A Dark Hope

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Post-election victory, the Modi Government has accepted that India is going through an economic slowdown, the truth of which it kept away from the people before the elections. This does not mean that Indian voter was not aware of economic distress, joblessness, farmer’s discontent etc. It is amazing that an intelligent Indian voter has rewarded an almost a non-performing Government . The improbable has indeed happened.  Historically economically underperforming incumbent Governments were mostly voted out.  The great electoral victory of the BJP  has surprised all political pundits and defies reason.  The hermeneutical question that seeks meaning by asking ‘what does it all mean?’, seems to have become relevant and important. Does this mean that we have already arrived into the new India that PM Modi  was envisioning?  ‘What did Indians really vote for?’ becomes a pressing question that seeks answers. What hope do these events give us? Does that mean that our people have acted against their own interest? It is likely that the people have given the Narendra Modi led Government another chance. Maybe the 70 long years hyperbole of misrule of Congress alleged by Modi  has succeeded to convince several minds to give him another opportunity.  Our people have opted for a hope. Only that this time, there is a dark cloud surrounding this hope. Yes it is a dark hope.  It is dark because it   has embraced uncertainty as well as set aside moral politics of  love  championed by Rahul Gandhi.  All moral politics, even one that was invented by Mahatma Gandhi presumed to address a moral community.  The moral witness with a sense of hope emanating from the Congress Party  is clearly discarded.  Rational frames of thought cannot explain why the hope ignited by the politics of morality of Rahul Gandhi did not matter to our voters.  But none of them voted blindly.  Their vote has to be viewed a purposive action.  Perhaps, it articulates a hope that offers an extension of time for the Modi Government to live up to the promises that he made to the people.  Other political pundits   having other axe to grind, have proposed conspiracy theories to explain the unbelievable Modi victory. Here we bracket these views and take the victory of BJP at face value and try an understand its implications. 

Dark hope is a metaphor that was first used by David Shulman to describe difficult struggle for peace between some Israeli and Palestinian people. It is partly related to Achille Mbembe’s notion negative messianism. The faith in PM Modi even amidst of growing uncertainty in his ability to deliver is remarkably expressed in his victory. For a critique, the choice to reward non-performance appears to be a product of a dystopian imaginary.  But what we construe as a dystopia operates as a utopia and has captured the imagination of our people. ‘What rules us’ is at best may be described as a heterotopia following Michel Foucault. It has a tinge of messsianism. It has a hope that is waiting for deliverance.  The dark hope is kind of anticipation. It seems to suggest that if anyone can deliver, it is Modi. Maybe we are facing the actualisation of the slogan: ‘Modi hai to mumkin Hai’.  This messainsim is negative because it has forfeited the idea of deliverance for now but has postponed it for a future date. People seem to have scarified their immediate gratification and have put it off for a fuller coming in the days to come. It is as if our society is stuck at the foot of wall with no doors but the voters of BJP think that everything will open up in the end. Though their choice defies reason, it is rational all the same. reason has many faces. We may be facing a ‘saffron reason’.  Something has condensed and crystallized in our society.  The word saffron has its own weight and density and evokes several layers of responses.  Things becomes complex because the word saffron is at once an image that doubles up. For some it is an image of triumph and of promise   to others it images violence, destruction and death. 

This is why it is important that Indian liberal comes to terms with the terrain of saffron reason and understand its contours which are  now deeply embedded in our society.  The hindutvadhin is most probably a child of India’s encounter with modernity and colonization.  They are today sustained by a politics that cleverly mixes religion, culture and capital which projects a dark hope of creation of a community or nation that is viewed as a Hindu nation.  It does have a moral imagination but far different from the moral politics of the Congress. It’s moral compass move beyond familiar good/ evil binary. To the saffron reason, elections are just stepping stones to a fuller realisation of the acche din. This is why it is willing to wait for a fuller coming of an imagined future. It is important to understand how the saffron reason interpret and act through the diverse fields of signs at play in our society. It is important to understand the ‘rationale’ at work in the saffron reason; otherwise, one might fail to produce an adequate emancipative response to it.  For now, the distributive agency of the people has lost while the monopolising agency of the saffron reason has won. No monopolistic agency is good for democracy. When an election mandate manifests a distributed agency of the people, democracy thrives as a strong opposition assists in making the integral good of the people become the necessary outcome of governance while monopolistic agency visible in a landslide victory weakens the opposition as well as the health of our democracy.  Today more than ever before, we need to embrace a ‘metamorphic thought’ that is critical, integral and emancipative.  We cannot engage into this thinking without analysing the saffron reason. Dismissing it as irrational and mindless will not help. We have to face the otherness of saffron reason and generate a response to it. 

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao