All politics is local and not better time to confirm it than in a place that’s headed for elections.
I had the chance to visit Ahmedabad for a day recently. It’s a trip back to the past, a kind of apartheid SA or a world I imagined only in stories from the past or Prayaag Akbar’s latest book Leila which probably has got to the root of who we are and what are becoming.
Here is a place where it is a matter of pride to be casteist and a matter of pride to be against people who are not your own creed or clan. With relation to the current election, one thing I heard repeated over and over again by the people I met (privileged upper caste) was that Congress is a “Muslim” party and will bring back the riots of the 80s and we have already shown them their place on the other side of the river and we don’t want them back. That’s their opinion and based on their experience and it’s well documented by many. But that is in the distant past and today their thoughts go beyond just the city and they see themselves as flag bearers of a new India built on their world view. That is reflected in the local election with no mention of a CM candidate from any party but played out between figures from distant Delhi.
Coming to the current election, the mainstream newspapers and the people look at any criticism of anything to do with governance as an “Apmaan” or “Insult” to Gujarati or the state’s pride and the man who shall be named and it should be avenged. There is no mention of any local issues except caste arithmetic over prohibited drinks. That was the status as the people go to vote.
As a one day visitor, it is prudent to be silent. Anything an outsider like me would say is automatically seen an insult to their pride and their politics is none of my business and more like a peep into a world turned upside down and values are like Trump’s tweets.
Also my trip was short and I didn’t meet enough of the youth or other sections of society. The ones I did were silent. Also, I don’t expect them to diverge from the rest. Beyond politics, it is the place that left me with a bad taste in my mouth (again like tweets composed and statements big men leaders of democracies around the world make) because of casual and toxic hate the people there carry in their hearts and talk that we thought ended with colonialism and dark years of the last century.