Modi 2.0 at the two-year mark, on top of the five from Modi 1.0, exhibits both dynamism and moderation. It is difficult for its critics to get a proper grip. They have been trying for all of the seven years with meagre electoral and political results. And here comes another independence day celebration in a nation waking up to its confidence. Maharashtra, the biggest opposition prize, has been mired in corruption and controversy ever since the troika that currently runs it took over. Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal, Kerala and possibly Tamil Nadu are strongly opposed to the BJP. However, they have achieved little change out of it. Modi continues onwards, with his special blend of welfare for the poorest, economic reform for the rich, diplomacy and infrastructure development for the nation. He is boosting military capability, equipment and morale to the frustration of China. Then there is the undercutting and reorganising of a recalcitrant bureaucracy. The nudging out of smug, underperforming politicos from the council of ministers. The nabbing of the corrupt from years before, and the curious extending of a more or less sincere olive branch to the suspicious minorities.
The forbearance that the current government has shown in the face of vicious and sometimes bloody provocation underlines its political savvy. But it dismantles the old order with the Pakistani style and substance of a thousand cuts- a dropped programme here, a name change there. It is good to learn from one’s environment, and Modi is no slouch at it.
Modi 2.0 occasionally floors critics and tormentors only when they think they have it on the run. When they least expect it. When they are caught flat-footed and unawares. There is no pogroming. On the contrary, there is a carefully cultivated meekness of demeanour. The NDA takes advantage of obstruction and chaos in parliament to zip past bill after bill into law. If the Opposition won’t allow discussion, then so be it.
Still, Twitter has indeed suspended Rahul Gandhi’s account, albeit temporarily. Congress has risen to the bait. Instead of trolling every move of Modi using other platforms without interruption, it is now diverted to doing battle with Twitter instead. Timing. Modi is good at it. Even his closest compatriots don’t know what he is hugging to his chest. And what is coming next.
And now, with the worst of Covid-19 behind us, the economy is growing again. Starting on a low baseline means the slowdowns that plagued it pre Covid-19 are now history. Big numbers will enthuse the future. New, particularly digital initiatives, combined with a crowd of start-ups, many promising, seeking and jostling to line up IPOs, will catapult India into the modern way of doing business.
The old behemoths, not to be left behind, are now providing the 5G networks and getting into silicon-chip making and lithium-ion batteries.
The traditional physical trading in goods, extant from time immemorial, is becoming redundant to an extent, and expensive. First, money didn’t have to physically move, from some decades ago. Now, arbitrage is rendered transparent. Where is the mileage in buying cheap from secret locations in order to sell dear in the demand areas? The web is a vast marketplace. Paying for arbitrage is not as necessary. The middle man has to update his game. And the great thing is, he has, with technology as his most reliable partner. It’s ‘change or perish’.
China is already out-of-date with its development, debt-trap imperialism. The East India Company is a lousy inspiration for Xi. Mao is no better. 2021 cannot be retrofitted into the Mao mould of bloodthirsty poetry. Mao, Stalin, The East India Company, can only supply the demand for sadistic fantasies or nostalgic motifs now. The robber barons of today are all software jockeys. Not hackers Xi, but genius strength software developers. Chinese aeroplane fighters, copies, are beaten in every war game by almost any make of warplane. The physical conscripted Chinese soldier is a no experience wimp.
Technology like 5G will vastly speed things up for now. And in time, not much time, it will seem slow, clumsy, and be supplanted. Three months is a decade in IT.
The Internet, long in the making and growing, reigns in everything from design, despatch, merchandising, farming, medicine, defence manufacturing. Nobody does anything from scratch anymore. Very little is successfully misrepresented or hidden.
Buying a jet engine from the experts is better than developing it oneself. Because the tweaking and stepping up from the best available is the fast forward future of manufacturing.
Ideas proliferate digitally, and work is done from home and remote locations as much as from an office. Data processing and storage is another huge new frontier. Even Bond-style real-life and movie villains now seek to destroy by introducing software viruses into data storage. We will need data commandos to deal with them and not just steady and freezing air conditioning.
India has intelligent and highly educated software engineers that speak good English, the lingua franca of global commerce. The Chinese are no match in a pitched meritocracy. Indians may not steal or copy as only the dragon can, but it is spread all over the world’s cutting-edge technology development centres. At home is anywhere these days. There is no deficit of geography to speak of.
Utilities yes, are very, very, important. Must be plentiful, affordable, reliable. India has a good deal of catching up to do. But, conceptually, it can be taken as read.
Raw materials cannot be usurped and purloined like in centuries past. The robbed become instantly aware. So do the fences and customers. Piratic leverage has to outdo swifter piratic leverage.
The Internet always wanted to usher in a free and level playing field. Now the server masters and the network backboners too are on the mat. The markets, from raw material to end consumption, know their worth. They have the true leverage.
Perhaps national sovereignty will maintain its edge for a few centuries yet. Not so much because of necessity. But primaeval fears and mutual suspicion of being murdered by marauders. But, just as castles and moats, kings, lords, ladies, blood aristocracies have mostly gone, so too will sovereignty be divested of a lot of its trappings. The free access to commerce that cannot be legislatively or militarily stopped will see to it. It’s a satellite world. Space is on its way to being colonised. The only losers will be those who rely on the old methods. India in its Vedantic wisdom is definitely the wisest nation on earth. As long as the BJP redefines what modernity means, we will be alright. Modernity is not in the denial of history and overlaying it with a procession of central Asian Moghuls that found their glory days here. It is wrapped up in its Vedantic embrace. We are on our way to rediscovering our true selves, and no penny-ante communist doctrine developed in a vacuum can stop us. Nor can an exhausted Abrahamic ethos, born in the mediaeval desert, unreformed, bedevilled by mirages, do India more than the slightest damage.