India’s New Power Elite

It was on Roundtable a month ago that we broke the news that Sanjaya Baru was coming out with a new book, and on the show, another Sanjay (Jha) quipped, “hope this one is not an accidental one”. Jha was of course referring to Baru’s earlier book, The Accidental Prime Minister. Well, this one is called India’s Power Elite: Class, Caste And a Cultural Revolution. It’s a very smart treatise on the power elite and Baru talks, not just about the chatterati and politicians but also the elite in the bureaucracy, military and media. Baru traces the rise of the Nehruvian elites to what Narendra Modi now refers to as the Khan Market gang and the rise of a new cultural elite. This new power elite dreams in Hindi, prefers to eat with their hands than a knife and fork but does so with attitude and not diffidence—it is the group that surrounds Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath. In this new elite both Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Romila Thapar who signified the Right & Left factions of the old elite, will feel misplaced. Baru also talks about the cosy equation between media barons, TV anchors and the government of the day. The politicisation of the military as well as the bureaucracy is examined, with V.K. Singh and N.K. Singh getting a special mention. In the end, he leaves us with a provocative question, asking whether BJP is really turning India into a Hindu nation or is the focus on religion a tactic to divert from failure on other fronts. If the latter, how long will this last? Baru’s answer is not very encouraging for he feels the BJP will hold until the opposition gets it act together or the economy collapses.

Congress Campaign in Assam

The elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu are over and as far as the Congress is concerned its main focus were the first two states. In Assam, it’s taking the BJP head on in a straight fight and despite running a faceless campaign the party does have a chance for it has put together a formidable alliance specially in tying up with the AIUDF. This alone will prevent a split in the minority vote that can swing as many as 32 constituencies. Add to this 8 from the Bodo dominated areas (where the BJP is not very popular for not delivering on its promise of ST status to some tribes) the Congress-led coalition has an advantage of nearly 40 seats to squander away. What has helped the campaign is the unison between the various leaders, be in Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who had been given charge of the state, Jitender Alwar the amiable general secretary in charge, as well as other leaders like Gaurav Gogoi and Sushmita Dev. All four also belong to Team Rahul and they ran a cohesive campaign, leaving egos out of the equation. In fact the only hitch Congress sources complain about came from Naresh Yadav, a Congress functionary managing the election campaign whose briefings sometimes did not gel with line taken by Baghel and the rest. But then, what’s a Congress campaign without a hiccup or two!

First Mover Advantage

Wary of the long gap between the voting and the results the Congress is already anticipating the BJP’s next moves. It has shifted all its Assam candidates (this includes those of its allies from the AIUDF and the BPF as well) to the Fairmont hotel in Jaipur. Clearly it knows all too well the long arm of the BJP, especially Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has outsmarted them once too often.