As a passive participant in a rather hyperactive WhatsApp group, consisting essentially hardcore RSS-BJP members and sympathisers, one has had the opportunity to glean a few insights while a number of myths and canards typically spread by the self-styled liberal-secularist crowd stand demolished. Given that the 100-plus members belong to different socio-economic strata with quite a few professionals, it was refreshing to note that open and, shall we say, no-holds-barred exchanges on all things concerning the country take place on this privileged social media group.
Despite enjoying proximity to the seat of power, it is remarkable that none seemed to hesitate in calling a spade a spade. Indeed, some active members usually called it a bloody shovel. If you were to read the exchanges, you might wonder why do the Sangh Parivar members have such a poor opinion about the leftist-liberal loudmouths who never miss an opportunity to abuse Modi in particular and the Sangh Parivar in general on the thinnest of pretexts.
For the leftist attention-seekers could well be proud of owning some of the cutting comments, some of the sarcasm against the Prime Minister travelling to and fro within this invite-only group.
It is heartening that members very often echo and even rehash criticism heard in the Opposition circles - but soon to be put down sharply with an equally plausible counter-argument.
Contrary to the impression created by the visceral enemies of the Sangh that its members are dimwits who get their line from on high (read Nagpur), what the above group exemplifies is that there is full freedom of expression. People in the group are seen commenting openly and without any fear of being blackballed by the group head, a longtime and widely respected RSS apparatchik who has devoted his entire life without seeking any personal benefit for himself from successive BJP regimes at the Center and in the States.
Whether it is demonetisation or the state of the economy or any other current concern of the people, the opinions expressed reflect a creeping disenchantment with the performance of the Government.
While nobody questions the sincerity and intentions of the Prime Minister, there is a general feeling that little tangible has changed to better common man's (aam aadmi) life. The fact that the Modi government has launched a relentless drive against black money, against parallel economy is uniformly appreciated- hardly anyone can cavil at the objective. But what comes across is the pain and harassment of the tax-paying middle class, a genuine fear that the tax bureaucracy would enrich itself further at the cost of honest citizens. Even on GST, there is a sharp criticism of the glitches faced by the small and middle-level traders and how everyone is hard to put to employ a battery of accountants to fulfil the cumbersome conditions.
The following wisecrack about demonetisation says something about the complete absence of any fear of being pulled up by the group head. The pithy remark read: "To hunt crocodiles, water was drained from the pond; no crocodiles were found because they can survive on land as well, but the small fish perished."
You get the drift, don’t you? Which is that notebandi put the poor and the underprivileged to a lot of trouble whereas the big moneybags escaped unscathed.
If Rahul Gandhi or rather his script-writers could improve on this simile, he has not done it thus far. But when you sleep with the same crocodile-moneybags you have to naturally tone down your criticism, given that the electoral machine of both the ruling BJP and the fast-shrinking Congress is oiled by the same crony capitalists.
Again, days before a section of the English language media began to murmur at the record high prices of petroleum products, members of the RSS-BJP friendly group had begun to complain that despite record low prices of crude in the global markets, petrol and diesel was being retailed at the same price as when Modi first occupied the Delhi throne.
As a member noted, there has been more than a hundred percent increase in the levy on petrol while that on diesel exceeds three-hundred percent. As a result more than Rs 1,50,000 crore has accrued to the public purse each year as unbudgeted income since Modi became Prime Minister, a WhatsApp group member noted.
The group members also went on to ask 'Where was this money going?' Such questions underline the awareness of the members and their refusal to behave like bonded slaves of the leadership, a common phenomenon in the family-owned parties.
As a member messaged, when Modi said he would grow GDP, he meant the prices of gas, diesel and petrol. Touché. You genuinely wonder if anyone in the Congress party could have mouthed such a sharp put-down for the Gandhis without risking marginalisation by the 10 Janpath coterie.
The problem is that the habitual critics of the Sangh Parivar, including BJP, fail to appreciate its collective nature of decision-making. Consensus rather than diktat informs the inner workings of the Sangh and its various offshoots.
Also, notice the recent statement of the Sanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat. It has virtually gone uncommented in the metropolitan media, the hotbed of anti-Modi journalism.
In particular, a Hindi TV anchor has made a career addressing himself to the converted by spewing venom daily against the Sangh Parivar while refusing to notice the perfidious financial skullduggery of his employers. This poisonous anchor ignored the public rebuke by Bhagwat of those who may have been indulging in violence over cow or beef or generally becoming an embarrassment to the Modi Sarkar.
Unfortunately, it is in character of the left-liberal crowd that it pays scant attention to commendable words and deeds of the Sangh Parivar while singularly harping on the real or imaginary excesses of the fringe allegedly associated with it.
Little do these charlatan liberals know that, but for the resistance of the Sangh Parivar and a few others on the Opposition benches, Indira Gandhi and her progeny would have made this county a one-party dictatorship where dissent and debate would have yielded to a permanent one-family rule.
On the other hand, the Sangh and its offshoots have an intrinsic aversion to jeehazoori of any kind, though in recent times Modi might have taken key decisions unilaterally - with what result is there for the entire country to see. Hopefully, with rebuffs on the land law ordinances and demonetisation, he would revert to wider consultations.
Lest anyone thinks that even the core constituency of the BJP is unhappy with the performance of the Modi Sarkar, and therefore it might desert the party, an apocryphal anecdote about the late US President Lyndon Johnson could be instructive. When asked about a particularly cruel Latin American dictator, Johnson is said to have reacted, “He may be a son of a bitch, but he is my son of a bitch.”
The hardcore BJP constituency in the trading class might well be dissatisfied with the belated attempts to make honest taxpayers out of them, but when they are in the polling booths, they can still be relied upon to vote BJP because they have known no other option all their lives.
After all, you don’t betray your son, do you, even if he fails to measure up to your expectations. That is the central message that comes across from the interactions of the 100-plus WhatsApp groups.
(Virendra Kapoor is a senior journalist and columnist. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect that of Asianet Newsable.)