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A New Vogue: Authoritarian leader don't easily accept defeat (Comment)


If numbers go against him, will Modi accept defeat? Sounds like an absurd question but it worried me after I read the sub on the Op-ed page of of May 8:

"Yes, there's very good reason to worry won't concede if he's narrowly defeated in 2020." Dignified by the NYT, such speculation begins to ring alarm bells.

The reason why is being singled out for such speculation is because his political instincts resemble that of some others - Turkey's strongman Tayyip Erdogan for instance.

In an interview, expressed her fears quite explicitly: "If is defeated in 2020 by a narrow enough margin, he will refuse to accept the legitimacy of the election." What is the basis for Pelosi's alarming prediction? Well, the example of Erdogan, his unwillingness to believe he can be defeated.

Unable to accept the fact that the electoral verdicts of two key have gone against his candidates, Erdogan is throwing a fit. The result is that the has been pressurized by his cohorts to announce fresh elections in

Time was when leaders were sensitive to world opinion, particularly that of the US. In Trump's it is now a virtue to develop a hide as thick as a rhinoceros. As it is Americans were impervious to what others thought of them. That was American exceptionalism. A thick skin in the is an add-on.

The result is the US can play the world order as it pleases. It has the right to declare Erdogan a pariah and yet endorse a truly fraudulent election of in the Gambia's Yahya Jammeh, who claims to cure aids by prayer, refuses to accept defeat. And the world ignores it.

Why, did not pack the so that she could beat the system and stay on as We all know who stole the 2000 election in The point is that there is an increasing tolerance level for electoral democracy losing its sheen.

Of the names listed above, the leader who most resembles Modi is Erdogan. The of both is determined by their core religious beliefs. It is astonishing what little notice was taken of Modi's first speech in Parliament in May 2014. His responsibility, he said, was to free mind of 1,200 years of "ghulami", which, in imperfect translation, means "serfdom". Put it down to good sense, or hypocrisy, that the Muslim rule in was never considered "foreign". Muslim rulers made their home, unlike the British who ruled from

Let us remember, Modi's RSS training distances him by belief from the basic tenets of electoral democracy. Notions of social justice, upward mobility, liberal democracy are anathema to votaries of a rigid caste structure. As the noted: "What is Hinduism without caste?" Given this absolute reality, a votary of Hindutva which is what Modi is, can only use the democratic system for as long it is useful. There have been others in history.

In Muslim practice Taqaiyya is a tactic of self-preservation. In other words a group can project an image which need not tally with its core beliefs. Modi is no democrat but is firmly on the democratic bandwagon, by way of taqaiyya. Once he has exhausted the limits of this system and has all the institutions of the state in his control, he can unfurl his ultimate agenda - begin to remove the constitutional prohibition on declaring a Hindu Rashtra. The goal is as clear as it is impossible to achieve in a country of bewildering variety where every currency note has its denomination indicated in 17 languages, many of them with classical literatures predating Christ.

Erdogan's taqaiyya followed a distinct script. Brutalities inflicted on Bosnian Muslims, ignored by Europe, had a direct impact on the Turkish elections of 1995. Bosnia was, after all, once a province of the Ottoman Empire. The under Necmettin Erbakan, guru to Erdogan, was a mismatch with Ataturk's uncompromising, secular constitution. Erbakan was removed, his party disbanded. That is when and Erdogan founded the secular, AKP or This was their taqaiyya.

Basically, Erdogan is in his deep heart's core. Brothers would be a torrent in and but have been held in check by a US and backed army in and Ataturk's secular constitution and a western elite (albeit declining) in and In both the countries Brothers cannot be held back in perpetuity. Which means that Erdogan's goal may be distant but doable after a frightful roller coaster ride. will not remain the we know. His anti-democratic urge will cause to jam the turnstile. Unless Erdogan is replaced by a moderate.

Modi's Hindu Rashtra aspiration is not only undoable but, in pursuit of the goal, dangerously divisive. Hindutva growing into full blown oak in the Hindi belt will make this belt look very different to, say, the South. To the already frightful caste and communal polarization we will have introduced a dangerous North-South faultline.

As I said at the outset, an anti-democratic wave is building up across the globe threatening even the norms of electoral democracy. The outcome of 2019 falling prey to megalomania in this category will throw the nation into tumult. The cause of that questionable quantity called Hindutva will not advance a jot.

Years ago I had described the Sari, Sangeet and Sanskrit as the triple S matrix which is emblematic of the civilizational strength that binds us all in a larger civilizational Hinduism, totally different from the narrow, sectarian mischief which describes as "transformational".

(is a on political and religious affairs. The views expresses are personal. He can be reached on



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First Published: Sat, May 11 2019. 09:48 IST