The General Election in India during April-May 2019 to elect the members of Parliament (MPs) for the 17th Lok Sabha was toughest and unique for many considerations. One remarkable feature, of course, is that in the history of elections after independence, any party other than the Congress under the same leadership has never been returned to power in successive elections but the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) under Mr Narendra Modi achieved this feat and distinction with honours this time. The other significant feature is the current elections also decisively favoured beginning of the end of dynastic rule in India. Notwithstanding, like the political leaders and parties are routinely accustomed to electoral win and loss, they are also accustomed to promptly getting over with such setbacks but these elections will also be known in the political history for causing the biggest setback to the traditionally privileged elites of “Lutyens’ Delhi” in the national capital.
Lutyens’ elite are a group of powerful, influential and well-connected people mostly comprised of politicians, businessmen, media persons and bureaucrats. One could easily find them sipping whisky around tables or cozying in lavish parties in the Gymkhana Club, India International Center, Habitat Centre or such other places freely exchanging views on the fate of the Nation and for the whispers in the corridors of powers in the way it suits them. They are the ones who hardly have any real feel or exposure at the grass root level in the country yet have a tendency to claim expertise summarizing national politics including significant events with authority and conviction as if they are the ones who really represent Indian culture and ethos. Incidentally, they are also ones who had traditionally enjoyed fruits of power and privileges in close proximity of dynastic rulers and other friendly regimes since independence and now suddenly find themselves in a lurch without usual access to the corridors of powers.
Edwin Lutyens was the British engineer and chief architect commissioned by the British rulers for the planning and construction of all government buildings when they decided to shift capital from Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) to Delhi of the British India in 1920s. Then the huge area south to the walled city of Delhi (Shajahanabad) was developed into a planned city which now houses the President House, both houses of Parliament, North and South Block, India Gate, Supreme Court, Delhi High Court, Prime Minister’s residence, Connaught place, government office buildings and hundreds of huge and spacious bungalows being routinely accommodated by the ministers, members of parliament, central govt. officials, and so on.
Thus Lutyens’ Delhi is essentially the prime area in New Delhi housing aforesaid corridors of power including political, media, bureaucratic and other elites of the country. A group of well-connected and mostly English-speaking media personalities have traditionally received political patronage and are part of this legacy elite culture. They are commonly remembered as the Lutyens’ media, and these days often sarcastically referred to as ‘sickular media’ by common people who are not part of this league and political culture. This high profile club dominated by the politicians, journalists and high profile people of a certain breed represent Lutyens’ culture with a belief that only elite people are entitled to rule and run the country. Perhaps this is also the main reason why during the last five years they have constantly engaged to embarrass and discredit the incumbent prime minister with a humble origin and his government. For them perhaps, it was beyond imagination that a “Chai Wala” could become prime minister to rule the country.
In fact, there appears to be an organized syndicate of Lutyens’ journalists who have been constantly engaged in a propaganda war nationally and internationally in league with left or left-centric parties against Modi led NDA government with selective narratives on the issues like Nationalism, Hindutva, intolerance, minorities rights, freedom of speech, and so on, dominating the electronic and print media. Their endeavor has invariably been to sensationalize the politico-social events occurring in this small zone involving government, parliament and ministries. Another commonly used jargon Lutyens’ club specifically refers to the politicians, socialites, business magnates, and intellectuals etc. which are very influential and powerful. Most of the guests, commentators or analysts on national television in various talk-shows are mostly denizens of this elite zone, who may not have knowledge of ground realities yet always talk with authority like experts. In a way, the term Lutyens is linked with evertything that is elitist, expensive and powerful in New Delhi, including those born with a silver spoon.
Lutyens’ Dynasty Connection
Traditionally many of Lutyens’ elites have had strong affiliations and linkages with those in power in Delhi. Nehru-Gandhi family is one which has directly or indirectly ruled this country for almost six decades since independence, hence many of these socialites, business magnets and media personalities have been traditionally associated with them and enjoyed their patronage in various ways and forms. It is not surprising then that when Narendra Modi led BJP came in power with absolute majority in 2014 General Elections for the 16th Lok Sabha, these elites were the most uncomfortable lot which is clear from their constant anti-Modi and anti-BJP government propaganda and rants during the past five years. They would find faults with almost every government policy and initiative while simultaneously scandalizing issues like alleged minorities’ insecurity, rising intolerance, corruption in Rafale Agreement, out of proportion.
For decades, while the common men in the country have remained largely unacknowledged and unrewarded for their public service and contribution in various walks of life, Lutyens personalities including journalists, writers and intellectuals constantly received plenty of patronage, rewards and recognition during the successive political regimes. It was perhaps for the first time during the last five years that the common man too in the country had a sense of feeling and satisfaction that their talent and services too are being recognized and acknowledged by the present government. It is not surprising then that these elites felt threatened in a regime headed by an erstwhile “Chai Wallah” during the last five years and, for sure, became more disappointed and frustrated with Modi received a repeat mandate from people. For them, probably the heir designate of the first dynastic family is the most decent and worthy leader to rule the country.
‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ Didn’t Work
During 2014 General Elections, Modi had sought mandate of people on a slogan of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas” but was constantly mocked by the Congress party leaders and aforesaid elites through a systematic campaign in public meetings and social media. Then Indian electorate replied to this slander and calumny of Modi by returning him and his party with absolute majority in the Lok Sabha for the first time. The opposition headed by the Congress President Rahul Gandhi, instead of taking lessons from the previous debacle, gave a slogan of “Chowkidar Chor Hai” during 2019 General Elections, yet another slanderous depiction of Modi before the electorate. This slogan was coined on a false premise that the Prime Minister was personally involved in corruption in the multi-billion Inter-government Agreement (IGA) with France for the supply of Rafale fighters indulging in crony-capitalism.
While the opposition led by the Congress President kept constantly calling Modi “a thief” in public meetings and other forums during the election campaign despite the Supreme Court giving a clean chit in litigations against the Rafale deal and the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) not finding any alleged irregularities in their audit of the subject deal, the pro-dynasty elite journalists and intellectuals fiercely supported the campaign through their blogs and TV debates in an endeavor to malign Modi’s otherwise clean image by creating doubts in the minds of common people. The result of election, however, suggests that the Indian electorate has yet again, and more convincingly this time, has rejected dynastic leadership and their contention of demeaning the man who besides being a political was also the prime minister of India; hence deserved due consideration and respect.
Quite obviously, the educated and enlightened electorate of the country was enraged and appalled with the falsehood and slanderous campaign being personally led by the heir of the most powerful political family of this country. While talking in this manner, the heir not only conveyed his arrogance and sense of entitlement but also his grave ignorance and lack of understanding of the mood and psyche of the electorate of the country. By blindly supporting his misplaced agenda, Lutyens’ elite too have miserably failed to perceive the pulse of the nation which appears no longer in a mood to tolerate the fake politicians and their notions of socialism and secularism thrust upon people for decades.
Failed Campaign and Shattered Dreams
If the General Elections in 2014 had triggered the beginning of the end of the India’s ruling elite and Lutyens hold over the national politics, the result of the General Elections of 2019 appears a conclusive end game. The outcome would have serious implications on India’s oldest and most influential ruling family, many regional political dynasties created over the last few decades, high profile serving and retired bureaucrats, famous writers, editors and columnists of English dailies, celebrated television artists and anchors, left parties, many left-leaning intellectuals and liberal, and so on so forth. They suddenly find their importance being drastically diminished with the current political dispensation in place.
Many of the English-speaking journalists, celebrities and intellectuals had privilege of the direct access to India’s ruling elites, they find themselves in a lurch with no access or recognition in the power corridors now while their place is being slowly but decisively taken by the erstwhile not so privileged Hindi and other vernacular speaking people in various parts of the country. Many of these privileged elites had perhaps perceived the current parliamentary elections as the last hope and chance to restore the dynasty, and their own dwindling prestige and glory. Therefore, no stone was left unturned to defame and demean the “Chowkidar and Chai Wallah” in a fierce and unprecedented electoral battle in the public meetings, electronic and print media and live TV shows. By mocking the goods and services tax (GST) as “Gabbar Singh Tax”, demonetization as “public loot” and depicting employment position as worst ever, the Chowkidar (Prime Minister Modi) was constantly accused and blamed for wrecking the economy of the country. Then he (and his party) was also projected and painted as a Hindutva monster bent upon to destroy secular fabric and minorities of the country. Besides, members of the most influential political family and many Lutyens’ elite also tried to project Modi as a totalitarian leader with no regard for the Constitution and democratic institutions of the country, freedom of speech and expression, liberal thoughts and secular ideals.
Prime Minister Modi and his party too responded by attacking dynasty politics, and Delhi’s English speaking elites and so-called liberals, calling them the “Khan Market Gang”. Khan Market is actually a posh locality and costly shopping area in New Delhi catering the needs of the upper section of society and Prime Minister Modi has no issues with the market and people associated with it. The aforesaid terminology is coined probably to refer to the coalition of corrupt people, retainers of the first (dynastic) family, limousine liberals, champagne socialists, dynasty sycophants and award wapsi brigade etc in the capital. Actually his jibe was most probably directed towatds a certain class of journalists in the capital such as Sagarika Ghosh , Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Nidhi Razdan, Rajdeep Desai etc.(it’s a long list) who are well known for their biased opinion on the subjects like nationalism, secularism, intolerance, Hindus, BJP and RSS etc. They are also the ones who have tried their best to malign Prime Minister Modi’s image nationally and internationally through biased and often false propaganda campaign against him for the last many years.
Many of the Lutyers’ elites are privileged born and bred Indians who have traditionally acted like Darbaris (courtiers) of the dynasty. They probably find everything problematic which is not favoured or in the interest of the dynastic regime. If Narendra Modi and his party talks of nationalism, they will mock it as hyper-nationalism simply because the idea of nationalism and nationalist symbols does not suit certain communities and groups which have been exploited by the traditional elites of the country over the years to divide and rule the country. If Hindus talk of their rights or religion, the same elites would object it as growing intolerance in the country or Hindutva agenda being propagated and promoted to create insecurity among the minorities, particularly Muslims. If a crime or rape is committed against a member of the Hindu community, it is dismissed as a minor crime but if the victim belongs to a minority community, it makes headlines and propaganda is often raised nationally and internationally stating that minorities are not safe in India. Needless to say these narratives have been deliberately built and propagated over the years keeping certain objectives and interests in view.
Contrary to the expectations of many baiters and critics in the national capital, when the Indian electorate returned Mr Modi and his party in power with a massive nationwide mandate which is even larger and bigger with convincing margins than the 2014 victory in the parliamentary elections. Quite obviously, the outcome devastated many such Lutyens’ journalists and other traditional elites who made tall claims through numerous blogs, social media posts and TV debates about revival of the family and grand old party. In doing so, these people miserably failed to sense the pulse of the common man of this country. This only vindicates the popular perception that the these elites claim expertise in the national politics without any knowledge and understanding of the grass root level.
Naamdar versus Kaamdar
Ever since the British left on independence, the reins of the country was passed on to highly anglicized Jawaharlal Nehru which ensured preservation and propagation of the notion that only those who cultivated English well could hope to do well in India. It indeed proved to be true in ensuing years because in politics, government, bureaucracy, military, foreign policy or media, English not only became the communication medium but also a symbol of class. Accordingly, only those who did well in English actually went up well in their personal and professional life. In a way, the particular language and its communication skills largely created and helped the dynastic rule and particular class of elites in the independent India. It is only after several decades with many new developments in the political and social arena of the country that this taboo or jinx started breaking and people with Hindi and other vernaculars too made beginning in their due share of political empowerment and growth in other areas.
Narendra Modi was constantly mocked and insulted by the leaders of the Congress and their elite friends in the national capital during 2014 General Election campaign and the last five years for his humble background of “Chai Wallah”, but he turned tables on his adversaries by setting a fresh narrative of “Naamdar versus Kaamdar” and asking people to make a choice between two. Here the term Naamdar (dynast prince) was assigned to Rahul Gandhi and Kaamdar (working man) to Narendra Modi which by implication suggested that the former was merely a carrier of legacy while the latter’s journey from Chaiwallah (tea seller) or Chowkidar (watchman) to prime minister of a country represented that of a self-made man. Through this narrative, Modi identified himself with the common man and, needless to mention, the idea had a great appeal and success among the masses of the country that comprises of many poor and underprivileged.
While the GST Bill was passed by the Parliament with the support of the Congress, they criticized Modi for its implementation calling it the Gabbar Singh Tax. Demonetization was carried out mainly to fight and curtail black money in the system, the Naamdar and his elite associates accused Modi for looting the public money and passing it to his rich friends. It is of common knowledge that multi-millions non-performing assets (NPAs) were created by indiscriminate lending of money by the public sector banks to the industrialists and businessmen during previous Congress regimes but buck was passed by the Naamdar Inc on the NDA government personally accusing Modi for defaulters’ safe passage to foreign countries. The successive Congress governments did not take appropriate and timely decisions to equip armed forces but coined aggressive slogan “Chowkidar Chor Hai” when Modi government signed an IGA in September 2016 for the supply Rafale fighter aircrafts. Quite obviously, mocking and maligning the Kaamdar for everything did not help the Naamdar and his elite gang in any way.
Outcome of the General Elections of 2014 and 2019 are not mere electoral win or defeat of political parties but also signify clear socio-political trends emerging in India. The common man is getting increasingly conscious about his rights and privileges, hence cannot be befooled any longer by the divide and rule policy of the political elites on religion and caste. It is also clear that the common man is now more interested in development and empowerment than the gimmicks of doles and freebies constantly followed by India’s erstwhile ruling dispensation. This is vindicated by the fact that the promises of outsight transfer of Rs 72,000 in the bank accounts of poor and waiver of all farm loans across the country could not save the Congress from a humiliating defeat. Unless they understand the truth and make amends in time, the dynastic rulers and traditional elites are bound to be dumped in the dustbin of history which is quite evident from the fact that the political party which has been associated with a long freedom struggle and ruled this country for decades has not earned even minimum number of seats to be designated as the opposition party in the Parliament and the dynastic heir faced a humiliating defeat this time at the hands of a commoner in his traditional bastion.
Historically, the traditional Lutyens’ elites are known for a compulsive support to the dynastic rulers through good and bad times. When Indira Gandhi imposed emergency in 1975 to suppress and maim entire opposition and country’s democratic institutions, they did not question the legitimacy of her action. While they tireless speak for the rights of separatists and terrorists in Kashmir, they are not known to have ever highlighted concern or cause of displaced Kashmiri Pandits. When thousands of Sikhs were massacred in Delhi and elsewhere in the country following Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, they did not come forward to highlight the plights of affected families or demand delivery of justice to them. The list of their missives and selective approach for the national causes is too long to incorporate or illustrate here. As against this, they have targeted Prime Minister Modi all along during the last five years quite often on false pretensions and narratives simply because they can afford it and it serves their own interests well. It is not surprising then that they are fast losing their grip and relevance in Indian society and politics.