Ramachandra Guha is a historian by profession. Can he write a single sentence without making an elementary mistake of a type any ordinary person who studied Indian History only up to 10th standard would avoid? Let us see.
There was once a king named Narendra.
Guha is speaking of a Prince not a King. .
He ruled over a large kingdom,
It was small- about 5000 square miles
home to (among other things) the holiest shrine of the Hindu faith.
No. Badrinath was in directly ruled British territory.
Because of his lineage and as the patron of this great temple he was regarded by his subjects as divinity personified.
Nonsense! By virtue of his office, he had a certain ritual status. By contrast, some of his subjects worshipped particular Holy Men as divinity personified.
However, despite the hallowed place accorded to him by virtue of his hereditary position, the king was dissatisfied.
No. He saw an opportunity to enhance his Princedom's standing and to improve its fiscal position.
He wished to decisively set himself apart from the men who had occupied this particular throne before him, and who might occupy the throne after him.
There is no truth to this whatsoever. The British had already taken a liking to a particular spot where there was already a Royal Palace. The Prince moved his Court there seeing that this would be beneficial for his dynasty and his people.
So our vain king built for himself and his subjects a brand new capital altogether. He called it Narendranagar.
Narendranagar already existed and was receiving British visitors. All that the Prince did is move his Court there permanently. This was a smart thing to do. The little place was beautified and could compete better with other Hill Stations. Maharaja Narendra Shah was considered an enlightened ruler- not a vainglorious fellow- which is why the Brits had upgraded his title.
The story I have told above is neither mythical nor ancient.
It is false.
It is true, and the events I have narrated occurred merely a century ago. This king was Narendra Shah of Tehri Garhwal state, whose family controlled the Badrinath temple.
But the temple was not on their territory.
The construction of the new capital named after himself was completed in 1919.
No. That was when the Court transferred there. Building work continued.
As a boy growing up in the Garhwal foothills, I often visited Narendranagar myself.
This may be true. But if it is, why does Guha tell such stupid lies about it? He could see for himself that it was a tiny place, not some grandiose Capital City.
Memories of the place, and the story of its origins, came back to me when I heard that a major cricket stadium in Ahmedabad had been named for Narendra Modi.
Why? Is it because Narendranagar was a sound scheme just as the Modi Stadium is a sound scheme?
The full details of how this name was chosen will probably never be disclosed to the public.
There is no need for any disclosure. It is obvious what happened. Those involved wanted maximum publicity and 'goodwill' for the Stadium. They got it by naming it after Modi. Guha too is helping by doing some unpaid P.R for this venue.
A British newspaper has run a story with the headline, “Narendra Modi renames cricket stadium after himself”.
Because British newspapers don't care if they print nonsense about India. Why? Us Brits don't give a toss about that distant land. However Indians know that Modi was not involved in naming that stadium. He has more important things on his mind. The fact is 'brand Modi' is bigger even than 'brand cricket'. Indians know this and judge what has happened accordingly. But Guha isn't like other Indians. He believes Tehri Garwahl was a big kingdom. It had a megalomaniac king named Narendra who built a grandiose new Capital for himself. This is despite the fact that Guha had visited the place often as a kid and could see for himself that it was tiny. Its architecture such as would appeal to a gemutlich British taste.
Why is this cretin pretending that Modi has gone mad and believes he is 'divinity personified' and that he will start building a new Capital like 'Daulatabad' or Fatehpur Sikri?
It seems more likely that the idea originally came from a Gujarati politician with a strong familial interest in Indian cricket administration, who may have sought both to flatter his boss and silence criticisms of his progeny.
But, if so, that politician would know that his own standing would be affected if this decision hurt the P.M's image. He would get the sack- or be put under supervision of an irksome kind. It is foolish to pretend that Modi isn't focused on his image. Flattery may be to his liking, but he will sack anyone who damages his image because that would damage his Party's election prospects.
Either way, for a serving prime minister of a so-called democracy to allow, encourage or initiate this renaming was a staggering act of vanity, matched only (as the Twitterati was quick to point out) by Adolf Hitler, who allowed, encouraged, or initiated the naming of a football stadium after himself in Stuttgart in the 1930s.
There it is! The reductio ad Hitlerum we were waiting for. Does this cretin not know that the German Army had previously taken a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler?
Further digging by a writer in The Wire revealed that Hitler’s fellow dictators, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein and Kim Il-sung, also had stadia named after themselves when in power.
But this cretin just told us that he doesn't think Modi had this named after himself. What matters is whether the Modi name adds value to the Stadium or whether this subtracts value from brand Modi. I think the answer is that Gujarat wants to honor its ex-CM and this has gone down well with the rest of India because, after all, Modi is not now an MP from Gujarat. He belongs to the whole of India.
All politicians have a high opinion of themselves.
Thus, by Guha's logic, not only must Guha be a politician- since he has a very high opinion of himself- but he must also be Hitler and is miffed that this Stadium was not named Fuhrer Guha's fantabulously gorgeous Stadium. After all, he has written about Cricket and so Cricket owes him.
The profession demands it.
Guha's writings demand a shitty arse to wipe.
However, in a republic, politicians must learn the importance of democratic procedure, and never allow themselves to become bigger than the office they hold.
Nonsense! Politicians must learn how to get re-elected and to command a majority. They certainly don't need any lessons from Guha.
While a king may equate himself with his kingdom, a democratically elected prime minister (or president) should never think of himself or herself as synonymous with the country.
Says a guy who grew up under 'Indira is India' Gandhi. How fucking stupid and deracinated is he?
Alas, this lesson has not always been heeded by leaders of the world’s oldest republics.
Because it isn't a lesson- it is a stupid assertion made by a cretin.
Equating himself with France came naturally to President Charles de Gaulle.
And it worked great for him. Oddly, it was good for France and Europe too.
The American historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, coined the term, “imperial presidency”, to characterise those leaders of his own country who ruled more like monarchs and less like democratic politicians mindful of checks and balances.
So what? It may have escaped Guha's attention but America is very very wealthy and very very powerful. India has only begun to rise.
There have been three imperious prime ministers in the history of our own republic.
No. There has only been one- Indira Gandhi whose paranoia about her Cabinet colleagues led to her aloof, Imperial, style. She called off the Emergency because she needed to weaken Sanjay's clique. Otherwise they might have arranged an 'accident' for her. After all, her family got its start working for the Moghuls amongst whom heirs killing incumbents was pretty much par for the course.
These are Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi. All have towered above their colleagues in party and government.
Modi is more popular than his colleagues. But we don't see him taking over their portfolios. Nehru held the External Affairs Portfolio and later even took over Defense. He was also head of the Planning Commission. Indira's paranoid style of functioning was a byword. Her P.A had more power than anyone in her Cabinet. Modi is utterly unlike either.
Both Nehru and Indira Gandhi were awarded the country’s highest honour, the Bharat Ratna, while still in office. Could this be what Modi does next?
Who cares? Indians don't give a toss about these baubles. Guha himself may get something of that sort. Lots of shit people do.
It was intriguing, as well as a little surprising, that it was President Ram Nath Kovind who was the chief guest at the ceremony when the Sardar Patel Cricket Stadium was renamed after Narendra Modi.
No it wasn't. This was a good photo-op. India was saying 'hey guys! We've got the bestest Stadium!' The Cricket complex is still named after Patel. Only the Stadium has been named for another great son of Gujarat.
Could this be the prelude to Kovind awarding Modi the Bharat Ratna in 2022 or 2023?
This Stadium is cool. So it matters. Bharat Ratnas don't matter. Nobody cares.
I think this unlikely, for two reasons. First, Modi has sought systematically to distance himself from his predecessors, and he will do so in this regard as well.
Seriously, dude, get over your obsession with that bauble. Nobody gives a toss.
Second, he has larger ambitions for himself.
To found a dynasty? Surely, that's impossible? Whatever his ambitions for himself they must be smaller than Indira's.
Nehru and Indira Gandhi allowed or encouraged the awarding of a republican honour to themselves. Modi, however, will do something much more spectacular. He will, through an expensive exercise in monumental architecture, reshape India’s capital itself.
But, like other Indian Cities, Delhi has been greatly reshaped already. It's Central Vista will get a much needed face-lift.
Readers will recall that, in June 2014, shortly after he was sworn in as prime minister, Narendra Modi said in the Lok Sabha that his aim was to undo 1,200 years of slavery (bara sau saal ki ghulami). At the time, a young writer told me that this statement, and the speech as a whole, was deeply revealing of Modi’s political and personal ambitions.
This is fucked in the head. The guy had just become P.M. What more did Guha need to know about his ambitions? Modi was saying 'we have had a slave mentality for 1200 years. When we meet a high person we don't have the power to speak to him'. The message was clear. Modi would speak to the US President and the Chinese President and so forth as an equal. He has made good his promise.
Hindus, thought Modi, had for too long been subservient to or ruled by foreigners.
Guha is a Hindu. Notice he does not say 'Indians'. Clearly he either thinks only Hindus are Indians or else that only Hindus were enslaved.
He had now arrived to give them back their self-respect and their dignity.
Perhaps Guha thinks he should take away their self-respect and dignity.
By framing the issue as he had, said my friend, Modi was suggesting that he was the first Hindu ruler to successfully unite the country.
But Guha's friend was stupid. It is obvious what Modi was getting at. Vajpayee had bent the knee to the Americans. He had negotiated with terrorists. He was not 1200 years old, but he was very very old. India could not afford to carry on in that manner. But, Modi's generation remembers that Indira stood up to Nixon though, of course, she had to rely on the Soviets to do so. But the world has changed. India has to 'fake it till it makes it'. Start acting tough till you are tough.
For all their bravery, for all the folklore about them, Shivaji and Prithviraj had succeeded only in having a small sliver of the subcontinent under their control.
Shivaji's successors had a big chunk. Why mention Prithviraj? He lost.
In territorial or political terms, they had not been remotely as successful as (the Buddhist) Ashoka or the (Muslim) Mughals or the (Christian) British. Prime Minister Modi would finally redeem the Hindus by accomplishing what Shivaji and Prithviraj had failed to do.
This is silly. The Mauryas were Hindus who supported Brahmans while particular Emperors may have favored one Shraman Sect over another Shraman Sect. People like Modi- or most Indians for that matter- simply don't think of Jains and Buddhists as different from Hindus. Indeed, this is the attitude of major Hindu temples.
To announce their significance, to proclaim their superiority and assert their sovereignty, kings often construct new capitals for themselves.
No they don't. The thing happens very seldom.
When Narendra Shah built a new capital in Garhwal he was following in the footsteps of many kings in India and abroad.
No he wasn't. He was merely shifting his tiny court to a tiny town which attracted British visitors. Being close to Brits was good for him and good for his little Princedom.
Indeed, a few years before he decided to build Narendranagar, the emperor to whom Narendra Shah himself owed allegiance, King George V of England, announced that British India deserved a new capital.
Because the Bengalis were growing restive and, in any case, the economic center of gravity was shifting.
Why is Guha pretending the King Emperor gave a toss about these proceedings? The fact is New Delhi was envisioned as a place where the Viceroy would get closer to the 'Big Gun' Princely States who were supposed to be imbued with the feudal spirit of loyalty. Sadly, the Princes proved useless.
The old seat of government, Calcutta, would not do anymore. The centre of imperial power in the subcontinent would henceforth shift north. On land acquired from villages to the south of the old city of Delhi, the British imperialists constructed a grand new city befitting their own elevated sense of self.
In the opinion of a cretin. The facts are quite different. The Brits saw that India needed more centralization. The feudal interior had to change. Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru, whose family was originally from Delhi, came to see this too. The Nehru Report of 1928 was the scaffold upon which Independent India's Constitution was built.
Around three centuries before the British Empire decided to shift its capital, the Mughal Empire did likewise.
They had shifted back and forth between Agra and Delhi depending on military conditions. Babur's Capital was Agra. Humayun lost control of it and died in Delhi. Akbar relocated the Capital to Agra but also built Fatehpur Sikri whose water supply failed.
Shah Jahan, the fifth ruler of a dynasty begun by Babar, chose to move his kingdom’s capital from Agra to Delhi.
For good reasons. Much of what he built still stands. Why is Guha, who does not like Modi, comparing him to a successful monarch who built the Taj Mahal?
He supervised the construction of a series of gorgeous buildings, many of which still stand. Once everything was in place, and he was satisfied with what he saw, he named the city after himself. It was to be called Shahjahanabad.
What is Guha trying to say? Modi is the equal of the builder of the Taj? His reign will be remembered as a Golden Age?
In The King and the People, his brilliant new history of 17th- and 18th-century Delhi, Abhishek Kaicker writes that, of all the Mughal emperors, Shah Jahan was “the most voluble of all in enunciating the discourse of sovereignty in architecture”.
Fuck Kaicker. The fact is Shah Jahan is known to kids all over the world as the guy who built the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his favorite wife. There is no fucking 'discourse of sovereignty in architecture'. There is stuff which doesn't fall down and which looks good and... that's all. That's the whole story.
Shah Jahan took especial “pains to ensure that his figure appeared before his subjects as an otherworldly, angelic being:
Whereas the Roi Soleil took pains to ensure that his figure appeared before his subjects as a big fat pig which shat continually. Why does Guha not understand that smart people- Kings or not- take care about how they appear?
when the emperor appeared below the gilded arched roof of his palace windows, the light of the morning sun enveloped his figure in the same sort of golden shimmering halo which enveloped his image in portraits”.
What does this have to do with Modi and a Cricket Stadium. Guha doesn't know. We do. Just as the design of the Taj Mahal has a significance from the point of view of esoteric Islamic spirituality so too did Akbar and Shah Jahan's and Dara Shikoh's presentation of themselves.
Like Shah Jahan, Narendra Modi pays an extraordinary amount of attention to his dress and personal visage.
But most people in public life are like Shah Jahan and Modi and Biden and Chairman Xi in this respect. There is nothing extraordinary about spending a few minutes every day having your hair set properly and putting on smart clothes.
His clothes, his posture, the background against which photographs are taken are all meticulously attuned to the occasion at hand.
As with other elected leaders who want to get re-elected. Bernie Sanders' mittens were cute but the guy aint standing again.
And he is luckier than Shah Jahan in the technology at his command.
As are we all. Why does Guha not see that?
A medieval emperor had to appear in person to make a dramatic impact;
Nonsense! Some Islamic Emperors chose to remain invisible, in the Byzantine manner, behind a veil from a throne on high. But Emperors can make 'a dramatic impact' in other ways.
whereas a postmodern autocrat
like anybody else
can use radio, television, newspapers, websites, WhatsApp, Instagram and so on to present the image he desires to every Indian alive.
So dead Indians are shit out of luck. Shame. Nice of Guha to make this very important point.
Narendra Modi’s behaviour as prime minister has been imperious,
Not in the opinion of the millions who voted for him. They thought his behavior was that of the best candidate for the office of Prime Minister. That is why the BJP was re-elected.
Guha, cretin that he is, thinks behaving like an Emperor endears you to Indian voters. If such had been the case, every politician would have been doing it.
as manifest in his treatment of political colleagues and political rivals,
Utterly mad! He has treated everybody well. Pranab Mukherjee and Nabi Ghulam Azad have said so. Modi is engaged in a bitter fight with Mamta, but their personal relationship seems excellent.
in how he presents himself in public, in his disregard for debate in Parliament,
but everybody disregards shouting matches in Parliament- though it must be said Modi himself is listened to respectfully.
and in his refusal (whether born of contempt or cowardice) to hold even a single press conference.
Because the press is shit.
Like the emperors of yore, his publications are all one-way, Mann ki Baat being a 21st-century equivalent of the Mughal firman.
In the opinion of a cretin. A firman is a decree or edict with the force of law. 'Mann ki baat' is like Roosevelt's 'Fireside chats'.
Like them again, he seeks to perpetuate himself through an architectural reshaping of the very centre of political power.
The Mughals were Muslims. They knew that they could not be 'perpetuated' by architecture. This stupid cunt is thinking of the Pharaohs.
A mere cricket stadium in Ahmedabad or even a Bharat Ratna certainly will not do.
No. This cunt insists that Modi build a Pyramid and then mummify himself.
It is ironic that, for all his denunciations of British and Mughal rule, Narendra Modi seeks to make his most permanent legacy a crass imitation of what the British and the Mughals did for Delhi.
If Guha really were a historian, he'd know that 'permanent legacies' are decided by professional historians. Building shit don't matter shit. Nobody remembers who built what till Historians tell them about it. It is only in the last hundred years that people living in Cairo learned the names of the Pharaohs who built the Pyramids they can see at the edge of their City.
It may be his hope that, 300 or 400 years later, future subjects of the Hindutva rashtra will look with pride at his buildings but with derision at what previous emperors had built before him.
It can't possibly be Modi's hope because Modi, like the vast majority of Indians, is a sensible fellow. Only Guha believes that buildings matter. But that's because he is a shit historian.
That hope is unlikely to be realised. For, from what one knows of the chosen architect and his past constructions, it is unlikely that this new exercise in imperial hubris shall yield a single building remotely as beautiful as the Lal Qila or the Jama Masjid, the North or the South Blocks.
It is interesting that Guha mentions buildings built by Muslims or Christians- not Hindus. It seems there may be something to this '1200 years of slavery' trope.
A final thought.
Guha is incapable of thought. A final brain-fart is all we can expect from him.
The scheme to reshape New Delhi is currently called the “Central Vista Project”.
Which is perfectly sensible.
Once the new complex of monumental buildings has come up, however, surely that colonial appellation must give way to an atmanirbhar replacement.
It already does- Rajpath.
“Narendranagar” has already been taken, by a vain king of that name who ruled over a hill kingdom a century ago.
So what? There are plenty of towns with the same name. It's not as though anybody is going to confuse Delhi with a tiny town in Himachal.
Perhaps “Narendra Mahanagar” then? Or even “Modiabad”?
But 'abad' is an Islamic suffix. Does Guha really not know that Modi is Hindu? Perhaps. He truly is the Huccha Venkat of Indian historiography.