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Modi in tune with ideological trends of last 30 yrs, combines empowerment, ambition: Top essayist Pankaj Mishra

By Our Representative
A top Narendra Modi critic, who has described the Indian Prime Minister as “the divisive manipulator who charmed the world", has suggested Modi qualifies to be a rebel, insisting, “As the son of a chaiwallah who has overcome all kinds of adversity, including violent, vicious attacks from the country’s English-speaking elites who wanted to bring him down but failed.”
In an interview about his new book, “Age of Anger: A History of the Present”, Pankaj Mishra says, Modi has “overcome” challenges to “become who he is”, adding, “And he invites his followers to do the same.”
Published simultaneously in India, US and UK in early 2017, Mishra's book  claims to seek to answer "our bewilderment" in a changing world by casting a "gaze back to the eighteenth century, before leading us to the present”.
It points to how, as the world became modern, "those who were unable to fulfil its promises – freedom, stability and prosperity – were increasingly susceptible to demagogues.”
The top Indian novelist and essayist, who has won the prestigious Yale University's Windham–Campbell Literature Prize in 2014, does not agree with those who think call Modi just a Savarkar-type “Hindu nationalist in the old manner of thinking of India, primarily a country of Hindus and as a community of Hindus which needs to define itself very carefully by excluding various foreigners.”
According to Mishra, Modi is also “someone who is in tune with the ideological trends of the last 30 years, which place a lot of premium on individual ambition and empowerment”, adding, “He is a very curious and irresistible mix, as it turns out, of certain collectivist notions of salvation with a kind of intensified individualism.”
“The man from nowhere who makes it big: that’s the story that Modi has tried to sell about himself”, says Mishra, adding, individualism today really is "synonymous with modernity, which is all about individual autonomy and reason.”
”In this sense”, says Mishra, “Modi is an interesting case. He’s not only someone who incarnates the tendencies that we identify with Savarkar – who is a model for Modi – but also mirrors many contemporary tendencies which one can identify with a sort of aspirational neoliberalism.”
“There are many contradictory elements in this mix”, says Mishra, adding, Modi “comes from a party which has as part of its extended family the Swadeshi Jagran Manch”, an organization which “believes in Swadeshi, but Modi wants to attract foreign investment.”
Stating that this drives one to think “of a world where archaisms, modernity, post-modernity all exist simultaneously yet differently”, Mishra says, “There are many different contradictory tendencies that have come together to produce events or personalities like Donald Trump and Modi."
Pointing out that there is a need to shed the "old analytic method of either/or" so that one does not miss "many of these contradictory aspects of modern politics and economics”, Mishra says, his central argument is that "they correspond to the acute, inner divisions of human beings", of people "wanting individual power, expansion and at the same time wanting identity, longing and a sense of community.”

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