The existence of an elite that perpetuate their power in a country irrespective of dispensation or ideology in power is not unique merely to India. After all, ‘Inside the Beltway’, is a popular idiom used in American circles to signify the presence of an elite in Washington DC whose purposes might not necessarily reflect the interests of the American population. Even in countries that are wracked by revolution and strife, the old elite find some means or the other to hold on to power. Similar is the case with the elite in Lutyens Delhi. Essentially a product of the British Raj, civil servants, intellectuals, artistes, mediapersons, essentially those who made common cause with the British rule clung on to dear power when independence came in 1947. They found a willing ally in Jawaharlal Nehru, who, not unlike these elites was the by product of British rule in the country. Given the long tenure of Congress party in power, these elites became virtually indistinguishable from the Congress. The Grand old party endowed these elites with titles, land, houses, foreign trips and most importantly, gossip to keep the elites friendly to itself. On their part, the elites proved to be dependable allies, fighting Congress’s political battles on the sly and undermining non-Congress, non-Gandhi administrations using their cunning.
For instance, the Lutyens Elite branded Sardar Patel as a village bumpkin, Morarji Desai was made famous for what he drank and not what he did. On the other hand, a lacklustre leader such as Rajiv Gandhi was transformed into a national superstar.
When Modi won the elections in 2014, he knew the hostility he would generate from the Lutyens elite. Which is perhaps why, even after 2.5 years in power, Modi continues to stay in touch with people directly. Be it through Mann ki baat, or through his rallies. However, the way the administration of the country is structured, even if Modi tries, he cannot loosen the grip of Lutyens elite on the government. For instance, Modi had to let some UPA time civil servants continue in senior posts, lest he be branded as vindictive and petty.
It now emerges that the Lutyens Elite is actively working behind the scenes to wreck the government’s plan. According to a newsreport in Sunday Guardian, the Lutyens Elite and Congress party functionaries are hoodwinking the government and sabotaging its reform agenda.
Eerily reminiscent of the way Vajpayee was treated, Modi government, it seems, is being taken for a ride by people in whom Modi has placed his trust. According to the report, the introduction of the 2000 rupee note, a decision that defies all logic, was pushed by Civil servants, who in spite of being close to Modi, are working in tandem with the Lutyens elite. Similarly, the report claims that these Lutyens henchmen have deliberately kept the government in the dark on the note-printing capacity available in the country. Their plan as it appears is to ensure that the economy suffers, thereby denting Modi’s image and damning him to defeat in 2019 polls. That’s not all. The Congress party has opened up a second front against the Modi government. On one hand, the party sends feelers to BJP’s interlocuters that it is willing to discuss and debate in the Parliament and on the other hand the Congress refuses to budge on issues in the house. It is ultimately the Modi government’s image that takes a hit. Inability to run the house, reflects poorly on government’s coordination with the opposition and failure to get key reform bills passed, stalls the government’s agenda. All in all, the plan is to portray the Modi government as a failure which can aid in the return of Congress under Rahul Gandhi to power in 2019.
If one looks at Modi government’s last 2.5 years in power, the theory that a Lutyens Elite is actively working to undermine the government gains credibility. The Award Wapsi drama, orchestrated by the Lutyens Elite who had been devoted servants of Congress, was without any logical basis. However, it did go a long way in painting Modi government as being anti-minority. Similarly the counter-narrative on Surgical strikes or the Pakistani fishing ship that blew itself up on being chased by the Indian Navy has also been disemminated far and wide, denting the government’s claims. The story is the same when one notes Vemula’s suicide or the crisis at JNU. Facts were muddled up and the Lutyens’ Elite successfully put Modi government on the backfoot. This is not to say that the government did not make blunders . But perhaps, it did not make any more blunders than other governments before it, and probably the ones that come after it as well. Lutyens’ Elite understands that Modi’s win is a tectonic shift in Indian politics. If he succeeds, the ground will be shifted beneath them irreversibly. Hence they are doing all that it takes to hold on to power, through treachery or subversion.
Modi, as was pointed earlier, is not the first Prime Minister to be attacked by Lutyens’ Elite. Deve Gowda, once bitterly noted how the Lutyens’ Elite made fun of him because of his humble background. He pointedly observed that such treatement was meted out to Ambedkar as well. When Vajpayee tried to coopt Lutyens’ Elite, they worked behind the scenes, wrecking his agenda and in the end Vajpayee ended up reducing BJP to a faint shadow of the Congress. Modi understands the destructive power of the Lutyens’ Elite and has so far tried to work behind the scenes to counter their influence. But, with only 2.5 years to go before the next polls, Modi will need to step up efforts to rid the country of this parasite. If what the Sunday Guardian report claimed is true, Modi comes across as a gullible and naive politician. Such naivete will only sound Modi’s death knell in 2019.