RSS cadets | Representational image
RSS cadets | Representational image | @RSSorg
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The ‘elite’ doesn’t mean elitism, it just means intellectuals and artists who can promote the spread of knowledge. And Modi doesn’t have them.

Despite nearly four years in power, Narendra Modi has not been able to create his own power elite. He, of course, has his strong supporters in the media – conventional and social. He has a few intellectuals who write columns in his favour in mainline newspapers. He surely has a loyal following in the corporate class, and admirers (even worshippers) in the middle class, especially among the upper castes.

But that does not constitute the ‘power elite’. Not only Modi, but even the BJP, or for that matter the RSS, has not been able generate a support circle of intellectuals, academics, artists, scientists and others. The government has appointed some supposedly eminent persons in various institutions at the top, but most of them have generated controversy on the question of calibre and quality.

The ‘power elite’ is a social phenomenon that does not have necessarily negative connotations. And mind you, this ‘elite’ is not the same as elitism, which is the same kind of phenomenon as Brahminism, where a select bunch of people control knowledge. The ‘elite’ actually have to be liberated from elitism for knowledge and education to spread.

The Nehruvian era

Jawaharlal Nehru had virtually an army of the elite, which included scientists and poets, writers and technocrats, artists and historians, bureaucrats and even industrialists, all of whom had the proverbial halo.

From Homi Bhabha to Amrita Pritam, Satyajit Ray to Nikhil Chakravarty, Jamini Roy and Nandlal Bose to V.P. Menon and Girija Shankar Bajpai, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and K.A. Abbas were all directly influenced by the Nehruvian ethos.

There was also a huge range of Western intellectuals and diplomats including J.K. Galbraith and Chester Bowles. Nehru’s association with the Aurobindo Ashram and his personal relationship with Vinoba Bhave also provided a kind of philosophical- spiritual dimension to his circle.

Indira’s circle

Even Indira Gandhi had a huge circle, which included P.N. Haksar and Romesh Thapar, Ebrahim Alkazi, Pupul Jayakar, Kapila Vatsyayan, architects like Charles Correa, scientists like Vikram Sarabhai, poets like Harivansh Rai Bachchan and artists like Satish Gujral.

She even had in her circle international elite like Michael Foot, Katherine Frank, and Zubin Mehta.

Indira used to frequently meet J. Krishnamurti and visit Santiniketan. That provided a cultural and also transcendental character to her.

Despite the Emergency she declared, her power elite survived and became an almost ready-made intellectual support system to Rajiv Gandhi after her assassination.

RSS ‘culture’

Modi has not been able to give rise to such circles. Some might say that it is only four years in power, and so, it would be unfair to compare. But Modi was chief minister of Gujarat for 12 years, and he could have established relationships or at least contacts with the world of art and culture and literature. Nehru and Indira did not create such circles after they became prime minister. They were brought up in a hallowed social class and continued their interest in things beyond power and politics. Modi, on the other hand, often says that he is an “outsider” to New Delhi, perhaps realising that he has no elite base.

The RSS, though, it calls itself a “cultural organisation” and wants to establish “cultural nationalism” as a new ideology. But it has no roots in classical or modern arts and literature.

In the intellectual drought RSS members have lived and still live in, they think of absurd ideas and imagined glory, like the mythical Pushpak Vimana as evidence of aviation science, transplant of Ganesha’s head as ancient plastic surgery etc. They think of replacing history and science text books with myths. Even Charles Darwin became a victim of this nonsense.

Their mind cannot wrap itself around anything beyond Padmaavat and ‘Vande Mataram’. And even that history, mythology and poetry is Greek to them. They can’t recite Vande Mataram, as proved by one BJP leader when asked to do so on a TV channel, and have no idea who wrote it and when. But they want to build a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on top priority, and as well as a temple to Nathuram Godse in Madhya Pradesh.

Vandalising M.F. Husain’s art, attacking Ghulam Ali’s ghazal concerts, condemning Aamir or Shah Rukh Khan on utterly silly charges, banning women’s entry into beer bars, forcing college girls to not wear skirts, banning beef and other non-vegetarian food, and despising most Western intellectual and artistic traditions and science are some of the “cultural” manifestations of their “cultural nationalism”.

The whole ethos of the RSS organisation and ideology is starved of anything cerebral and creative, as they have consciously decided to not to grow mentally and philosophically. They are convinced that all the knowledge did indeed exist in the Puranas and the Vedas, and thus, it is not necessary to “waste” time on new knowledge.

What they don’t realise is that studies into ancient Indian philosophy and arts, even the Sanskrit language, are a result of promotion and encouragement during the Nehru and Indira’s times. That did not compromise with their modern outlook and liberal approach to knowledge. Visiting ashrams or temples did not compromise their secular convictions.

Nehru himself has written glorious chapters on ancient Indian history in his magnificent tome, Discovery of India. He has glorified the Ganga and the Himalayas and India’s geography and ecology. Nothing comparable has been written by the Golwalkars and Bhagwats. And yet, the RSS and their fellow travellers in the media have been able to hijack the national philosophical, intellectual, social and cultural debate.

The collapse of civilised behavior, which has become new social norm, is a result of this march towards medieval notions. Modernity, civility, liberalism, scientific temper, respect for global knowledge traditions, appreciation of arts and literature must come from the leadership, from the ruling ideology.

That is where the ‘elite’ culture must prevail.

Kumar Ketkar is a Congress nominee for Rajya Sabha.  

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52 Comments Share Your Views


  1. How do these ‘intellectuals’ actually help in developing a sense of national integration when most of them are quite away from ground realities… And how does one define an intellectual? One who has had western education but still has himself grounded in the culture he was born into is a person more intellectually fit than people who are Oxbridge educated ,who have not smelt the soil of our land properly… Does Swaminathan Gurumurthy an intellectual for Mr Ketkar ? Of course not coz he is from RSS. Are Sanskrit Pandits intellectuals , of course not they don’t know when it snows in London… But I do agree with one point that apart from Gurumurthy , Modi has distanced himself from many of the best brains who are ideologically aligned to National integration like Arun Shourie, Subramanian Swamy and Ram Jethmalani deliberately out of political compulsions bcz these guys speak their mind… Apart from these there are so many like S L Bhyrappa , K S Narayanacharya , Bharat Karnad etc,( All just from Karnataka as I m from Karnataka), and so many others who exist in every part of our country who have been denied their due till now just bcz they had nationalist views… I think Modi is focusing right now on dismantling of the deep state that the Congress has built over years by keeping their pups in powerful positions , be it a university or sahitya academy or even the film industry and for this he needs political hegemony hence the slogan of Congress Mukt Bharat… The Congis, leftists and far leftists like Mamata Bannerjee will continue to exist unless their core support base in bureaucracy and judiciary continues to exist and mind you these people can actually make a huge dent on Modi’s objective if they aren’t dealt in the right way… Remember one of the first casualty in bureaucracy was a lady who was foreign affairs secretary who had voted for Palestine without any political supervision right in 2k14 and she was sacked soon
    … My point being this dismantling needs political control over most of India and right now he is going on doing that job…

  2. India’s Life Expectancy at the time of independence was 32 years. It had doubled since then. This has happened because of welfare measures since independence and not by administering cow’s urine by Gomutrawallahs. The type of nonsense that is being circulated by people in power,shows their level and which intellectual would like to associate with such absurdity.

  3. I Agree with KK in response I insert this #WhatsApp forward as is which makes huge sense Please read For just facts:-, Modi ji often asks a question what congress has achieved for the country for the last 60 years. This is the answer for him, as a citizen of the country I felt it has to be conveyed to them.
    Modi ji, there is no point in shouting standing in a stage and asking question that what is achieved in 60 years. Dont think that the citizen of our country are fools. You are a Prime Minister of a country which was under British rule for more than 200 years. The people were living just like slaves. Congress came to power in 1947 after independence started with zero. There was nothing in this country except the garbages left out by the British. India didn’t even had the resourse to produce even a pin since Britishers left India. The electricity was available only for 20 villages across the country. Telephone facility was available only for 20 rulers (kings) in this country. There was no drinking water supply. There was only 10 small dams. No hospitals, no educational institutions. No fertiliser, no feeds, no water supply for cultivation. There was no job & only starvation in the country. There was many infant death. Very few military staff in the border. Only 4 planes, 20 tankers & fully open borders on all 4 sides of the country. Very minimum roads & bridges. Empty exchequer. Nehru came power in these circumstances.
    What is India after 60 years ?
    World’s largest army. Thousands of war planes, tankers. Lakhs of industrial institutions. Electricity in all villages. Hundreds of electic power stations. Lakhs kilometre of national highways & over bridges. New railway projects, Stadiums, super speciality hospitals, most of the Indian households with television, telephone for all the countrymen. All infrastructure to work in and outside the country, Banks, Universities, AIMS, IITS, IIMS, Nuclear weapons, sub-marines, nuclear stations, ISRO, Navarathna Public sector units.
    Indian Army barging till Lahore years back? Split Pakistan into 2 pieces ? 1 lakh of military & commanders surrendered to Indian army? India started exporting minerals & food items ? Bank nationalisation by Mrs. Indira Gandhi? Computer introduces to India & many job opportunities in India and outside the country? You have become PM using information technology?
    When you took over as the PM, India was the top 10 economies in the world? Apart from this, GSLV, Mangalyan, Monorail, Metro rail, International airports, Prithvi, Agni, Naag, Nuclear submarines….all these were achieved before you became PM.
    Please do not come to people asking what congress has achieved in 60 years.
    Please tell people what you have achieved in the last 3 ½ years except changing names, doing statue and cow politics, failed demonetisation, poorly executed GST, and making people stand in long queues. Hypocrite BJPians opposed FDI like anything and now BJP is supporting FDI shamelessly.. BJP is selling India to Ambani and Rafale deal to Anil Ambani’s 2-month old company over HAL owned by government of India is a prime example of it.. BJP made petrol, diesel, and LPG price go up by putting more tax, while the price of crude oil became cheaper.. Modi government through SBI in the form of fine collected whopping Rs 1771 crore for not able to maintain minimum balance from the poor people of India. Vikas is happening for Amit Shah’s son, Amit Shah, Shaurya Doval, Ambanis, Adani, baba Ramdev’s Patanjali group, and the people who sponsors BJP.. 3000 crores have been spent by BJP to clean river Ganga, this corruption each and everyone can find out by taking a dip in river Ganga..

    PS This is not an advertisement for the congress campaign. I’m not a congress supporter. I’m just an informed voter who feels it is an insult to his intelligence each time the current government says our country has been no good over the last 60 years!

  4. I couldn’t understnd how kumar ketkar dare to say that there are no elite people gathered with modi. He has forgotten the nirav modi attended davos without invitation. Ambani adani are accompanying our pmo withot invitation. Where ever our pm goes on foreign tour our NRI indians and spontaneously clap & say MODI!MODI!!MODI!!! and on pm’s signal they stop calling our beloved prime minister.

  5. Nehru inherited the British made talent. Nehru hated them and anybody smarter than himself. India’s Constitution has ensured that India has NO intellectual elite. Remember Rajiv Gandhi (the leaking PM) bringing in talent from abroad?

  6. When Rajaji wanted voting power only for the educated, Nehruji declined it, saying that all fought in freedom struggle. If Nehruji had thought he might have restricted voting powers. Nehruji had a bigger platform of freedom struggle, English education, bar at law, Gandhiji, Tata and Birla. Modiji had none of these. This article weighs two personalities who lived in different decades. Congress movement was made as cong party, in spite of Gandhiji’s dissent. All the people had great faith in Nehruji. It took nearly 60 years to prove that all those are frauds. Of course, Modiji might have ruled Gujarat for 12 years. He had his mission to reconstruct Gujarat. He did. Now he is at reconstructing the nation. Poets, etc. can only praise the glory. Now the media has eyes even at places of privacy at unguarded moments. Don’t compare two different situations just to find fault. This is a biased article.

  7. Don’t take seriously what Mr Ketkar has written. He feels that his creed and himself has been totally sidelined and ignored by Modi. These paid media intellectuals have brought India progress to grinding halt by their helpful suggestions to Congress led government for last sixty years. Even publishing such articles is a waste of money and time. Now Indian mass is moving ahead and will certainly see the spark in daily life very shortly. These disgruntled writers will have to eat dust while India marches ahead.

  8. Nehru’s contribution to nation is inmense .
    The democracy and institutions he built paid the strongest foundation .
    Today country is at cross road our new leadership is business oriented. No ethics works in business .In business any one ready to supply and purchase is welcome irrespective of his ideology and actions .
    Nehru was with ideology and not business orientation this has led the creation of big PSU strong institutions . Unfortunately our people and subsequently governments did not made use of the strong foundation laid by Nehru .
    The economic policies are bound to change over the period and have changed .
    The social environment is also a sunami process it is also changing only worry the society with change should move forward but Unfortunately we are not loving ahead we are looking back more than in front . Let’s hope instead of just criticising Nehru or so called Dynasty let’s work to move ahead

  9. Mr ketkar many people here who have responded have not even understood the point you are making. But that is natural considering the leader they are following.

    • If somebody has watched Kumar Ketkar in T.V. debate shows, he is a big Congi. sycophant. These journos were given lot of freebies in Congress rule, which have been curtailed. Now all cry against Modi. Another thing to it is Indian minset is still set in British colonial times, hence these pseudos consider intellectuals to be those writing in English or be associated with English media in any way. Even Hindi journalists are not considered as intellectuals by them.

  10. Modi is going in right direction and we people are optimistic, unlike the Nehru-Ghandi-Elite. KK’s views are well known and played outfr long. Indians want to move ahead fast and not to spin around in N-G-E couldren.

  11. Despite so many so called elites, Nehru did not realize that he should have focused on education with full force! If Right To Education was put in place immediately after independence, India would have been a developed nation around 30 years back. We can say that anyone could make a mistake, but then we have to accept that even Nehru had his slips! I don’t understand why many of our leaders have been obsessed with land reforms where as in a modern world, people without any land have been able to make a decent living if they have proper education.

  12. The leftist-liberal-humanright groups ,the so called intellectuals, are thoroughly steeped in anti Hindu mindset . What Modi Jee is doing is to purge the country of all the damage done by these crooks.

  13. 60 years of power and surrounded by such an elite mass, but India is still a poor country. What a contribution to the people of India. Modiji perhaps understood the affect of such 1st grade pshycophancy called elite mass. Every people of this nation are elite and something to contribute. A poor farmers contribution is more important than so called JNU product to build this country. Time for the common man to built nation.

  14. Every kings of past history of India never neglected poets, writers, teachers, Sanskrit pundits, artists. In fact they promoted them and gave them special preference. RSS is a nationalist party. They are dead opposite of Indian history in this case. They only promote one nation one language policy. India was never one nation politically. Sanskrit was the accepted as the elite language and local language was never deprived unlike RSS agenda. All nationalist are evil. RSS chief himself has stated their cadre is bigger than army. They can create problem anytime anywhere soon.

  15. Article with zero intellectuality. Implementation, Transparency and Strong will power is more important than partying with “elite class”.

  16. The elite circles after Nehru and Indira Gandhi have not been described. May be they are not worthy or they are just elite personnel carrying out the Congress outsourced job as pointed out by Shekhar Gupta. Being not surrounded by them is good thing. If you work with good intentions no need to get certified by the circles.

  17. Not sure what Mr Ketkar is trying to say. Intellectual elites if there are such are of the nation and not a particular party. And what will these elites do. Govern? Create a foreign policy. Solve nations problems. Understand what’s happening at the ground level? And what does he mean by spread of knowledge? Is Mr Ketkar suggesting that all elite intellectuals have now gone into hybernation after Sir Modi coming to power and that spread of so called knowledge has stopped.

  18. One of the greatest thinks I like Modiji for is not surrounding himself with cronies like what that Kashmiri miyan and his crooked daughter did.These so called elites of suspicious credentials from Sahitya Academics and JNUs made use of the father and daughter’s ego to get their personal agenda.Sri PVN did not allow these Delhi Vermins any where near him.So they hated him and put him down.Modiji is trying to undo the damage done by the Kashmiri Mafias,it may take some time.

  19. Part of the problem lies in reducing everything to a political binary. Someone like Kaifi Azmi does not belong to the Congress or the BJP. This intellectual elite, gifted, creative, progressive is a national treasure and part of India’s soft power. Set them free, don’t pigeonhole them or ask them for a pledge of loyalty.

  20. Prof Galbraith, US ambassador to India, kept sending Pandit Nehru a lot of books. Nehruji complained to a friend, The man thinks I need an education …

  21. Mr.Modi is always living in fear of being up rooted therefor can not bear any body intlactual mor then him he has created a sphere of only yas man around him.

  22. To understand such high thinking, the magnanimity and all enveloping trait of Hindu religion requires education, humility, respect for other’s views, treating everyone including the staunchest opposition should be imbibed by the people in government.Merely allowing people call him”father of the nation”looks absolutely funny.

  23. Hopelessly biased as usual. All the intellectuals couldn’t provide sound economic growth and was hopeless till 1991. We lost the Indo.China war and part of Kashmir because of Nehru. Country is still suffering from Nehruvian blunders. Thank God for the lack of intellectuals

    • Nehruvian ideology stood for converting India into an egalitarian, socialist society. It was the upper-castes (RSS-Parivar) that put the brakes on Nehru’s efforts, resulting in the 3% “Hindu rate of growth”. Do read up on the Bombay Pact …. soon after independence, India’s industrialists (led by Tatas and Birlas) didn’t want to open up our economy to globalization … they profited then, by keeping out globalisation, and today, they’re profiting by embracing globalization! And the blame is pinned on Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.Clever guys! Chith bhi meri, patt bhi meri (Heads I win, Tails You Lose).
      And, we lost the China war because Atal Bihari Vajpayee repeatedly goaded Nehru into grabbing more and more territory in the Northeast (it was called ‘Forward Policy’) even though our Army wasn’t equipped to win a war against China!
      Do read the records of parliamentary proceedings which clearly show Vajpayee’s false bravado in Parliament. And when Vajpayee himself was the PM of India in 1998-2004, he couldn’t even muster the courage to do to China what he goaded Nehru into doing in 1958-62. All that Vajpayee did was conduct five N-tests to boast about India N-capability … did that scare China?

  24. In order to understand the value of culture, science and intellectual life one needs some background and upbringing that values these things. RSS is a cultural wasteland, an intellectual desert. Anyone emerging from that will be none but a fundamentalist and a bigot. MODI and many of his ministers are products of this cultural wasteland and intellectual desert. That’s why they can never ever understand JNU or any university. A Prime Minster who is afraid of revealing his education and degree certificate says it all.

    • Hi Mr Samuel,
      I don’t think you ever have been to RSS shakhas. Please visit your nearby one and check the fact yourself. We are all grown ups and we must rely on facts which is quite easy to gather. I visited shakhas during my childhood and i don’t ever remember any non hindu anti religious teachings. They always put India first. Any vigilante or killing is not at all ingrained in any of RSS teaching. In my experience i have never ever seen any individual wearing RSS clothes and creating any disturbance.

      • Nonsense! RSS never put India first. RSS always put Bharat first. And RSS didn’t hoist the Indian tricolor for more than 50 years, until a young man climbed atop the RSS HQ building in Nagpur and forcibly hoisted it. He was promptly arrested and locked up in jail because the RSS controls India’s judiciary!

    • Hatred knows no bounds. YOu are essentially angry that how come these heathens could even talk up to ” western civilized’ like you. You maintain a facade of respect to India’s native traditions but in reality you are a closeted bigot who can only spew venom on one’s political/cultural enemies.

    • Does any one need educational qualification to become PM or even a MP ? Whether Modi has any educational qualification or not, he is respected and honoured by most of the so called world leaders. We feel proud of him to see the way world leaders give standing ovation to him. We were silenced and had to retreat in war with China due to Nehru and his elite.

  25. Damage done to our country by so called intellectuals is so much that Modi will take at-least 30 years. We thank God that he is not surrounded by these parasites, and also hope that he will not be in futture also. Thank Mr. Ketkar for reminding Modi to be careful.

  26. Nehru’s cheerleaders were carefully cultivated elites who greatly benefitted from his licence raj and socialist setup, and left leaning academics who dominated the educational landscape. These bunch of people were kept in good humor and in turn they never questioned his policies. We lost out to many Asian countries who were economically weaker than us when we attained independence. Modi doesn’t want any of those sycophants around, he works with a single minded dedication to somehow put the country back on the path to developement, rest ‘Intellects’ like Ketkar can crib about anything and everything under the sun.

  27. Modi is no elitist and from lower middle class. His association is mostly few economists of his liking, astrologers etc a typical of middle class. Elitists did not like modi because he never given them what they are expecting. India has seen elites rule ( plunder) for seventy years lets given middle class fellow few years……..

    • Looking at the way Mr Ketkar defends the indefensible Nehru/ Gandhi family on TV, he clearly fancies himself as one of the intellectual elite. May I ask Mr Ketkar, was it the intellectual contribution of this group of elites that led our country to a 2-3% GDP growth for decades, while other countries in South Asia races on to prosperity?

      • Anyone with an elementary understanding of modern Indian history would know that Nehruvian ideology stood for converting India into an egalitarian, socialist society. It was the upper-castes (RSS-Parivar) that put the brakes on Nehru’s efforts, resulting in the 3% “Hindu rate of growth”. Do read up on the Bombay Pact …. soon after independence, India’s industrialists (led by Tatas and Birlas) didn’t want to open up our economy to globalization … they profited then, by keeping out globalisation, and today, they’re profiting by embracing globalization! And the blame is pinned on Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.Clever guys! Chith bhi meri, patt bhi meri (Heads I win, Tails You Lose).

        • Nitinji, you mean RSS succeeded in poor, non-exsitent growth in all communist countries like China, Russia, Quba, North Korea and whole of Eastern europe? All these had policies similar to Nehruvian( called Socialism—a mild form of Cummunism). Wow, RSS must be mightly powerful.
          Also are you suggesting that Nehru took advice of Birla and Tata to formulate industrial policies?
          Mahanobis who framed Hindu Rate of Growth should have called it Socialist rate of growth but then how can he admit failure of his policies and favourite theories?
          We are seeing TOTAL failure of Bank Nationalisation after 50 years. Well I hope Indiraji was not encouraged by RSS to nationalise the banks.
          Was RSS responsible for occupation of 303 Lutyen Houses with lawns etc by these elites for decades without paying market rates?
          Let us face it, Nehru- Gandhi family pampered (bought) these so called intellectuals by goodies like free houses, foreign trips in the garb of seminars, PM taking huge contingent of media for sightseeing oversees giving housing sites, apartments to media people at state/district level and so on.
          Please also recall how Mr Mani Shankar “secular-anti castism” Iyer uses PM’s childhood background to redicule him.


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