Interrogating the ‘idea of a new India’

The Idea of the ‘New India’ has to be unpacked, into its aspirations, desires and limitations. This New India is unabashedly Hindu, high on growth and increasingly assertive.

The Idea of India was the title of a 1997 seminal work by Prof Sunil Khilnani, an India Scholar, which has entered the popular lexicon encapsulating the diverse ethos of India. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh Elections mocked this Nehruvian construct (Secular Liberal Socialist ethic), criticizing Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen, with a ‘Hard Work more than Harvard’ jibe, as the good professor has been particularly critical of Demonetisation and the handling of the university system in India. The Prime Minister also seems to extoll the ‘New India’, often shorthand for the clean break with India’s secular and socialist past, and replacing it with an assertive political Hindu identity for the future, a paradigm being put forth by Modi’s administration. This phenomenon got a booster shot after the landslide election wins in Uttar Pradesh.

The Yogi Adityanath’s (known popularly as Yogi) appointment as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is a shock doctrine application of a leader with staunch Hindutva credentials. Such a decision would be unthinkable even in 2014. This is keeping in mind the elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, as these are the fortresses to be won again. A certain Hindutva politics is mainstream in these states, which border UP and each other. If Demonetisation was shattering, it was certainly ominous of the times to come. Jawaharlal Nehru University, Hyderabad Central University and Ramjas College incidents were blips on radar and 2019 federal elections and beyond shall see bigger big bang reforms. The design and details of which we saw on November 8th @ 8pm 2016 with Demonetisation announcement and with Yogi appointment.


These are interesting times for a majoritarian politics with a ‘growth agenda’. Modiji has redefined politics. I see an alienation among voters in the Deep South though, particularly Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian heartlands particularly with the Cauvery Water Dispute with Karnataka and the Jallikattu protests earlier this year, seen as infringement of Tamil Identity. The new AIADMK will lease space to the BJP, if Rajni Saar (the Tamil Cine Superstar) comes on board with Tamil Nadu’s very religious ethic. Kerala with the largest number of shakhas (elementary grassroots units of the Hindu Nationalist Ideological Fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS), is another electoral growth area.

The spaces of resistance will have taken on a subversive, stealthy mode online, as surveillance under the national security imperative will increase. India will have an aggressive foreign policy with defence getting a much-needed push, started under Manohar Parrikar, now the Goa Chief Minister with a cleverly formed coalition government. The fish curry, I guess though lured him away (pun intended).

Mamata Banerjee will face the heat, as Bengal is the final frontier with 42 seats. I am certain BJP Honcho Amit Shah along with the state leadership is working on it furiously with a ramping up of pro Hindu organizational agenda in the past month as evident on social media with an attack on Fish and Tagore, both Bengali icons. This New India is one where the BJP will be the natural ruling party of governance. A very non-traditional technocratic intelligentsia frames the intellectual ballast to this idea of new India with a disdain for the values of the secular, socialist Indian State almost bordering on anti intellectual right wing fervor prevalent worldwide. The popular patron saints of this India are two IIM MBA trained ex bankers Amish and Chetan Bhagat, who write accessible pulp fiction, lapped up by millions of first generation English educated Indians.

A young India is impatient for the modernity, which breathes off tourist brochures in Singapore and Sydney. This modernity is a breach from the slow economic growth of the past seven decades, and is muscular almost waiting for its moment under the bright sun. Whether this new India shall be plural, inclusive and discursive shall be seen in the months ahead.