Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi are alike. They share common personality traits of shaping themselves into a messiah

Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi are alike. They share common personality traits of shaping themselves into a messiah
Highlights

Arun Jaitley, in his Facebook post, compared Indira Gandhi to Adolf Hitler. Initiating a diatribe against the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with his speech in Mumbai. In response to that, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala compared Mr Modi to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and said they are alike.

Arun Jaitley, in his Facebook post, compared Indira Gandhi to Adolf Hitler. Initiating a diatribe against the members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with his speech in Mumbai. In response to that, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala compared Mr Modi to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and said they are alike.

As the Hitler analogy was used up by the BJP, for the Congress, regarding inexplicable reasons, picked on a historical figure denigrated severely by the Sangh Parivar to draw comparisons with the Prime Minister. Comparing Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi to historical personalities who evoke demonic memories, both sides missed out on what should have been the most obvious comparison between Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi. This is due to the political discourse being polarised with Mr Modi or against him despite India’s political multi-polarity.

Propensity to handpick political nobodies for key positions, undermining democratic processes within their own parties, a soft corner for sycophants and elevating them to crucial positions, over-centralisation of governance with the Prime Minister’s Office run by supine bureaucrats as an all-powerful behemoth, unbridled dislike of an independent judiciary and the media, scant regard to dissent, accusing adversaries of conspiring to overthrow the regime or destabilising the nation. As these are traits which are common to both.

However, looking for echoes of the Emergency is inappropriate not just because the times are different but also because the objectives are entirely different. In India, historically, there has been a strong sentiment in favour of powerful leaders. There are several leaders who are authoritarian in their own way. These chief ministers or heads of parties run these states or outfits with the same controls that they deny Mr Modi. But this does not justify the BJP’s pursuit of a majoritarian and hegemonic socio-political order because of its deeply divisive ideology.

It was to Jawaharlal Nehru’s credit that despite the national movement creating a messiah in Mahatma Gandhi, he did not fashion himself as one and chose to be an inclusive Prime Minister. He had shortcomings, including conferring the Bharat Ratna on himself, but he did not undermine India’s or the Congress Party’s federal character. In contrast, Indira Gandhi shaped herself as a messiah, as did several others who followed Jayaprakash Narayan, V.P. Singh and now Narendra Modi.

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