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Endgame in Gujarat?


“The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power”

Julius Caesar

There comes a time in Macbeth’s  bloody-minded totalitarianism when, wishing to control every little mite of time, space, and freedom of action, he realizes that in so doing he has in fact come to lose all control over everything.

Indeed, the one profound and profoundly enacted truth of Macbeth’s career is to communicate the fearful irony at the heart of all  absolutist ambition, namely, that far from achieving any omnipotent security of selfhood or regime, every successive crime calculated to nail opposition leaves a residue which in course metamorphoses into an uncontrollable  destiny. All moral compass lost, a madly irrational anarchy overtakes the tyrant, until  his only pathetic rationale for going forward or turning back comes to be  which end is physically closer and more accessible: “I am in blood/Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more/Returning were as tedious as go o’er” (Macbeth, Cambridge, ed. John Dover Wilson.)

This seems to be the point at which politics in Gujarat may now have arrived.

Sanjiv Bhatt may well be the “naked new born babe” whose sheer unconcealed innocence and open-ended helplessness bids fair to rouse the “collective conscience of society” (to borrow that redolent phrase from the Supreme Court’s judgement on Afzal Guru), including of the Congress party, into more than just mumbling “enough is enough,” that there truly has been “something rotten in the state of” Gujarat that screams for healthful redress and renewal.

As the remorseless arms of tyranny flail in all directions, to strike, as it were, whoever may lurk in the blinding shadows of gathering justice, Sanjeev Bhatt may just be the reincarnated eighth of Devki and Vasudev, blown in with the winds from nearby Dwarka, deriving a charmed life from the spirit of the moment, from, if you like, a post-Anna Zeitgeist. Imagine that in one leading English Daily today (Gandhi’s  birthday fittingly), Anna is reported to say that  “Communal Forces are a bigger threat than Corruption”  (HT, 2nd oct, 2011). How heartily we agree!

Meanwhile, are you as askance as we are at the constitutional and ethical poverty of a party like the BJP that one segment, it would seem, of its many segments should think, and like us to think, that an intolerant boor, a sectarian warlord, a no-holds-barred extinguisher of  non-compliant voices, however selfless and  rightful, a rewarder of cronies who trample  any and every constitutional or moral principle at his bidding, a democratic pretender who  appeals not to the best collective reason but to the basest  collective prejudice, is indeed the fittest candidate  to be the  prime minister of the world’s most pluralist country!  O tempora, O mores!  

On this hallowed day of the birth of two of India’s noblest souls—Gandhi and Lal Bahadur—do spare us that ugly thought.

Another thing: we in India say “Satyameva jayatei.” From where else but this must Hegel have imbibed the insight that “only the rational is the right.” Never more true than in a democratic system, however flawed, mangled, or appropriated. And, after long years of seeming victory, the rational one day materializes in the shape of a kashmiri-looking IPS officer who, perish the thought, stands up straightforwardly and says that his allegiance is not to the boss, but to the boss of all bosses, namely the Constitution of India as by law established. Ha, the gumption! But there it is: the same Constitution from whence the canny one derives his own wherewithal in the first place, much as he might say no, no, no, Anal Haq, Anal Haq i.e. I am god, I am god. Not Advani, not any other prani. Just me, just me, can’t you see, can’t you see.  

Alas, will no one rid me of this fear, meaning not Richard but Sanjeev Bhatt.  

The time for that sort of thing to happen may well be past, as Gujarat seems poised to emerge from the heart of darkness into the sunshine of common day.  

Time to be humble, and time to pray.   

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