The home page of the India International Centre (IIC) website declares: “Considered one of the country’s premier cultural institutions, the India International Centre is a non-Government institution widely regarded as a place where statesmen, diplomats, policy-makers, intellectuals, scientists, jurists, writers, artists and members of civil society meet to initiate the exchange of new ideas and knowledge in the spirit of international cooperation.”
Founded way back in 1959, one is unsure of the contribution of IIC in promoting culture to this day. What is the “new idea and knowledge” that IIC has discussed or promoted since its inception in 1959? Of course the mother of all questions remains — which culture? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Nevertheless, sanctimoniously IIC claims that it is India’s “premier” cultural institution.
And on top of this diffused identity, IIC claims to model itself in the “spirit of international cooperation.” Given the state of international affairs, I for one, am stumped to define, describe or recognise this “spirit,” much less fashion an organisation based on such nebulous idea.
Is it loose usage of English language or is it a classic case of using phrases deliberately chosen with utmost care to bamboozle the reader or is this a perfect case of self exaggeration? Again, your guess is as good as mine.
Whatever be it, the fact remains that it is a gossip corner at best and booze joint at worst. Located in the centre of Delhi for the privileged class – the elites of Delhi — membership to IIC defines your place in the pecking order of influence.
Interestingly, a leader of the BJP, after worming his way in 2002-2003 into the office of the Prime Minister yearned for the exclusive and elusive membership of IIC. Much as he tried, he could not succeed. And according to popular Delhi folklore, it required the intervention and introduction and one Manmohan Singh to help him become its member.
Put pithily, if you do not belong to this group, (and even if you are part of the coveted PMO) one is not recognised as a statesman, diplomat, policy-maker, intellectual, writer or whatever!
IIC, in more ways than one, provides a context to the discussion on hand. Let us not forget that Delhi is dotted with several institutions that are modelled on IIC. These in turn are controlled by elites of Delhi who in turn manipulate every thought, idea and design about India. And members of this cabal, cutting across party lines, enjoy an incestuous relationship, serving each other’s interests.
No wonder, despite the apparent cacophony visible in India’s democracy, India is a stable democracy.
Given this paradigm, the BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Narendra Modi fingered this cabal where it hurts them most. He is reported to have stated in Delhi, “I am not from the elite class and, therefore, Delhi’s elite class does not accept Modi who is from a poor family. Yet, I have been able to do what these third-generation elites could not.” (Source: Indian Express, Nov 24, 2013).
Naturally, questions arise – Is this all mere positioning by Modi? Or is this a usual attempt of an Indian politician to endear himself to the in the run-up to elections? Or is there a larger subtext to this posturing by Modi?
The answer to these questions requires a greater understanding of why these institutions were created and how they operated. IIC and other such institutions that dot Delhi are mostly colonial. In the alternative they are modelled on colonial ideas. Importantly, this cabal continues to fashion the “idea of India” from such alien structures occupied and controlled by the British.
Depending on for who they lobby, these privileged lot who have come to occupy such alienated institutions post-independence have attempted to convince us of nationalisation at one point in time and privatisation at another, of the need for capital punishments in one case and the need for abolishing it altogether in another, of supporting emergency or its withdrawal, of the efficacy of Keynesian economics or its redundancy, of the benefits of joining WTO and also putting forth the argument of profiting by quitting it!
It is these section – call them progressive, liberals or Leftists – who will certify whether one is secular or communal; morally right or wrong, ethically correct or not. In short, it is they who shape, de-shape and re-shape the collective conscience of our establishment.
In the process, one should never question their inconsistency, working or their own moral standards. Remember, should you fail to toe their ever-shifting line; it is their absolute prerogative to hurt you!
Worse, a change in Government does not matter for such people. How could it, when most in every political party, secretly or otherwise, aspire to be a part of this cabal? As explained above, entry into this cabal is strictly restricted and requires sanction of one within. And such approvals do not come easily unless loyalty to this club is demonstrably demonstrated.
That is not all. The grand idea of this influential section has been to keep India poor and Indians perennially deprived. This in turn drives ordinary Indians to these very people for distributing meagre resources, rationing during shortages, and arbitrating disputes.
In short, a centrally-controlled India is a growth-deprived India. And a growth-deprived India disproportionately makes the elites, especially of Delhi, relevant.
Modi’s 3D vision – develop, decentralise and decontrol
Naturally, when Modi talks of development, this cabal is aghast. After all, they have successfully subjugated vast sections of our population by simply subjecting them to perennial poverty. Modi’s idea of development for the entire country dynamites this assiduously built model of poverty and depravity.
A prosperous India could also mean re-establishment of global order – one that could render many within the group jobless. Remember that most of them are in the payroll of foreign forces. In the alternative, they genuinely believe that emergence of India in the geo-political order is inimical to India’s interest!
Likewise, if one disaggregates Modi’s speeches over the past few months on the idea of governance, decentralisation is a recurrent theme. Decentralisation in turn shifts power from Delhi to the State capitals and from State capitals to Panchayats. Despite the Constitution being three-tiered, the fact of the matter is that Part IX A of the Constitution, which deals with Panchayat Raj, is at best an ornamental piece of legislation.
For instance, under our Constitution, the Supreme Court need not function only out of Delhi. But even after 60 years of our Independence, we have a Delhi-centric Supreme Court. And to this date, there is no talk of setting benches of Supreme Court in different parts of India. This has made justice physically inaccessible for our countrymen hailing from remote corners.
But who are the beneficiaries of this centralised system? Obviously, the senior counsels of Supreme Court. From Constitutional Law to environmental law, from criminal to company law, they — a dozen or two of our senior counsels – again the elites of Delhi — are gateways to law and justice for a billion plus people! Naturally, decentralisation defangs this group, makes them powerless and reduces their importance.
The third dimension of Modi’s vision of de-control was provided when he addressed a gathering in Chennai not so long ago. Pointing out the need to reach out to the Indian diaspora worldwide, Modi advocated the need to make good use of them, involve them and also stand by them in building relationship with foreign countries.
Further, Modi indicated the need for a greater role for States in devising India’s foreign policy by outlining a unique model. He suggested that every State should be made responsible for diplomatic relations with one country and that, he said, would ensure better relations. “That way we will have at least 34 friends in the world and no one will be able to browbeat us,” he envisioned.
Naturally, the 3D vision – Develop, Decentralise and Decontrol, has left our Delhi elites flummoxed. That, substantially if not wholly, explains their antipathy to Modi’s spectacular rise.
This, let me hasten to add, is not an issue merely between Modi and his political adversaries. Rather, it is involves the influential class within his own party. To that extent, political experts fear that his ascendency will increasingly be questioned by this cabal in the days to come.
And that explicates his views on the subject quoted above. Modi knows that he derives his power from the people of India. Equally, he is aware that he needs to tackle this system at the outset that favours the elites to effectuate a systemic change. And if he fails, he is equally aware his ascendency can at best be a regime change – one where Tweedleedee replaces Tweedleedum.
Surely, Modi is not an incremental in his approach in the Vajpayee mould. He is a technology disruptor that makes all others obsolete. That implies that his ascendency guarantees a systemic change – much to the chagrin of the elites in Delhi – one where such privileged class of India are marginalised and ordinary Indian placed at the centre of policy-making.