The Germany that Indian libs should really be thinking of when they think of Modi sarkar (hint: NOT Nazi Germany)

Of late, it’s been seen that liberals, both in India and abroad, are wont to compare right wing politicians, especially of the populist variety, with Hitler and Nazi Germany. For eg, the break-in by rogue Trump supporters into the Capitol Building on Jan 6 has been compared to the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. While there are some similarities for sure, an important difference is Trump immediately condemned the violence and distanced himself from the failed coup. Some Republicans also sought to blame the AntiFa and Far Left for posing as Trump supporters to discredit them. This is in contrast to Hitler being arrested and using the trial to make an emotional case for the failed coup.

It is equally as important to study the conditions in Germany that triggered the coup. Which bear little resemblance to US in 2016 or India in 2014. I will keep US aside as the point of interest here is India.

The Nazis took over power in a Germany that had suffered a heavy defeat in World War 1 and whose economy since had been extremely embattled. What recovery there had been thanks to loans from the US disappeared after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Arguably, this second plunge into despair made the people more amenable to the Nazis as an option.

Contrast that with India. I don’t care how much of a diehard BJP supporter you may be, dear reader, but no, India was not on the verge of collapse in 2014. If you really believe that, you have drank the koolaid (or rather, you watch way too much TimesNow/Republic TV).

Let’s go back to 2013. The chief problem was the lack of political authority for the UPA which left them rudderless when it came to controlling the narrative. The narrative itself had been hijacked mainly by the India Against Corruption activists led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal (before he broke away to form a party), with the BJP slyly firing over their shoulders.

But the economy itself was in decent shape. The most painful disappointment then was not on account of widespread unemployment but that India was no longer achieving the 8% growth it had appeared set to for a long period of time. The trajectory to becoming an economic power had been slightly shaken off course.

In other words, Modi received a mandate of aspiration. Modi was seen as the superman manager who, armed with a single party majority, would carry out the necessary reforms and development work that the beleaguered UPA2 seemed to be unable to. Modi was the gamble of a then confident India that believed it did not need to lean on the Congress party anymore for governance. An India that, it may be said in retrospect, was too confident.

This is the juncture Germany stood at when it got engaged in World War 1. It eschewed the option of a more limited engagement accompanied by negotiations with Serbia because its commanders calculated that declaring war on Serbia would bring France and Belgium into the conflict as well as Russia whereupon Germany would fight a two front war and win. Yes, Germany truly believed that its might and superiority would beat back the other powers and it would then rival, if not surpass, the British Empire which it admired and envied.

In the same vein, it would now be clear to liberals – speaking at least of those liberals who have not found clever pretexts to continue supporting Modi for reasons other than TINA (there is no alternative) – that the core base of BJP supporters strongly believed in Modi as the vehicle to take India to superpower status and, more specifically, a glorious Hindu rashtra. That this core base stubbornly resists criticism of the Modi govt by resorting to whataboutery or fake news and resolutely holds on to the belief that the govt is delivering well beyond expectations. I won’t name names but somebody I know who is a CA like me (and therefore, you’d expect, a numbers man) celebrated the 2019 verdict by announcing on FB that Modi would make India a developed nation by 2024!

It is important, then, to recognize that bhaktology, as libs call it, has its roots in unbridled hubris and a sunk cost fallacy that makes acknowledging the failure of Modi a bitter prospect, as opposed to deep wounds nursed over a feeling of being wronged or humiliated that led Germans to throw their lot in with Hitler.

Let us now compare how WW1 unfolded to the progress of Modi sarkar. And here, I introduce this wonderful documentary about the events leading to the Armistice of 1918 as well as the Versailles Treaty.

Listen at 19:18. When Ludendorff is asked what would happen if the great offensive failed, he retorts, “Then Germany will just have to go under.”

It was an all out war propelled by belief in the pre-eminent might of Germany.

By 1918, it was clear that victories on the Eastern Front notwithstanding, Germany was inexorably encircled on the Western Front and forced into retreat.

Ludendorff preferred to involve the US President Woodrow Wilson in the negotiations, hoping that international sympathy from powers not directly harmed by the German offensive (give or take a few American ships) would help him obtain more favourable terms of settlement. He also allowed a civilian government to handle negotiations.

That is, when the Versailles Treaty, such as it was, was revealed, it came as a great shock to a German people that had been led to believe all along that they were winning this war. Prof David Reynolds narrates at 46:46: “For years, the Germans had been insulated from reality by Ludendorff’s dictatorship. Suddenly, their country and all that they had fought for had been ripped apart in a few weeks.” I strongly recommend watching the accompanying visuals from 46:37.

Also watch from 3:50 to 4:13 below:

The passage ends with the chilling words, “Because living was descending into chaos.”

That is the crux.

That is what we in India may have to deal with when the Supreme Leader is finally revealed to BJP supporters as a bitter disappointment. Again, I don’t mean the ones who already concede that he has flaws but believe he is better than the alternatives and also have majoritarian reasons to distrust some of the alternatives like Congress. I am talking about those who have heavily invested in the notion that Modi is triumphantly leading India to greatness.

There are many, many more of them than you think and in places you’d least expect. Why, NRIs who got stuck in India during the second wave and had to undergo quarantine in their home nations to be permitted back in (in spite of holding citizenships) insist that the people at large are responsible for the second wave. Please understand the insidiousness of this argument. Yes, the people got complacent and decided they didn’t need to follow restrictions. But the central govt abetted this air of complacency by loftily declaring that covid had been conquered. Furthermore, even had govt not said so, it is vested with considerable powers to steer the ship. India is not a pure federal union like the US but a quasi-federal union. The Central Govt can, as it did in April last year, use its powers to manage and contain the spread of covid. So…to say the people are responsible is not a more accurate representation of the record but merely a defence of the utter abdication by central govt…by a leader who has never shied away from exerting his authority when he felt the need to.

So think back to 1910s Germany. This, dear liberals, is the climate we are dealing with. The sincere belief in Modi’s greatness is way too entrenched for BJP supporters to be able to give it up even post the desecration of the second wave. Let people die by the hundreds of thousands (if not millions), let millions more lose their jobs, but these supporters will not give in until they hear it from the horse’s mouth.

And do not rejoice when he does. Because when he does, the scenes you witnessed above from Germany post WW-1 will be echoed in India. When the supporters realize that this is what their fervent devotion has been rewarded with, they will not be able to handle the intense disillusionment. They will break down, as did Germany. An emerging economy which should be investing as much as of its time as possible in development will be plunged into the abyss.

And if you really think Modi is the worst, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Modi very much represents the aspirations of the old guard of conservatism (represented in India by the BJP) as did the alliance of Keiser Wilhelm II and Ludendorff. His practice of deception to avoid blame brings them to mind; one does not have to go all the way to Hitler. Hitler created a whole new brand of right wing politics all his own (along with Mussolini in Italy). It is in essence what would be called alt-right today. Modi is not that. We do not know yet what an alt right from India would look like and we shouldn’t exactly look forward to finding out.

So, in conclusion, I am going to present a formulation that will be intensely disagreeable to liberals. The best case scenario is Modi is genuinely touched by a miracle (like the miracle that saves Mr Bean in the Bean movie and helps him salvage the expensive painting that he destroyed) and he manages to reach halfway close to meeting the aspirations of his base. Yes, that means years more in the wilderness for the Left. But when the Left had the chance to beat him, in both 2014 and 2019, they messed up. So one has to pay the price for missed opportunities. But the survival of this right wing hegemony is the best bet for India’s stability – not because there are no alternatives to Modi but because the well being of the republic depends on the mental well being of his supporters.

The next best scenario (actually this is the best one but less likely than the one above) is his supporters do come to their senses without a crash landing. That they awaken to his follies and see the light and deal with it not by throwing the country into chaos but by angrily demanding accountability from him. Were this to happen, all would be well again with the republic. India would revert to the dynamic where voters were once intensely skeptical of politicians and had no love lost for any party. That’s as it should be…because we are all voters and not ideologues nor party workers.

The third best scenario is Modi dies a natural death. I do NOT want to see him get assassinated. For one, nobody deserves that fate and for another, we would then see riots worse than 1984. It is best he dies of what is undeniably a natural disease, leaving no room for conspiracy theories. Yes, again, the BJP will reap a rich harvest from sympathy votes but should the new PM fail to perform, he will not enjoy the same leeway that Modi has and will soon be voted out of power.

The scenario I fear most, as said above, is Modi finally losing his grip to the extent where it is palpable to all that he has failed, to even his most die hard supporters. I know no scenario will give more pleasure to some liberals but I do not believe the endgame of such a scenario would be good for India. Ideally, a hubristic leader should get his comeuppance. But when a nation foolishly attaches itself emotionally to such a leader, the consequences of such a comeuppance will not be pretty.

So, as perverse as it sounds, pray for Modi. Pray because this nation is now too much in love with him to disentangle itself from him in any way that could be described as relatively smooth or harmless.

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