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Modi, Trump, Putin all put emotions over reason. That’s why they keep winning

PM Modi is the master of invoking emotional Furies. He wants to make India great again & heal hurt civilisational pride. Facts are collateral damage.

Dilip Mandal
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day in New Delhi. | Arun Sharma | PTI

World over, facts are no longer sacrosanct. From Donald Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, from Vladimir Putin to Narendra Modi, it is abundantly clear that the Enlightenment Age has been pushed back into the dark now.

You don’t have to dig deep to figure that out. Just look at these recent examples.

In Assam, the National Register of Citizens or NRC was meant to identify illegal immigrants. Over 100 terabytes of data, thousands of hours, Rs 1,100 crore and much harassment later, 19 lakh were excluded (including Hindus) in the final list. So, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has now declared that no Hindu migrant will be called illegal.

Former Union minister and a leader of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir movement Chinmayanand has finally been arrested. Allegations of sexual misconduct against him are not new. But still, the so-called swami was welcomed politically by all, from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Adityanath.

When the Indian economy is facing a severe crisis and the Modi government is taking extreme steps to bring back normalcy, does it make any sense for Indian news channels to continuously harp on emotive, communal and jingoistic issues? When did we last see news channels doing shows on job loss or stagnation in demand or rural distress?


Also read: BBC to New York Times – Why Indian governments have always been wary of foreign press


How to whip up cultural paranoia

This is not an article about fake news or post-truth in the age of irrationality. It is about the paranoia leaders en masse are whipping up to combat facts.

Emotive issues, the world over, are getting more traction facts, as William Davies, a political economist at the University of London, argues in his latest book Nervous States. For instance, fake news-busting organisations like AltNews or the Congress data cell hold no candle to the BJP IT cell.

“Democracies are being transformed by the power of feelings in ways that cannot be ignored or reversed. This is our reality now,” writes Davies.

We are in a world where racist Donald Trump wins, where Brexit gets unparalleled support, where climate change is denied. The era of logico-deductive method of reasoning is over.

In India, the Narendra Modi government too is following the same pattern. Whip up emotions and the cultural paranoia will follow – NRC, Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, scrapping Article 370, UAPA.

Media has done its own bit by broadcasting these ideas to whoever will watch. One news channel even said Pakistan has the moon on its flag, so Indian space rover Vikram is going to land over it.

The ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Texas was more about emotions and standing ovations than trade or international relations.

The message is always emotion over reason.

In such a scenario, is there space for a rational debate on, say, India’s performance in the human development index or why no Indian educational institution has found a place in the top-300 list prepared by the Times Higher Education?


Also read: Why people endorse Modi’s economic performance despite economic slowdown


How to deploy facts

A chief minister can say that the internet existed in the times of the Mahabharata and get away with it. A sitting judge of a high court can say that Brahmins are born great and get away with it. An ISRO chief sees no wrong in offering prayers in the temple before the launch of space missions.

In this era of passions, the biggest casualty is the intellectual architecture of reason. Or are the rationalists and liberals missing the lived realities of the masses by dismissing emotive issues as less important or irrelevant?

The rationalists have ceded ground to the Right-wing by ignoring the cultural paranoia as fake news. And the Right-wing has exploited it to their advantage.

So, what is the way ahead for rationalists and liberals? As Davies argues: “We have to take people’s feelings seriously as political issues, and not simply dismiss them as irrational.”

Easier said than done. More so for the politicians of the opposition camp as PM Narendra Modi is the master of invoking the emotional Furies.

Look at how Modi treats the issue of making India a $5-trillion economy – as an emotional idea, as a matter of pride, not growth.

It’s of no consequence that the BJP spokesperson may not know how many zeros are there in a trillion. We may laugh at Sambit Patra, but the economy was not the BJP’s priority anyway. Modi wants to make India great again, they say. He wants to restore India’s hurt civilisational pride.

And that’s where he, his party and their IT cell win over facts, every day, every second, every corner of India.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Putin was KGB Godfather, Trump was a very popular TV actor who firedan employees in the show every week. You are fired phrase has become his signature since then, The Billion $ was seeded by his father and finally India’s Modi…. lemme , am getting emotional.

  2. Every. Liberal in India feels life was much better before 2014. Millions of india’s poor don’t share that view. Rahul Gandhi did great service to nation by accusing modiji of “soot boot ki sarkar”. That changed the narrative of Modi 1.0 by 180 degrees. Modiji has never looked back. He has created a new vote bank called “Labarthis”( beneficiaries) across all sections of society who are not bothered about Sensex, GDP, NSSo et al. They are happy with last mile delivery of NDA govt. They have never been more happy. Damn the economists.

  3. Sir,

    Jinhe mein dhundtaa thaa Asmaanon mein, Zameenon mein,
    Woh nikle mere Zulmat, Khaana E Dil ke makeenon mein.

    But one hard core belief finds darkness in others while it lies within itself which it can not see. We witness Hindu fundamentalists blaming muslims and vice versa.

    We pity that this is happening in this scientific age.

  4. Is the writer of the article the same guy who always talks about Dalits only. If yes then this article has no meaning as he does not understand that there are people who are non-daits in India who also need support but he chooses to ignore them. Yeah, we live in age if irrationality. The issue is we don’t look how bitter and bised we ourselves are towards others.

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