Tag Archives: Narendra Modi Elections 2014

(How) Does the Sovereign Speak?: Akshaya Kumar

This is a guest post by Akshaya Kumar

In a recent piece, entitled The Modi Wave, I analyzed the orientations of the Modi campaign, and argued that crucial to Modi’s repackaging was his ‘sovereignty effect’. In this case, entirely a property of the media narratives that pitched Narendra Modi as someone from outside history, he was offered as an intervention into national history. I have suggested that this was a masterstroke to the extent that the subject within history has a compromised agency. The continuities – of forces, events, rationales and time as a whole – blunt the provenance of the outsider. In order for the subject to act upon history, he must stand entirely outside it. In this way, he cannot be accessed from within historical time. Modi not only offered a historical narrative of an unending Congress rule, infested with corruption, appeasement and misrule, but also that of him observing this lingering malady from outside the fence. His story of his own rise goes from being a tea-seller to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, from a not-yet to a fully sovereign. He is never a deputy, never a peg within the system; he suffers till his agency is still being shaped, and appears as already the incumbent. This fundamental separation from the substance of historical progression is needed to project oneself as unsullied, unlike those defiled by the their political existence within history.

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Some Reflections on the neutrality of political institutions and the project of making Modi more palatable: Moiz Tundawala


“ … . however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics.”

[Dr. Bhimrao Amdedkar]

These observations of Babasaheb Ambedkar, made on the 25th of November, 1949, one day before the Constitution was finally adopted after three years worth of labour, should suffice for anyone who dismisses Modi skeptics as excessive scare mongers. As a second year law student in 2006-07, I couldn’t quite understand why our revered constitutional law teacher Prof. M.P. Singh would keep reiterating these sentiments in class, something which I thought was so axiomatic it did not need emphases. With only a few days left for the outcome of what is being called an election for the soul of India, I now realize the wisdom underlying those constant reminders, especially in a law school converted by the culture and priorities of its students into a factory churning out smart but unreflective products for the corporate sector. I think those of us who find Modi problematic, but would still vote him in for the lure of the promised economic miracle, while at the same time consoling ourselves with the talk of sufficiently robust political institutions capable of surviving any onslaught, must listen to Ambedkar carefully. The Constitution is an artefact, a human creation, constantly needing ‘good people’ at the helm to work it out. If nothing else, resistance to Modi’s rise to power is at least resistance against the enthronement of ‘bad people’, who deep down have only harboured contempt for the Constitution as a foreign document.

Continue reading Some Reflections on the neutrality of political institutions and the project of making Modi more palatable: Moiz Tundawala