attack or harm Modi in any way. In each and every case, they were “killed in encounters” with police, who also – in each and every case – got away scot free, without a scratch.

It won’t be a surprise by now to learn that none of these “Islamic terrorists” were quite what they seemed. In each case, as the facts came out, they turned out to be Muslims arrested, framed, and bumped off at leisure by corrupt policemen acting at Modi’s behest. The most infamous of these was the Ishrat Jahan case, where a young woman was picked up along with her boss (or possibly boyfriend) and killed along with two others. That case has recently come back to bite Modi in the ass, but there are several more.

Meanwhile, though, the climate in Delhi had changed. The Congress-led UPA didn’t take long to betray its early promise, and sank into corruption and incompetence so deep that it made the previous BJP regime look honest. Despite that, it still won a second term in office in 2009, basically by playing to the greed of the Great Indian Muddle Class, and helped along by the internecine squabbling of the BJP. This defeat was a surprise to the BJP’s supporters, incidentally; before the election, they’d been assuming they’d win, and win big. One online poll on the Rediff website, I remember, had given it 412 seats in the Lower House of Parliament – about an 80% majority.

In its second term in office, the Congress, which had actually improved its seat count, then became so much more corrupt and incompetent that the first term began to resemble a golden age. By 2012, with skyrocketing prices and corruption, unemployment at record levels, the complete collapse of the so-called Indian “economic miracle”, and the utter inability of the so-called, unelected “prime minister” (a Gandhi family rubber stamp with no political base, as I’ve pointed out many times before) to even pretend to govern, the Congress was doomed.

Now, in India we as yet (and fortunately) don’t have a two-party system. With the eclipse of the communist parties, which are now “communist” only in name, however, we have basically a choice of two right-wing alliances, both comprising deeply unsavoury core parties surrounded by opportunists and fair-weather friends out for what they can get. Therefore, with the Congress’ prospects crumbling, the BJP began to prepare for its “inevitable” return to power. Immediately, the question arose as to who would lead it to its inevitable victory.

Modi, of course, saw this as his time come round again. He had learnt a lesson or two, though, and realised that Indians wouldn’t vote only for religious demagogues, and the time for a Hindu Heart Emperor was past. Neither he nor the rest of the BJP could drop their Hindunazi credentials, because Hindu fascism was the core of their genetic structure. But they could, and did, try and redefine themselves as the “less corrupt” party, and the “party of development”. Said development was the (alleged) miracle story of Gujarat, where, according to the tale, Modi had created a First World wonderland. (It’s not a surprise that the truth is rather different – but when did Nazis ever care about the truth?)

This was accompanied by a carefully-orchestrated Modi marketing campaign. He continued to throw his co-genocidaires under the proverbial bus, such as one Mayaben Kodnani, a former BJP Gujarat minister who’d led mobs in the genocide. When she was sentenced to life by the court, Modi had the Gujarat government file an appeal demanding the death sentence. He had himself photographed with some carefully selected Muslims, began speaking in Hindi (he’d only speak Gujarati earlier during his Gujarat pride phase) and began to project himself as the natural NDA prime ministerial candidate. His supporters in the BJP began an orchestrated campaign to push him forward.

This pissed off Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, who was a non-BJP NDA leader and someone who had his own development tale to push; one at least a mite less illusory than the Modi myth. Besides, Nitish Kumar isn’t a Hindunazi – his party is at least formally secular – and has no genocide baggage. Nitish Kumar had thought he was the natural consensus candidate for the NDA leadership, being someone acceptable to all religions and far more centrist than anyone else either on the Congress or the NDA side. When he found that the BJP was pushing Modi, he broke off his links with the NDA and last I heard was making overtures to the Congress.

As I said, both sides of the alleged divide are full of opportunists and time servers out for the main chance.

The Modi rebranding exercise continues: thinly-disguised propaganda articles in papers like the Economic Times, dedicated to proving his greatness (he allegedly led rescue efforts for Gujarati people after recent floods in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand – if that’s true, why didn’t he help non-Gujaratis?), and the support of an online army of cheerleaders. These are the people I mentioned in Purkayastha’s Fifth Law, above; the supporters who keep talking about Godhra when challenged on the Gujarat genocide, and talk about the Congress’ own culpability in the 1984 Sikh genocide, as if one excused the other.

It’s a sad fact of Indian political life that so dirty are the hands of all political parties that nobody even pretends to innocence; the only defence is to claim that one’s hands are less dirty than the other side’s.

Now, remember that I said that the BJP top leadership is a competing snakepit of squabbling egoists. Modi has his backers, but he has his enemies as well. One of them is Lal Krishna Advani, the same man who back in 2002 was his defender and had stopped him from being removed and central rule being imposed in Gujarat. Advani  - who has had eternally unfulfilled prime ministerial ambitions of his own – “resigned” from party posts in protest against Modi’s elevation. Advani has something of a history as a drama queen who keeps resigning, and being reinstated, and so it happened this time as well; but the message is that the BJP is full of people who are quite prepared to take Modi down.

A couple of days ago, Modi let a little of the carefully manufactured facade slip; in an interview with Reuters, he was asked whether he felt sorry for the Muslims killed in the genocide. Previously, Modi had either evaded the question or simply terminated the interview when asked it. This time, he responded that “whether you are driving a car, or in the back seat, if you run over a puppy you feel bad.” (I don’t know if this means Modi is experienced in running over puppies, but I shouldn’t be altogether surprised. And he didn’t use the Hindi word for puppy – pilla – either; he said kutta ka bachcha, son of a dog, which is a standard Hindi insult.)

Predictably, people across the spectrum were enraged – or at least pretended to be enraged, which comes to pretty much the same thing. More potential allies – like the former NDA component the Telugu Desam Party – have condemned Modi, and effectively scuppered the chances of a BJP alliance as long as the ex-Heart Emperor remains as the party’s leadership candidate. The Modi cheerleaders online have been reduced to claiming that “at least Modi feels bad” about the dead while, apparently, nobody else does. These are the same people who claim someone who thinks even lion conservation should be hostage to “Gujarati pride" can be a national leader of a huge and diverse country.

If I were slightly more cynical, I’d seriously propound the hypothesis that Modi is a Congress mole and saboteur in the BJP. He’s after all, successfully managed to alienate allies, divide the top BJP brass, and make sure the BJP under his command will never get the votes of Muslims, Christians, or liberal Hindus. The Congress must be praying that he remains the Hindunazi prime ministerial candidate; it’s their one hope of pulling off a victory from the jaws of inevitable disaster.

I’ll ask the Modi-worshippers this: how do you propose that someone who’s a self-proclaimed Hindu zealot, who is also a Gujarati chauvinist, and who has systematically betrayed his own criminal associates, will make an acceptable, let alone good, prime minister? Also, what makes you think he'll ever get the votes to win, any more than the BJP got last time, despite all your shrill online prognostication?

A genocidal egoist and chauvinist leading a feuding Hindunazi cabal on the one hand, and a hyper-incompetent dynastic kleptocracy on the other – it’s a poor outlook for Indian democracy.

But then there never was a genuine democracy here, of course.