By Ravi Joshi

Avatars have always proven to be disastrous for democracies, as seen from Europe’s experience in the last century.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally revealed his true identity: that “he was not born to his biological mother and was sent by God for a great purpose”. This is the Nietzschean moment when the Man becomes Superman, the ‘Ubermensch’.
Less than a 100 years ago, Nazi Germany (1933-45) witnessed the rise of the ‘Ubermensch’ – ‘a superhuman with astounding powers’ in Adolf Hitler. The Hitler myth of an ‘infallible multi-faceted genius with messianic and superhuman qualities close to God’ was systematically cultivated by the Nazi propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. Was it only for public consumption or did Hitler believe in it too? And did he ever declare that he was chosen by God? In fact, he did.
If one were to pick a particular date, it was at the meeting at Berchtesgaden on February 12, 1938 when Hitler was demanding the surrender of Austria without firing a shot. He told Kurt von Schuschnigg, the Chancellor of Austria “I am telling you once more that things cannot go on in this way (referring to the latter’s reluctance to sign away the independence of his country). I have a ‘historic mission’ and this mission I will fulfil because ‘Providence’ has destined me to do so…. who is not with me will be crushed”. Modi has left the last sentence unsaid but rest of the script is uncannily similar to the vision of the hero that the RSS and Sangh parivar fervently worship.
When a man believes and proclaims that he is an agent of God or a Messiah ‘born for a purpose’, it’s urgent to understand whether he is in requirement of a psychiatric institution. And considering that he is the prime minister of the country, it is necessary to enquire as to how his mind works, how he relates and responds to his immediate context, and how he is likely to behave in the face of an unexpected crisis.
It is also necessary to understand Modi’s mindset because at least 37% of our population implicitly believes in his words. They are of the firm view that Modi is an avatar born to restore the pride and glory of Hindus that was lost due to the ‘1200 years of slavery’ just as the Germans believed Hitler would revive the great German nation by unifying all the lands where ethnic Germans lived – Austria, Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia and parts of Poland. How does Modi keep up the faith of his flock of bhakts without conquering neighbouring lands? Well, it is a tough act to follow but his bhakts easily believe in the so-called ‘surgical strikes’ inside enemy territory without any hard evidence of the outcome and no matter however dubious the claim.
The God-complex, also called ‘narcissistic personality disorder’, as per Mayo Clinic’s list of symptoms is seen in ‘sociopaths’ who display ‘an unreasonably high sense of self-importance requiring constant and excessive admiration’ but also have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, humiliation and fear of being exposed as a failure’.
Indian political psychologist Ashis Nandy wrote about Modi when he was an RSS pracharak trying to make it as a small time Bharatiya Janata Party functionary. He said that “Modi met virtually all the criteria that psychiatrists, psychoanalysts had set-up on the authoritarian personality. He had the same mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life, massive use of the ego projection, denial and fear of his own passions combined with fantasies of violence – all set within the matrix of clear paranoid and obsessive personality traits. I still remember the cool, measured tone in which he elaborated a theory of cosmic conspiracy against India that painted every Muslim as a suspected traitor and potential terrorist.”
Nandy ended his analysis of Modi with a chilling but prescient warning “…I had met a textbook case of a fascist and a prospective killer, perhaps even a future mass murderer.” This was a decade before Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat.
It is not ignorance, but selective understanding of history, that led Modi to admire and emulate Hitler. Targeting of minorities – Jews in the case of Hitler and Muslims by Modi – as enemies of the nation and an underlying belief in the superiority of Aryan race are two distinct strands that unite them. This election season has exposed all his primordial fears and hatred. Recent attacks on the Congress by comparing its manifesto to that of the Muslim League, accusing it of plotting to take over the gold and mangalsutras of Hindu women, and even their excess buffaloes along with the cheap references to ‘mutton, machli, and mujra’ are all aimed at demonising Muslims more than the Congress party. Such desperate degradation of campaign discourse was never seen before and bodes ill for the future of the country.

Avatars and democracy
Avatars have always proven to be disastrous for democracies, as seen from Europe’s experience in the last century. Megalomaniacs turned fascists who believed in their ‘historically ordained’ destinies have come to power through democratic means and twisted that mandate into waging world wars and genocidal campaigns in pursuit of their bizarre goals. The technique is simple, you come to power through the ‘will of the people’ and once in power, you act as per the ‘will of God’ – the second more inscrutable than the first. We now seem to be heading into that uncharted territory in India.
In the immediate context of the elections, by claiming to be a Messiah, Modi may be trying to delink himself from the vagaries of popular mandate, especially if it is not favourable. Obviously, avatars don’t seek a mandate, they are born with it. Nor can artificial constructs such as the Constitution and rule of law restrain them. They have a cosmic vision, far greater than the Constitution, and are a law unto themselves. Checks and balances, such as the legislature and the judiciary, cannot bind an avatar. Men of destiny and their divine purpose cannot be debated in a parliament nor challenged in a court. Finally, an Avatar brooks no opposition, nor dissent, for he knows the truth. Opposing an Avatar is to oppose ‘God’, or replace it with ‘nation’ and you arrive at the meaning of ‘anti-national’.
Unfortunately, avatars have no happy ending, neither for themselves nor for the nations they lead. If India, that is Bharat, is ruled by an avatar – the manifest agent of God – then ‘We the People’ are certainly in for troubled times, maybe violent times.

Ravi Joshi is a former Cabinet Secretariat official.

Courtesy: The Wire

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