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

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

Dalits rights meet planned on how citizenship law 'negates' Ambedkar's equality focus

By Our Representative
A Dalit rights meet has been planned at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), Sanand, Ahmedabad district, to discuss implications of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by Parliament on December 10-11, for Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized sections. Announcing the decision, DSK director Martin Macwan said, the meet would take place on December 25, 2019, at 11.00 am, to commemorate the anniversary of burning of copies of Manusmriti by Dr BR Ambedkar.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

'Allow critical thinking': SAARC-sponsored varsity teachers support protesting students

By Our Representative
Teachers of the high-profile South Asian University (SAU), a New Delhi-based international institute sponsored by eight member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – have supported “peacefully protesting students and other citizens” against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.