Skip to main content

Is Modi chaiwallah only for the Ambanis, the Tatas,and the Adanis? Top sociologist Shiv Visvanathan wonders

By Our Representative
In an open letter to the BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant, one of India’s topmost sociologists, Shiv Visvanathan, has asked Narendra Modi to clarify whether as future PM he is going to be the “chaiwallah for the Ambanis.” Influential Gujarat circles know how Visvanathan, as professor at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute for Information and Communication Technology (DAIICT), Gandhinagar, was forced to quit in 2012 following Modi’s plea to the younger Ambani to sack him. Sitting just six kilometers from Vasvanathan wrote several scholarly pieces on Modi’s behavioral patterns.
In his open letter, the sociologist says, “Your chai dhaba with its patented single window caters only to the Adanis, the Tatas, and the Ambanis. No wonder businessmen across the world want to have tea with you. As PM, are you going to be chaiwallah for the Ambanis? Will your regime mean business as usual for the Ambanis and Adani? What happens to the small man and his tea shop then?”
Qualifying Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s reference to Modi as chaiwala “idiotic”, making Modi use it for political gains, the sociologist reminds the PM aspirant, “Chai is a beautiful drink and chai dhaba is a great place for conversation and friendship for the panchayats of democracy.”
Predicting that Modi is sure to win the Lok Sabha polls, (“you seem to be in sight of victory as the Modi wave and the Modi juggernaut rolls its way to Delhi”), the sociologist says, “As a member of an informal opposition, I want to list out some reasons why you cannot be prime minister. Such an argument does not need comparisons with AB Vajpayee or an equivalence with Jawaharlal Nehru. What I want to challenge is your worldview, your behaviour and the way you have responded to the world.”
Saying that he is “surprised” by the bully-boy attitude of Modi, Viswanathan underscores, “You showed great dignity about your child marriage -- both the dignity of silence and restraint. One wishes that as a potential PM you would extend that dignity to your opponents, to your enemies, to dissent in any form.” But Modi’s behavior does not seem to indicate this would happen.
“I can understand”, says Visvanathan, “that as an RSS pracharak you wear uniforms. The sadness is that your concepts too march in uniformity. It creates a violence of concepts. Think of how you define secularism as the highest patriotism, the ultimate loyalty to the nation. Secularism separates religion and State. By allocating patriotism as the religion of the nation-State, you blur categories.”
“For the RSS and for you, the nation and society are one, but by making society and nation coterminous, one is destroying the social, the little socials of the nukkad, the village, the tribe, the community, civil society. All disappear in your loyalty to one organism, the nation masquerading as the nation-State”, the sociologist says.
Visvanathan wonders, “Your friends often call you a victim of 2002, claiming you have been insulted and maligned. They insist that the Special Investigation Team has cleared you. The question I want to ask is, what the difference between guilt and responsibility is. To use a less Newtonian metaphor, the riots were spontaneous combustion. Does that mean that you are indifferent to the fires created, to the lives lost?”
“Is there a responsibility for the aftermath of the riots or will Gujarat go down in history as the first state which refused to respond to the victims of a riot, claiming camps should be closed down as they are breeding grounds for minorities and dissent? Is that the asmita (pride) you are talking about? How can a decent society not accept responsibility for victims of violence?”, he asks.
Telling him that he has failed as a healer, and healing and inclusiveness are skills of a statesman, Viswanathan says, “You are a politician who does not know to apologise or forgive. What then are your claims or dreams of an inclusive society? It is like your talk of development as a panacea. Development is a method and a problematic one at that. It has shadows, costs, it displaces people; it can be a form of violence.”
The sociologist asks, “How does each choose their way of life? How do each of them engage with the other while choosing their way of life? Being a real estate agent for corporations hungry for land does not make for development. You will need to institute a social and ecological audit of the Adanis, the Tatas and the Ambanis. Parading them as your stakeholders shows little thought of the costs of development.”
Concluding, Visvanathan says, “I see you as a man who has split the nation into two. A Vajpayee or even L K Advani would hold it together. One senses you cannot do this. To heal, to apologise, and to glue together a nation seems beyond you. I have other questions but this could be a gentle start to a conversation. I wonder if you will allow this when you permit so little in the party itself. I would be grateful if you would reflect a bit on my questions.”

Comments

TRENDING

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was a 'frustrated' reformer who turned into a conservative

By Bhaskar Sur "If someone says the Manusamhita was written by all wise Manu and the principal scripture of the land and if he asks me to throw it away, I'll say it is nothing short of atrocious audacity." -- Iswarchandra Vidyasagar

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.