The era of anger began in 2014 with Modi. Now it’s time to bargain, silence

Silence, crucially, is a form of speech. Whatever the verdict next month, this current silence is not only damning, but also critically expresses a shift in political sentiment.

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Is the era of anger over?

Ten years ago, Modi galvanized the primal emotion of anger that defined our times. Anger against the established order marked the beginning of Modi’s rise to power. Even though Modi’s credentials as a Hindutva devotee were well established by 2013, anger as a feeling and position then overwhelmed every issue from economics to identity.

Modi, in his first national campaign, deftly established himself as a common man of India and a prodigal provincial who stood atop the world’s most powerful political domes. His election was widely seen as a reversal of the order or the end of the so-called old regime of Lutyen’s elite, or the anglophone, liberal, metropolitan elite – the LME, so to speak.

By 2014, the LME was globally vilified and resented for not being nativist enough and living in a jealously closed bubble disconnected from national aspirations. Whether it was Donald Trump in the United States or Brexit in Britain, Modi has been at the center of this global arc of antagonism and anger that has reshaped democracy everywhere.

After a decade, this phenomenon shows common characteristics globally, ranging from a great disregard for scientific and academic expertise to the rejection of old-fashioned journalism as “legacy media”, politics and opinion being conducted on digital social networks. Regardless of whether globalization was the main driver, the Age of Anger installed neo-nationalism as the reigning political currency everywhere.

The issue and the effect have not simply been the rise of the strongman or the personality cult of a leader here or elsewhere, but the fact that a large number of people and populations have, during for the better part of a decade, been almost always in turmoil – always angry. , with volubility and strong.

Today, the silence of the Indian voter perhaps masks anger, but it no longer seems immediate or ambient. Globally and in India, a crucial setback began a few years ago. As I explained then, 2022 was a pivotal year, as the fight against strongman populism forced a new political sequence. Then, whether it was Lula’s tenure in Brazil, Biden’s capture of the Senate midterm, or the beginning of the end of conservatives in Britain, the leader as a strongman began, for the first time, to seem rather arrogant and arrogant. . A new policy had nevertheless been initiated.

It is also the year of the Bharat Jodo Yatra in India which has undoubtedly put the pause button on Modi’s relentless grip on power.

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Sounds of silence

After anger, we are told, comes bargaining, in the cycle of emotions. At first glance, silence seems like a barter. Despite efforts to stoke resentment and anger, these have remained largely ignored. The major effect is the absence of a “Modi wave” in India. The exchange of silence has oriented manifestos, commitments and speeches towards rights. Whether or not these rights are formulated in the name of guarantees or justice, the first principles of democracy – the equity of rights – are nevertheless perceptible. Anger has found a new anchor. The arc of anger has noticeably shifted from resentment to entitlement.

The lived life of the economy, whether it is the price of everyday goods or the means of accessing them through employment, now occupies the reports and the airwaves. As celebrity anchors travel the vastness of India, eating street food and dhabas in a mix of travelogues and political reporting, almost every encounter with the voting population reflects a strained economy. The aspiration, which has been the buzz in the political landscape for a decade, has been replaced by a prosaic realism.

If ten years ago Modi, the ordinary man par excellence, had risen to the top and, since then, had only spoken on the largest scales, today, silence demands a calibration of expectations . It is therefore not surprising that analysts systematically characterize this election as determined solely by the local. The promise of national greatness now demands that ordinary people have at least the dignity of a promising life. In other words, even if India or Bharat remains predominant, this election has placed emphasis on the lives of Indians. It is precisely because nationalism and the nation are so secure that the focus has silently but surely shifted to the citizen.

It would be a mistake to consider the silence of voters as a return to the old order, or even as revenge for the metropolitan liberal elite. This old order, long decadent, was easy prey. The fact that nativists, with their resentful anger, were the first to dismantle what was already broken should not hold back or detract from what is, in fact, truly underway. 2024 is therefore, whether in Great Britain but especially in India, the radicalization of rights. Whatever the verdict next month, the 2024 Lok Sabha elections have already silently affirmed a return to the original promise of democracy.

Shruti Kapila is Professor of History and Politics at the University of Cambridge. She tweets @shrutikapila. Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)